Reflections on MIX 08 part I: First day keynote
This is the first on an n part post series about my personal thoughts on this year's MIX based on notes I took during the conference (and, no, I don't know the value of n yet). Let's start with the keynote on the first day which was a great kickoff with Ray Ozzie, Scott Guthrie and Dean Hachamovitch sharing the stage. While Ray was talking about where Microsoft and the industry as a whole are heading (and I won't even try to summarize that part of the keynote because Ray's speeches are better without a middleman) Scott and Dean presented the latest Microsoft technologies that are of interest to the MIX crowd.
Internet Explorer 8
IE 8 which is now available for download as a beta is probably the first version of IE that really got me excited because of the features the IE team has added to the browser as well as the great work they are doing in order for IE 8 to be standards compliant. In detail:
- Standards compliance
IE 8 has been passing the Acid2 test since last December (see Internet Explorer 8 and Acid2: A Milestone ) but Dean left no doubt that that was just the beginning. He demonstrated a website using CSS 2.1 being rendered correctly by Safari, Firefox and IE 8 even pointing out that IE 7 did not render the site correctly. Also, a decision was made shortly before MIX to change IE 8's default behavior to be standards compliant and the IE team has contributed about 700 CSS 2.1 compliance tests to the community which are available for download from the Internet Explorer Testing Center and distributed under the BSD license.
- JScript support
IE 8 features a heavily improved JScript engine as well as integrated debugging tools. I haven't done that much scripting in my career but I remember very well that debugging was always painful.
- New end user features
Activities and WebSlices are pretty cool features which - assuming broad adoption - will make navigating the web much easier. But it gets even better as they will be available to the community with no strings attached since the specifications for both are released under Creative Commons licenses and covered by the Open Specification Promise (see IE8 and IP Licensing for details).
The first beta of Silverlight is now available for download as well and contains tons of improvements compared to the Silverlight 1.1 Alpha. Also, many samples and articles about the new beta release have been published on the web already (for example on the Showcase site on Silverlight.net) so I'll point out some facts that I think deserve more attention:
Because of our partnership with Novell Silverlight applications will run on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, in case of Linux by using Moonlight as the runtime. In other words Silverlight applications will run on the three most well-known desktop operating systems and we are sharing automated tests with the Moonlight development team to help them ensuring that both runtimes behave in the same way.
- Data binding
One of the features (additional controls aside) that has been requested many, many times and which is available now in Silverlight is data binding (there is a tutorial for those of you who are new to (WPF) data binding).
- Enabling Rich Internet Applications
Silverlight 2 allows developers and designers to create applications with a much better user experience compared to internet applications based on technologies like AJAX. Two examples I particularly like are the Hard Rock Memorabilia application using Deep Zoom and AOL's new Silverlight-based mail client which is faster than traditional webmail applications and also leverages platform features like isolated storage.
- Silverlight (1.0) on mobile devices
The plan to make Silverlight available on Nokia's S60 platform, Series 40 devices and internet tablets was already old news during the keynote (only a couple of hours old but nevertheless not latest news). However, in combination with the announcement of Silverlight for Windows Mobile 6 the message was really that a lot of the cell phones and smartphones will be able to run Silverlight applications in the near future.
Last but not least I want to mention that I watched the keynote live in an overflow room and yet there was a lot of applause from the people in that room despite the fact that the speakers on stage could not hear it.
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