MIX07 - Day 1 - Chats, Microsoft, Quotes and Silverlight

Sitting here watching Scott Guthrie do a demo of Silverlight on a MAC, using C# to write what initially appears to be JavaScript output one has to wonder what in the world has come to. Here is Microsoft VIP working on Apple using our new toys? Microsoft has sent a clear signal, the old days are over and (we) are all entering into a new vision, experience first (he did handle himself really well may I add).

One of the things to keep in the forefront of your mind is that Microsoft is looking to broaden the average online experience to be both beyond the browser and within the browser. It offers different perspective on which path to take, and given the entire XAML stack, you have a nice selection of choices at your disposal (WPF-Standalone, WPF-XBAP, Silverlight).

Ryan Stewart said it best today " If I didn't know better, I would think this was an Adobe keynote. " and I'd have to agree with that as I was waiting for some adobe familiars to get up and do their spiel. This is good thing as if folks are thinking in this space, it shows Microsoft can play in the rich media space just as well as other companies can. As Scott Guthrie stated, this isn't a win/lose situation, both brands are going to be in the same space and developers are going to do some interesting things with all of these new toys (I'd actually like to see Adobe Apollo support Silverlight as given it's X-Platform, it should be a nice mash-up?).

Why care about Silverlight?

Silverlight is just damn easy to develop against, and I urge you all to download the tools and give it a try. The key thing to get into your minds straight away is that this is not Flash? Although there are some similarities to the tools, use these to help you navigate your way through it all but overall keep your mind open and enjoy the new discovery.

You're going to have access to C#, a language that for most ActionScript 3.0 developers won't be so bad to learn (so you can have two pieces in your resume, this will make you stronger, trust me).  The video encoding is dream sequence as it's that easy, and I'm not sure if most picked up on the fact that Microsoft will cover the burden of hosting the video, so you'll all have the ability to park your cool video assets on our servers - free (provided you're not turning a buck on it etc - read the Terms/Conditions etc when they come out).

It's also very important to note is that this technology has been focused on empowering interoperability between designers and developers, by given each unique soul the ability to communicate with each other through code, at times so seamless you don't realize what you're doing. This is quite unique in this regard, as I've not seen two worlds collide so elegantly in some time, and so I'm quite excited about how these two worlds are going to work together.

Let's recap, you now have Silverlight 1.0 and 1.1 to play with. You now have Expression Blend, which is in packaged software. You now can not only deploy Silverlight to both PC and MAC, but can even debug on the Mac (Say what you will about Microsoft, but come on, give credit for that!). Yet, I know you want more, well we haven't even begun to talk about how Live.com plays a role overall. I mean sure, we released the Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR - aka you can now have Perl, Ruby, Python etc in the room?) but what about Live.com. That cute little website with a lot of SDK's and so forth, what could the Live Platform Team be doing with this space? More to the point have most of you checked out Live.com? If not, start keeping an eye on it.

The coolest part that I think people have overlooked is the overall payload of the Silverlight applications. I think from memory the application for Metaliq's Top Banana was around 30k or something as crazy as that.

Tools are going to set you free.

It's equally important to note here that developers have got a unique amount of power within both Visual Studio 2005+ and Expression Suite as you're essentially building stuff that takes little or no time initially. It's going to get better as well, and last week roaming the halls of Redmond I stumbled upon a lot of passion. There are a lot of folks within Microsoft right now, having a great time in Las Vegas, but they are also thinking ahead to the next release and getting more focused on the task list for the next release and so on. This is the starting point for most of them, and I think it's going to get much richer and greater overall (who would of thought the CLR made it Mac? I mean CRAZY TALK!)

I managed to grab a slushie with Mike Harsh (Be sure to check out his presentation tomorrow), one of the brains trusts for Silverlight Runtime and in the conversation he also stated one comment that I must agree with, it was from a buddy of his - "Writing code in C# is like having a extension to my right arm, it's so seamless and easy to approach". Having learnt C# for the past 2 years and I stress the word learnt, I have to agree as I kept slapping my forehead often throughout the process thinking "If only i knew...If only I knew this existed". I was a guy who'd sit in 3-5 different languages when I'd code, and I got by like most without hassles but overall It meant I kept track of 3-5 different code syntax adjustments and so on.

Microsoft's clear in this regard, C# or VB.NET are going to your best friends and if you're even more keen to do stuff, let's invite XAML along for the ride. Yet, it gets better, the tools themselves are going to not only coach you but take away allot of the mundane tasks (don't get met started on how both Strong Type Datasets + Class Designer work so seamlessly, it's just drool factor).

I'd love to run with Silverlight, but it's got 0% penetration so..

I get this question quite a lot, and it's political in many respects. As in one hand you're going to be made aware you need to download this runtime and install it. Scott showed how easy it was today to go from nothing to install and playing, thus the install process isn't scary. This then leaves the whole story around how does one get critical mass distribution with Silverlight?

Given Windows is on a large bulk of the worlds computers, the fact that most of you will go to your .NET 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0 install locations and suddenly realize you had these installed (i do that often when I get this thrown my way as they get this look of "How'd they do that!"). I say all of this without being arrogant, it just simply means that for years I've never worried about Microsoft's ability to distribute something if they set their minds to it. That for me was hygiene, it will however still come back to the developers & designers around the world whom are looking to either use it, park it or simply flat out reject it. This will tell the story but I think with the Silverlight + Live.com Streaming capabilities, this could get some traction fast enough.

Overall, I think this is a good 72 hour discussion so far, and I'm looking forward to seeing folks reaction to some of tomorrow's announcements.

I'm also damn glad I can start talking about a few things post-MIX as It's got my propeller-geek-hat spinning on over-drive on how many cool things can be done with Microsoft now. Who would of thought 5 years ago, they'd be where they are now?

I must say, it's good to be apart of Microsoft today.