Even a chimp can write code

Saturday, June 24, 2006

How do my end users get WPF or .NET FX 3.0?

Customers often ask me:
  • "How do we get Windows Presentation Foundation on our application users' desktops?"
  • "Can we redistribute .NET Framework with our application?"
  • "Should I bet on WPF given that .NET Framework 3.0 isn't yet installed on millions of PCs?"

I figured a post capturing my answers was merited. [Needless to say, standard disclaimers apply: The views expressed here are my own. Although I work for Microsoft, this is my personal blog and I do not speak for my employers, nor do they endorse whatever I say here]. So, let's look at these one by one:

.NET Framework is pre-installed on Windows Vista
.NET Framework 2.0 and 3.0 are Windows components and will be pre-installed on Windows Vista. I just installed internal build 5464 of Vista yesterday and am very impressed with how it is looking. Going by the interest on MSDN, the number of downloads from Microsoft Download Center, and simply from first-hand comments I've got from customers, partners and the community, I personally expect Vista will be widely adopted faster than XP or Win2k was.

Redistributing the platform with your application
You can redistribute .NET Framework with your application. Visual Studio makes this easier by allowing you to specify pre-requisites for your application. On Publish, a setup bootstrapper (setup.exe) is created. Your end users invoke your app via the setup.exe which sniffs their machine for pre-requisites and downloads/installs them as appropriate before launching the app. I recommend reading this article for details.

Alternately, you can detect whether an end user has .NET Framework installed, by sniffing the User Agent string or reading the HTTP Accept Headers for application/x-ms-application, application/vnd.ms-xpsdocument, application/xaml+xml and application/x-ms-xbap.

Intelligent bootstrapping of .NET Framework on IE7
Internet Explorer 7 ships with the .NET Framework 3.0 bootstrapper. When you navigate to XAML/XPS/XBAP content but do not have the platform, it will prompt you "The content you are trying to access requires Microsoft .NET Framework. Would you like to download and install it?". Upon user granting consent, .NET Framework will be downloaded and installed and the originally requested content will be displayed.

Your compelling applications
This one's a biggie. I really do believe that compelling applications that exploit the .NET Framework 3.0 features (including Windows Presentation Foundation) will be the most potent catalyst for adoption of the platform. This version of .NET provides some very powerful features and APIs (for UI and visualization, communications, workflow, authentication etc.), making possible a new generation of rich applications on Windows. Even at about 45 MB (.NET 2.0 + 3.0, or roughly half that for 3.0 only), there will be many applications that make it worth the effort for consumers to download the platform.

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