REDMOND, Wash. — Nov 18, 2009 — Microsoft is at the forefront of a profound change in application development, as evidenced by the myriad of announcements at the company’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) this week. The advent of new technologies such as cloud computing and the continuing evolution of Web applications are among the driving forces behind this change. In addition, consumer expectations continue to evolve as adoption of device-targeted and natural user interface applications broadens. At the same time, the quantity and types of platforms and tools available for developers to build these applications are increasing at a swift pace, creating an environment in need of bold industry leadership, as well as a compelling set of technologies and information that developers can harness to create the next generation of computing experiences.
S. Somasegar, senior vice president for the Developer Division at Microsoft.
S. “Soma” Somasegar, senior vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, says that these changes are creating new opportunities for developers, with more choices and greater monetization options than ever before. For Microsoft, he sees a clear opportunity to deliver the right tools and technologies that enable developers to use their existing skills and assets to quickly create new features and different types of applications for Windows.
“At Microsoft our goal has been, and continues to be, to provide a consistent programming model and tooling experience that spans the gamut of platforms including client, server, services and devices,” says Somasegar. “We want to ensure that developers can reuse their skills, code and expertise, and Microsoft is delivering the solutions that do the heavy lifting while providing developers with the freedom to write the code they want — and need — to build.”
Prevalence of the Web
According to Somasegar, the transformation of the developer environment has been fueled by the prevalence of the Web. “Gone are the days when people write software, package it up, and put it on store shelves. The Web gives you instantaneous and broad reach, as well as friction-free access to the applications and experiences that users dream of,” says Somasegar. Consumers’ access to the Web is increasing on an almost daily basis, and Microsoft, with the help of developers, has an opportunity to extend these experiences with the richness of Windows applications. The key lies in moving beyond the current programming solutions that are often just “good enough,” but that don’t always provide developers with the means to move beyond the browser into other environments.
Silverlight, for example, built on the Microsoft .NET programming model, has become a key focus of Microsoft’s Web development efforts. According to Somasegar, the company has made dramatic progress in providing Silverlight as a platform that developers can use to deliver the immersive Web experiences that end users expect. At the PDC today, the company announced the release of Silverlight 4 beta, which pushes the envelope on moving applications beyond the browser and provides a wide range of new features that further enable developers to create first-class rich Internet applications (RIAs) for business environments. As Somasegar says, “Silverlight 4 is a huge step forward for Microsoft, enabling developers to build applications that run on the Web as well as beyond the browser, with the same rich user experience, including seamless access to Microsoft Office, Windows and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.”
Microsoft’s Web Platform Installer and the Web App Gallery provide developers with the right tools for the job, all without requiring them to learn a new programming model or environment. The Web Platform Installer is a free, easy-to-use tool that installs the Microsoft Web Platform, including Internet Information Services (IIS) 7, IIS Extensions, Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition, SQL Server 2008 Express Edition and the .NET Framework. The Web App Gallery provides a community hub that includes links to the most popular open source and community Web applications that run on Windows.
Connecting the World Beyond the Web
As the developer landscape continues to evolve, Microsoft is also working on a strategy to seamlessly connect the client, server, Web and cloud environments. Somasegar sees Microsoft’s developer platforms and tools as a core part of the company’s software plus services strategy, and is providing developers with opportunities to build rich user experiences that can be deployed on Windows Server, Windows Azure and Windows 7. Somasegar says there is increased demand for tools that will enable developers to easily write software that will run locally, in the cloud or a combination of the two.
Also at PDC this week, Microsoft released the feature-complete version of the Windows Azure platform, which enables developers to easily build or migrate applications to the cloud. To complement this release and help developers more easily deploy, run and manage applications across both the cloud and on-premises environments, the company announced Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Azure platform AppFabric. As Somasegar explains, “This will help enterprises use their existing technology investments to achieve better scalability and performance in complex applications, without forcing developers to learn a new skill set.” Customers can start testing the beta version of Windows Server AppFabric today. Various Windows Azure platform AppFabric technologies are available in Community Technology Preview (CTP) form today, and will continue to debut in 2010.
In addition, Visual Studio 2010 beta 2, released last month, provides tooling options for developers to take advantage of cloud computing. “If you want to build, debug and deploy software in the cloud, we enable you to do it with Visual Studio and deploy your application on Windows Azure,” he says. Visual Studio allows developers to easily take these various types of applications and deploy them across a number of platforms and devices, really simplifying the entire development process from creation to deployment.
Microsoft is also offering a wealth of resources for developers to take advantage of the new touch capabilities within Windows 7. “Windows 7 will revolutionize how people interact with their PCs. Microsoft allows you to interact with your computer through touch—an enormous step forward for the industry,” says Somasegar. “Using the C++ libraries and the .NET Framework in Visual Studio 2010 beta 2, developers can begin building a new class of applications for Windows 7 that enable intuitive touch-based interaction.”
Proven Tools and Easy Access
From Visual Studio to Silverlight, Microsoft ensures that its own leading developers take the first pass at creating the types of applications the market demands. “Visual Studio is used very broadly inside Microsoft before we even ship it,” says Somasegar. “It’s a product we want every developer to use, so we use it and test it for our own development. We pride ourselves on building great developer tools and platforms, and we believe that using our software helps us build a better product for our customers.”
According to Somasegar, a cornerstone of the Microsoft developer team’s philosophy focuses on the role that customer feedback and constant two-way dialogue play in product development. Relying on Microsoft’s deep developer roots, the company has created programs such as DevLabs, launched at last year’s PDC, which enables developers to incubate new projects, showcase their creative ideas and receive feedback from the community. This process can ultimately help determine whether a project moves forward to the product development stage.
“Previously there wasn’t an easy way for us to share some of our early thinking with the community and get feedback on the direction and value during the incubation period,” says Somasegar. “This is how DevLabs came to life, and we’ve seen some fantastic feedback so far. DevLabs has also created some very popular projects such as SmallBasic, a fun introduction to programming, and Doloto, a tool to make AJAX-based Web sites load quickly. The projects have been well-received in the developer community so far. Truly, the forum has really become an integral and invaluable way for us to incorporate community feedback into our product cycles.” DevLabs’ open environment for community feedback means developers are receiving the right tools for the right applications, and can deploy those across multiple platforms and ecosystems.
From the Web to Windows to devices and beyond, developers have countless opportunities to embrace the challenge of a changing software development landscape and deliver cutting-edge applications. Somasegar says Microsoft will continue to provide developers with the right tools and platforms to create and deliver applications that can evolve with the changing needs of consumers and businesses into the future.