Guest Post: MIX09 Day 1: The “Software” in “Software + Services”

From now through the end of the MIX09 conference in Las Vegas, Rob Burke will be providing his insights from the conference on a daily basis.


Robert Burke is a Toronto-based IT Consultant who’s attending his fourth MIX event this year. By day he’s knee-deep in Microsoft User Experience technologies, including Silverlight and the Windows Presentation Foundation, but his background includes stuff like artificial intelligence, interactive installations, graphics and biometrics. He attended the first two MIXes as a member of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Group, and the second two as Principal Consultant of Carrington Technologies. His website is at and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

The original post by Rob can be found here.

Today’s MIX09 Day 1 Keynote and Sessions put the ‘Software’ into Microsoft’s ‘Software plus Services’ vision.

It was the “feet on [presentation layer] ground” bit, made memorable by the energetic call to action delivered by Bill Buxton to get things started. His job was to deliver the “what”, and the Blend team is helping provide the “how.”

MIX09 Keynote: Bill Buxton
MIX09 Keynote: Bill Buxton

Hotlinked Play-By-Play

Tim Sneath has a thorough and thoughtfully hotlinked play-by-play of the keynote in two parts - here and here.  And fellow Canadian Jean-Luc David took over 500 keynote photos which I am sure he will filter before he uploads them here on Flickr, because apparently the man does not need sleep!

In the spirit of Bill’s Sketching User Experiences, I drew a mindmap, even though I have all the artistic ability of a slug (see below).

Blend 3 and SketchFlow

The most important words on my entire mind map the morning were “THEY HAVE CHANNELLED BUXTON”.

SketchFlow in Blend 3 looks superb. SketchFlow and its player will, unquestionably, change the way I flesh out user experiences to clients and get their feedback.  It will be very interesting to see how this tool actually gets used in practice, and evolves as designers and developers embrace it.  It’s not SketchFlow’s intent to replace all other forms of sketching, but rather to augment them with something innovative and useful.  I hope it will also improve developer/designer communication, by providing a tool and talking point that both can use.

MIX09 Keynote: ScottGu sporting red
MIX09 Keynote: ScottGu sporting red

Silverlight 3

Although nothing surprised me per se during the Silverlight 3 announcements, that was a good thing. There are significant improvement in v3, and answers to some (but not all) hopes.

The very promising: Updates like offline capabilities, server data push (caching on client), VisualStateManager invalid states and validation, Merged ResourceDictionaries, etc., that will address important shortcomings and challenges for people building Silverlight line-of-business apps.  Things like SaveFileDialog.

The important: Better text (desperately needed), library caching (for reducing download time - how many of my SL2 apps bundle whittled-down bits of the SL Toolkit?), sample data.

The cool: GPU support (opt-in @ plug-in and control levels). Multitouch support. Perspective 3D, which will be much more approachable than the 3D support in WPF, and address most of the scenarios where 3D adds UX value.  Pixel Shader effects - which aren’t hardware accelerated, but look good. Pixel and Bitmap APIs which open up new scenarios.

The awesome postscript.: Siverlight 3.0 runtime is actually 30k smaller than Silverlight 2! Madness!

The things I hoped for but didn’t find in v3: Commanding, Printing (unless you count Nikhil’s “make an ASP.NET page and print that” solution), FlowDocument.

The change in messaging that I didn’t expect: I attended BradA and NikhilK’s Silverlight presentations in the afternoon for more information about building business apps in Silverlight 3, and feel like I need a little more time for all of it to settle in.  The core message seems to have shifted a bit: from “you can run Silverlight on any web server”" to “you can run Silverlight anywhere, but it’s better together with ASP.NET, and you can use ASP.NET to obtain some things you’re looking for in Silverlight, like SEO and Printing.”  I’m also a little foggy on how some of the this ‘prescriptive framework’ all fits into where my mind was going with Prism and MVVM for Silverlight, as proposed by the Patterns and Practices group.

IIS Media Services: As someone who’s more Dev than IT Pro, I’m not best qualified to comment on this… but adaptive, on-demand and live streaming sounds and looks pretty amazing.

The New Microsoft-ism: It’s the verb “to party,” which I heard in contexts such as these:

“now we can party over this data we got back”, and

“you can go ahead and party on this query now” or in summary

“I’m super-jazzed that we can go ahead and party over this data we’ve got back from the DataSource.”

I expect tomorrow we will party over the cloud.  (The cloud and Azure, although mentioned, were not today’s focus by any stretch).

And that’s why this MIX09 Keynote half-sketch is really upside down, isn’t it? I should have left the top side of the page to deal with the part that’s “in the clouds!”

MIX09 Day 1 Keynote Mindmap
MIX09 Day 1 Keynote Mindmap (would make a nice deep zoom)