Even a chimp can write code

Monday, April 30, 2007

Meet Silverlight

Today at the Mix 07 conference, Microsoft is announcing a couple preview releases of Silverlight. Silverlight v1.0 Beta is the next in series to the two community technology previews (CTPs) released with the codename "WPF/E".

Silverlight v1.1 Alpha is a sneak peek at some future functionality.

While it is unusual to have two separate pre-release trains for a product, we believe that there's nothing like real code and real samples to demonstrate our feature set, roadmap and intent. The team has been aggressively cranking out code, delivering key features with tight deadlines. Please download the builds, play with them, build apps and tell us what you think.

Here's an incomplete list of new features or enhancements in Silverlight 1.0 Beta:
  • VideoBrush - Used to paint shapes and text with video content.
  • WMS streaming support
  • Media markers / script command support
  • Playlist support (ASX subset)
  • Improved video playback smoothness
  • Cleaned-up animation model
    • Animations now go in a Canvas.Resources block

  • Support for downloading and unpacking .zip files
  • Support for cross-domain downloads
  • Improved text rendering
  • Ink support
  • Improved javascript programming
    • Enum support
    • Better error handling
    • Support for delegates as event handlers
    • Sandboxed javascript mode
  • Namescope support
  • New properties for UI manipulation:
    • Z-Index
    • Visibility
    • IsHitTestVisible
  • Downloading fonts for TextBlock

Silverlight v1.1 Alpha contains a flavor of .NET, with support for languages such as C# and VB and dynamic languages such as Python, Ruby, VBx etc. The v1.1 Alpha build is a superset that includes the functionality delivered in v1.0 Beta. Unlike v1.0 Beta, the v1.1 Alpha does not give you a Go Live license. We expect that you'll evaluate and explore it and give us feedback on what you don't like and what you'd like to see more of. Get involved. We're listening.

Get Silverlight now!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

What does Silverlight mean to you?

Mike Harsh, fellow program manager on the team and all-round great guy, was manning the Silverlight booth at the NAB Show, doing demos and talking to customers. He says: "I have never been involved with any technology that has this level of excitement and interest, and I’ve never given demos to so many people who’ve walked away with a smile on their faces. After seeing the demos it sinks in very quickly that Silverlight will let them do incredible things with their existing Windows Media assets using all their existing delivery infrastructure." Read that last statement carefully. It touches on what we think is the essence of Silverlight today.

Dave Wolf from Cynergy says "[The] entire RIA market just became real and it is about to explode, and it is thanks in large part to Microsoft and Silverlight... Microsoft just justified and legitimized RIA. That is HUGE." I think Dave makes a great point. With a player like Microsoft advocating the agenda, you will see the company's traditional audience of developers and decision makers in enterprises, take RIAs more seriously than they have. This adds to the momentum Adobe (and previously Macromedia) have already garnered. I think with companies like Adobe and Microsoft at the helm, we're at the beginnings of the RIA renaissance.

In that post, Dave also talks about the Microsoft penchant for project code names, but as an insider, I do not see that these names mean that much. Sure they're placeholders on specs, slide decks, share points and distribution list aliases. But that's about it. We laugh when the press and blogosphere influentials weave sinister stories out of these. What matters is action, not name. For clarity, "Sparkle" was never the code name for Silverlight (as some have suggested): it was "Jolt" to the development team and "WPF/E" to everybody else. "Sparkle" was the code name for Expression Blend, the design surface for WPF. I've lost count of the number of times I've chuckled when the tech trade press called Sparkle the Flash-killer. Yeah, like Picasa is the Photoshop killer. Can we please stop with all the killer references?

All of this finally brings me to the core point I'm trying to make in this post. That is: don't believe the hype and the FUD. We're going to announce more details on Silverlight features at the Mix 07 conference. Pick up our next build (coming soon to microsoft.com/silverlight), read the docs, play with the bits and the tools, ask questions on the Silverlight forums, engage with the community and make up your own mind. And do let us know what you think. I'll trade a million articles in tech rags for one post on the forums or your blog where you candidly tell me and the team what we're doing wrong and where you'd like to see us go. Our plans are not set in stone. Silverlight is still pre-release software and there's much we can add and change in this and future versions. My team and I are not looking for toothy grins and thumbs-up signs. We're looking for honest critiques and feature requests. Got any?

PS: I cannot be at Mix 07 this year. I'll be taking it easy that week, but Joe, Vivek, Nick, Mike and others from the team will be on hand to answer questions.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Hassle Free Commute as a Benefit

California state no longer issues the decals that allows hybrid cars on carpool lanes even with low occupancy, but the decals are still good. The folks at Kelley Blue Book [as heard on NPR's All Things Considered] have discovered that people in the state are paying a premium of $4000 for hybrid cars with the now out-of-supply, tamper-resistant decals. Hmm, the free market is willing to pay four Grover Clevelands for the luxury of a hassle free commute. I've believed Google's bus service for its employees in the Bay Area was a great fringe benefit helping hire and retain good talent. We now have statistics to back the logical conclusion that people actually desire such a perk.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Silverlight Trivia

The name

We've been dropping little hints about the name for months now - the MIME type for the browser plug-in in the Feb CTP was application/ag-plugin and the script instantiation used a new agHost(...) call. Ag  (short for Argentum) is the symbol for Silver in Mendeleev's Periodic Table of Chemical Elements.



The .NET connection

Yes, Silverlight extends the reach of the CLR and .NET Framework to other platforms like the Mac! Details coming soon.

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Whatever happened to "WPF/E"?

You can stop calling it "WPF/E" now. This morning, Microsoft announces Microsoft Silverlight, a new cross-browser, cross-platform technology for interactive media and rich applications. This is the technology formerly codenamed "WPF/E".
Microsoft Silverlight logo
I've been working on Silverlight features for a few months now and am excited about today's public announcement at the NAB Conference in Las Vegas, NV. At the conference, Microsoft will reveal it's brand and announce partner support for Silverlight. Then at the Mix 07 conference on April 30th, the company will unveil and discuss the breadth of the Silverlight developer and designer ecosystem.

We live in interesting times.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

WPF College Courses

I was happy to learn [via Lee] that the FootHill College of Los Altos, CA is offering introductory courses on Windows Presentation Foundation and other .NET technologies. The courses include one on .NET Deployment that I'm guessing (I couldn't find a syllabus for that) includes ClickOnce, the most superior application deployment technology out there for rich client apps.

This is a great opportunity for anyone in the Bay Area wanting to pick up on Microsoft's next generation presentation sub-system and framework APIs.

Cal Schrotenboer, the instructor for these courses, says the cost for California residents is $100 for a class. And since these classes are also offered in an online format, you can enroll from anywhere.

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