Operation Blackbird - WPF meets Web 2.0

The challenge.

Take 2 x Flash Developers, 2 x Designers and 1 x WPF Developer mixed with 2 x Interactive producers and an Art Director.

Produce something Iconic.

Can this be done? stay tuned.

I'm working with a team here locally on a top secret project and I must say, I've learnt more from how these folks work with one another around a new technology that only 2 of us have seen and seeing how they adapt. It's massive, I'm talking 3D meets Web 2.0 stuff and so far they've been able to work together nicely, so much so that one of the designers said today "It's coming together to easily, I'm scared".

I mention this as you'll no doubt hear the speech around how Expression Tools are made to make your life easier in terms of bringing the designer and developer into the same mix, yet you'll be smart to be skeptical of just how easy this is.

I sat down with a Flash Developer on the project today, and gave her a run down of just how Expression Blend works and where its faults and strengths lie, she was amazed and agreed that once you get past the discussion of trying to pitch Expression Blend as being a competitor to Flash, and seeing it for what it is, you'll come to the realization that this is quite an exciting medium to deal with.

I took a moment to make a note of this, as that's important thing to celebrate. This person hadn't heard of Expression Blend, WPF or Microsoft's products in this space up until today!

Within 2 hours she got the concept and the direction we are heading.

I love this job, for moments like these as despite folks preaching the death rattle cries of how Microsoft is going to be dead, when you meet Flash Developers/Designers like this for example and see how they suddenly gain excitement over the potential of WPF - they get it.

I must admit she asked about how she could re-use this skill set post the initial project and I gave her a warts and all answer. It was this:

It requires Windows Vista ideally as the .NET 3.0 stuff is pre-baked inside the operating system. Yet, you're building this on Windows XP so when I installed .NET 3.0 this morning + Expression Blend, well you're ready to receive .XBAP/WPF applications and you're good to go. You'll have to learn C# but you already know ActionScript 3.0, so you're ahead of the learning curve and you understand how in Flash world components are built, so you get that piece and that will help you translate over into WPF land.

You've also got to learn XAML, but in reality the tools will keep you away from this until you feel ready to look into this behind the scenes code. That being said, you can realistically do the bulk of your work without even bothering with XAML but I'll wait until the project is over for you to confirm that for me.

Overall, Windows Vista + XP are selling well and have marketshare that's comfortable. Most Apple users are out buying Parallels and installing Windows of some nature inside this, so don't worry to much about X-Platform discussion per say. If you want to go X-Platform in a pure sense, then WPF isn't going to work with you needs here but if you're happy with this approach, go nuts.

Lastly, most Line of Business applications in future will require .NET 3.0 to be installed, so you're riding on the fact that chances are in the near future someone else is going to put .NET 3.0 on the client pc's anyway, so if you're happy with this line of thinking than the "footprint" won't be that much of an issue.

Overall, take it on each project as it comes and it maybe risky at first but I think you'll get some payoffs for your effort.

I'll keep you posted as this project rolls forward, we are video taping parts of it and I'm using this a test case to analyses how people whom have never played in this space realistically interact with one another and compare it against Microsoft's initial goals for having the Expression Suite on the table in the first place.

You're going to be surprised, I assure you and please, keep an open mind and  if your skeptical then role play for a second around the thought "what if this guy is telling the truth, what if it's that easy" as it cost's you nothing but an open mind.