Monthly Archives: April 2007

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Microsoft has announced that the little cross-platform, cross-browser cousin of Windows Presentation Foundation will be called Silverlight. This technology which was first announced at PDC05 was codenamed "WPF/E".


Tim Sneath has the best list so far of the features and power of this "Flash killer" technology. Microsoft doesn't ever call Silverlight a Flash killer, but the overlap in feature set is so large, that it cannot be viewed as anything other than a direct Flash competitor.


However, I do believe that Silverlight leapfrogs Flash in a couple of ways. The programmability and ease of use is better than Flash. You can build Silverlight sites using just Notepad if you want. The direct integration of the Silverlight DOM (Document Object Model) with JavaScript in the browser and the ability to create Silverlight UI elements on the fly with the createFromXaml method is a killer feature.


Tim Sneath mentions a secret number 10 feature on his list:



"Ah... #10. I can't reveal this yet - there's a big surprise up our collective corporate sleeve that will be announced at MIX. I hate to hold back on you, but anticipation is part of the pleasure, as my mother used to tell me as a child when I was waiting impatiently for Christmas to come!"


Could this be the .NET programmability that was previously speculated about? Soma spills some more details in his announcement:



"As I mentioned, this Silverlight announcement at NAB is only part of the story, the rest will be unveiled at MIX including details about how Silverlight is a core component of Microsoft’s broader .NET platform."


I commented previously on Robert McLaws' blog that I didn't think that Microsoft wasn't going to release a lightweight crossplatform CLR for Silverlight programmability. But I also speculated that Microsoft was working on a bigger crossplatform CLR based on the .NET Compact Framework.


What I am pretty sure about, is that Microsoft will announce ASP.NET controls that will allow you to very easily integrate Silverlight on your web pages and to expose dynamic data as XAML to Silverlight controls. I.e., AJAX on steroids UI-wise.


Adding ASP.NET to the mix shows that there is no direct need for a CLR on the client in order to enable C# or VB.NET programmability: coding in C#, compiling to IL and converting that IL to JavaScript on the fly! Prototype efforts by Nikhil Kothari with Script# show that this is quite possible. Check out Nikhil's example.

Microsoft has some great news today: the new Expression Web (already RTM) and Expression Blend (RTM later in Q2 2007) tools will be included in the MSDN Premium Subscription. Soma announced this on his blog. This is the result from strong feedback from the developer community.

Although I am not a graphical designer, I have to come to appreciate both tools.

Expression Blend goes beyond what you can accomplish with "Cider". "Cider" is the codename for the WPF design surface that will be included in Visual Studio "Orcas". I used Blend to design the UI for my Flickr Metadata Synchr. And we have used it at LogicaCMG for a WPF showcase application.

Expression Web has a much richer HTML/CSS editor than the one in Visual Studio 2005. VS "Orcas" will come with a new HTML/CSS editor based on the same codebase. This will lessen the need for a separate tool for web developers, but "Orcas" will not RTM before the end of this year. I am still working on getting a more graphically inclined colleague to give up on Dreamweaver and switch to Expression Web 😉