2010 New Year's Resolutions & Beer Selection, Simplified + 2009 blog in review

On December 15, 1999, I was sitting in my home in England (near Reading), having just wrapped up a trip to Salzburg to fix a huge problem related to classified pagination. This work was sandwiched between several Y2k conversions (in reality it was more like "2004-proofing" due to the size of the field containing the count of seconds from the system's base date). I was exhausted, done with traveling, in dire need of Mexican food (I defy anyone to find great Mexican food in Europe), and very much over the novelty of bitter-tasting, motor-oil thick beer. The beer thing was a big deal, growing up in an area where the beer selection typically included "both kinds," (as in Bud AND Bud Light).

Fast-forward to December 15, 2009. The Y2k problem is rarely mentioned, I get all the great Mexican food I want. Classified pagination (i.e., printed page layout for thousands of newspaper classifieds) has more or less vanished as a technology category. And I have stopped caring about the beer that I drink (although there is a minimum quality standard. Sorry, Lucky Lager). Life is better all the way around, and not hoping for my favorite beer saves me much disappointment at NFL games and folk music festivals.

Today I find myself elbow-deep in my 2010 plan for Office developer. We've been spending a lot of time during the launch phase getting oriented to the pressing needs of coders working on Office applications. Our readiness material (and information channels like my blog) reflect those needs (hopefully.) 2010 is a great release for a lot of reasons. We have a rich new set of capabilities, spanning across PC, Phone and Browser.

But I thought I'd offer some thoughts about my 2010 plan, to set an agenda for the upcoming year.

Educate on VBA in Office 2010. (Start here) Maybe I say it too much, but VBA is supported in Office 2010, we like VBA, and we are encouraging people to continue using VBA. Despite rumors to the contrary, VBA remains an important part of Office. In 2010, we will continue to evangelize VBA in Office in various forums. These activities will include various sponsorships, contests, etc.

Drive Adoption of Visual Studio 2010, VSTO and Office 2010. (Start here) Feedback on the combination of these two beta products is very positive. Particularly with .NET 4.0 and PIA-less deployment, VS 2010 offers Office developers lots to work with and should make life much easier.

Educate on the use of the Open XML SDK. (Start here, http://www.openxmldeveloper.org) While the format debate lingers on, development on Open XML is growing very quickly. We're now well past 10k members on OpenXMLDeveloper.org, (12k, to be more precise) with site traffic growing to match. the Open XML SDK is the fastest way to get started with Open XML Development, and (again), we're seeing download counts for the SDK which illustrate the traction that the format is gaining. FWIW we're still not getting any questions about ODF solution development in Office.

Continue building awareness for the Application Compatibility Tools for Office 2010. We're off to a very strong start on this program, and the next few months are about landing these tools and documents into the various service provider channels we offer at Microsoft, like DDPS, MDT and others.

Office 2010 readiness for Office Business Applications (OBA). (see it here: http://www.obacentral.com) In building some of the lower-level building blocks for the Office 2010 launch (see above), we put the topic of OBA off until the second half when we could give it due attention and rigor. Building business applications or front-ending LOB solution in Office is a primary investment area for us, based on the feedback we're getting from the community at large. In 2010 we'll turn the crank on readiness for OBA for Office 2010. With the recently announced DUET updates, we've got a great starting point. But there's lots to share with BCS, SharePoint integration and several other topics.

I always enjoy spending time recapping the year gone by, although I'll spare folks the keyword lists (and a lot of copy paste), by re-treading some of the events about which I was compelled to comment during the year.

The most popular post on my blog: Office 2007 Service Pack 2. I posted 3 times on SP2, and those posts were easily the busiest. 1, 2, 3 if you're interested. SP2 was important for a few reasons. We introduced Save as ODF & PDF into the mainstream products, unfolded a bunch of Outlook perf improvements, and a handful of other things. I recall that being a super busy time.

The most commented: "Rethinking ODF Leadership" and "Clearing up a few matters with respect to ODF and SP2." 102 comments published on that post, it's quite a few. Definitely started a discussion with that post :). Although 6 months later, I observe that this discussion has quieted considerably, and really feels like "internal business" when it comes to reading about the evolution of ODF. I understand the 1.2 draft is up for some vote / approval, and there is dissention among ODF supporters about whether or not 1.1 should be standardized and so on. Because I don't hear much (anything) about ODF from the Office developer community, I don't get that involved any more.

As always, though, I will be interested to see if ODF 1.2 passes the same evaluation criteria to which Open XML was subjected. As we saw with SP2 and ODF in Office, Open XML was sharply criticized for being "application dependent", whereas ODF and aligning to another vendor's implementation of the NON-standard 1.2 was upheld as something that Microsoft should have done. Very confusing. it was felt that Open XML should not be a standard because it had alleged dependences on Microsoft Office, but the only way to really get interoperable ODF was to base that on a product's implementation, and we were being positioned as "incompetent" for not doing that. I don't pretend to understand that contradiction, but I eventually just let it go. My focus for the Office developer audience are the technologies and tools that our developers use. The truth, explained here, (docx), (odt), is quite clear. Open XML is more widely adopted, and that is reflected in the inquiries we get for developers building productivity solutions.20_195611_0377 (2)

Posts that were most surprising in terms of traffic: SharePoint Conference. I posted on the relocation of Office Developer Conference to SharePoint conference as a courtesy, surprised to learn of the anticipation of ODC. I'll take a little credit, then in the outstanding turnout for SharePoint conference, that show was probably the most surprising event for me in 2009. It was a huge show, easily the biggest I attended this year. InfoPath was booming with traffic, as was Access. That was a very exciting week. Not to mention that I made a new friend. And yes, it is hip to be square.

Posts I enjoyed writing the most: When a thing that you're directly responsible for is downloaded 100,000,000 times, you tend to get pretty excited about that. During the Open XML and ODF "debate", it became very tough to separate conversations about readiness for a new file format (a very mechanical, basic thing). Especially considering the original goal (prior to any discussion about standardization) - getting our apps out of the binary formats onto more sustainable XML-based formats. This post was a fun one for me, I took about 5 minutes after I hit the publish button in Word and thought about how large 100,000,000 is as a number. FWIW, with 100 million being a fairly good illustration of its utility, I stopped counting closely after that post. I haven't looked at the number in quite a while. I suspect it has slowed a bit with the (now) widespread deployment of Office 2007.

A close second to that post is my post about 5 years at Microsoft. I got a lot of great feedback about that post from people across the company. I was already feeling very good about my role here, but that post definitely gave me a boost, and to the folks who took time to contact me offline, thank you for the feedback.

This will be my last post for 2009. As always, I thank you for your readership, and I'll see you on the other side of the new year.