Microsoft is finally adapting

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Let me start of by saying that I’m a proponent of a lot of the development tools that Microsoft makes. Some might go so far as calling me a Microsoft fanboy in some cases. However, my feelings toward Microsoft technology is far from blind about it’s shortcomings. I’ve spent hours getting my CSS layouts to look right in IE, banged my head against the wall debugging cryptic .NET error messages and have accepted the fact that my Treo needs to be reset at least once a month.

Fortunately, Microsoft has been making some changes lately; not just in their technology, but also in their approach to technology. The longevity of IE6 was a testament to how slow Microsoft moves, but over the last year they’ve started talking about being more agile and getting rid of the 2 year delays and slow release schedules. Some of these new approaches have actually started to show between the MIX conference earlier this year and the reMIX Boston conference held earlier this week. Some of the changes were subtle, some were more significant, but each showed that Microsoft is responding more quickly to developer input.

The first big area that Microsoft changed between the 2 conferences is in how they talk to developers. At Mix, most of the keynotes were essentially just marketing pitches. One of the keynotes even caused most of the audience to get up and walk out when the marketing just became too much. At reMIX, there were some nice positive changes. The opening keynote had less talk about technology and more demos and examples. They even had Miguel di Icaza speak about the Linux version of Silverlight. They replaced the 2nd nightmare keynote from MIX with 2 great keynotes from Molly Holzschlag and Lou Carbone. I left the keynotes feeling inspired not like I was part of a marketing focus group.

The other change was in technology. Silverlight 1.0 was the big announcement for MIX, but fell short to many because it still relied heavily on javascript and had no controls for building forms. At reMIX, there was a lot more talk about Silverlight 1.1 (the .NET enabled follower for 1.0) and about the new control kit that Component One is developing. I was surprised to see that in the period between the 2 conferences, Microsoft not only listened to the feedback from MIX, but actually made some significant actions based on them.

It will be interesting to see if the forward progress continues to move at this pace. In the meantime, I’m working with the pre-releases of Silverlight 1.1 and Visual Studio 2008. If all goes well, I will post some tutorials on the new Silverlight stuff and a quick review/overview of Visual Studio 2008.

Ian MuirIan Muir
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