Microsoft PDC2008 Highlights
Some people enjoy the thrill of the crowds, the keynote speeches, meeting partners and vendors, and seeing first hand all the neat new things to come -- that's why they go to conferences like Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference 2008 (PDC2008). Some are either too cheap to go, or their companies are too cheap to send them. For those of you that fall into this category, you must live vicariously through the media and other bloggers to get your conference thrills. We didn't get to the PDC2008 Conference either, but here's some highlights we have gleamed by listening to those that did go.

Azure Services Platform

The biggest news at PDC2008 was the announcement of the Azure Services Platform of which Windows Azure is the underlying cloud-based infrastructure. It offers both an operating system and a set of developer services that you can use individually or together. Developers will be able to build applications for the web, connected devices, PCs, server or hybrid solution — offering a set of services that enable both online and on-premise solutions. This is Microsoft’s vision of “Software Plus Services”.

Windows 7

Windows 7 is Microsoft's newest operating system, expecting to be rolled out sometime in 2010. The successor to the incredibly unpopular Vista OS has been "designed to make everyday tasks faster and easier, and make new things possible for end users".
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Windows 7
Highlights of the new OS include: * Compatible with the same hardware, applications and device drivers as Windows Vista * Designed for performance, security and reliability (New features to protect privacy and data) * Improved User Experience -- Improved navigation, a new taskbar and a streamlined user interface At the conference, Microsoft held the first full public demo of the new operating system. Attendees were given a pre-beta build of the OS and a promise that the full beta would be released early 2009.

Browser-based Office apps

Stand back Google Apps, the mighty Office Suite is entering the cloud. Called Office Web applications, it includes lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. This browser based version of Office will be released as a part of MS Office 14 -- which means, of course, the web version will not be free.
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Office Web Applications

The good news is you don't need IE to run the web-based version. Office Web applications will also run on Firefox and Safari. In a Q&A on Microsoft's Press site, Chris Capossela, Senior Vice President, Microsoft Business Division said, "With this development, people can benefit from Office as a service on their browser, as a downloadable application on their phone, and as software on their PCs."

Software Modeling with Oslo

Oslo is Microsoft's new software modeling initiative. First announced in October of last year, Oslo consists of three things: * A tool that helps people define and interact with models in a rich and visual manner * A language that helps people create and use textual domain-specific languages and data models * A relational repository that makes models available to both tools and platform components Three components of Oslo were presented at the conference as CTPs (Community Technology Previews): * M -- A declarative modeling language * Quadrant -- A new visual modeling tool * Olso Repository eWeek quotes a blog post by Sam Ramji, Microsoft's Senior Director of Platform Strategy. He indicated the the 'M' language specification will be published under the Open Specification Promise. "This will facilitate the interoperability of the ‘Oslo’ declarative modeling language, codenamed "M," with prominent industry standards such as WS* specifications." Check out Microsoft's site MODELS Remixed for an interesting look into the world of software modeling.

DevLabs, a new developer portal

Just a few days prior to the conference, Microsoft announced the opening of a new developer portal called DevLabs. DevLabs is designed give the developer community an early look into what Microsoft is working on and to let them try out some early developer tools. This site is not meant to test existing tools and technologies, but is more of a stomping ground for new ideas and thoughts that may, or may not, come to fruition. The lab now features four projects including: * Small Basic -- A development tool for beginning developers (particularly kids or adults with little to no technical skills) * Pex -- A software testing tool * Popfly -- Create games, mashups and websites for the Popfly site * Chess -- Another software testing tool

Microsoft's Software Plus Services Strategy

All the announcements and demonstrations that occurred at PDC2008 this week have given us more insight into Microsoft's Software Plus Services Strategy (not to be confused with Software as a Service). The strategy is all about agility and ubiquity -- "[Software Plus Services] delivers the best of the cloud, of hosted software, of Web 2.0 and of service oriented architecture through tight integration and a flexible development". Microsoft is also demonstrating even more their commitment to open standards which is something we thought might be more talk than action. Did we miss something important that occurred at the conference? Let us know. If you are interested in learning more and seeing some recordings of conference sessions, head over to the PDC2008 website. Reserve the date for next year's conference, taking place November 17-20, 2009.