Transcending the Traditional Web

A blog about building compelling, mobile and web-enabled software solutions.

Posts
  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    A Brief History of MIX: Feet on Ground, Eyes on Cloud

    • 1 Comments

    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.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmall[1]

    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 http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    What can we expect at this week’s intersection of design and technology in Las Vegas?

    Before a week for looking forward, a brief pause and a quick look back for context.

    MIX06: “The Next Web Now.”

    3 years ago, Microsoft launched this hip series of conferences, inviting a cross-platform audience of business decision makers, developers and designers (…wait… designers?!).

    The inaugural keynote explored the opportunities that would emerge as the internet “evolves… and ‘web’ and ‘application’ concepts merge.”

    It was the only MIX keynote to star Bill Gates as Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect, and featured a fireside chat between Bill and Tim O’Reilly, and Bill’s mea culpa about the state of IE6.

    MIX07: “A 72-Hour Conversation”

    The conference’s sophomore year was billed as a “72-hour conversation” at a time when the rampant success of social networking was all the buzz.

    Ray Ozzie took the helm, WPF/E got its new look and name, and so we saw .NET boldly go cross-browser, cross-platform - at least, in CTP form.

    MIX08

    Loosely, the following year’s theme was (loosely) connected things: their impact on the individual, their impact on the organization.  “Small pieces, loosely joined” was I believe how Ray put it.

    And then there were Rich Internet Applications. Silverlight 2.0, the highly anticipated enabler, went Beta.  Designers (I thought) were finally somewhat understood, even if their Microsoft toolset was still fermenting.

    There was an explicit expectation set by Ray, Steve and Company that MIX08 represented but one of several steps on the road to something big at the PDC coming in the autumn.

    PDC2008

    Then, months later, Silverlight 2.0 was unleashed on the wild, with 3.0 already on the horizon. But wait… were we even talking about the presentation layer any more, or, with Silverlight’s eventual impact firmly impressed upon us, had we moved on to discuss awesome sky-plumbing instead?

    We’re talkin’ Azure, Live Services too numerous to mention, data and enterprise service buses and meshes in the sky, a bookstore that got there first, Models and Domain-Specific Languages (see Don Box’s characterization of this dreadfully wond’rous craic), and so much more, all available streamed online now for your viewing pleasure.

    MIX09

    So we begin MIX09 with feet tentatively on the presentation layer, but eyes on this intriguing Cloud on the horizon.

    The MIX09 Session List alone would suggest an emphasis (by session number) on:

    • Silverlight (31) and UI/UX (16),
    • Azure (11) and Live Services (8),
      and
    • ASP.NET (14)

    Bill Gates at MIX06 

    Bill Gates at MIX06

     

    Ray Ozzie and ScottGu at MIX07

    Ray Ozzie and ScottGu at MIX07

     

    SteveB and GuyK at MIX08

    SteveB and GuyK at MIX08

     

    I mentioned previously that I visit MIX for the buzz.  This week I’m there again to meet, to chat, and to think — and specifically, to ask what should we do with all this  stuff? What could I do for my clients? For their organizations? For my own projects?

    Even if you’re not able to attend, the keynote will be streamed live, and you’ll have a chance to ask ScottGu some questions online 30 minutes after it’s over.

    We’re three years into this MIX journey to The Next Web.  This week, we expect to gain insight into Microsoft’s perspective on the road ahead.  I’m going to try to write here daily, and figure out how to use this Twitter thing as well.  Inspired by keynote speaker Bill Buxton, I may even try my hand at a little sketching, and change up my technology choices as an audience member for the keynote and sessions. (hint: thinking of leaving the laptop behind).

    Right - that’s enough context - I’m off to Vegas to Mix things up a little!

     

    This blog post was originally posted at http://robburke.net/2009/03/16/a-brief-history-of-mix-feet-on-ground-eyes-on-cloud/.

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Understanding the Microsoft Web Platform

    • 1 Comments

    A common complaint that I hear from people who build web solutions is that when they try to start building web solutions on the Microsoft Platform, they hit a wall because of 2 things:

    1. There is so much information they don’t even know where to start.
    2. There is no consolidated set of resources that give them a launch pad for learning and using the Microsoft Web Platform.

    The fact of the matter is, the people I talk to are right!   We literally have gigabytes of very useful and relevant information for anyone that wants to build great web solutions with our tools and platform technologies but there are so many places where you need to go to get that information it becomes frustrating and turns people away.

    Well, we’ve heard these complaints and to help you get the resources you need, we have provided a Canadian-focused portal for building web solutions on the Microsoft platform.  This portal is intended to provide a launch pad for finding the information you need about our web platform.  This includes:

    • Information on the tools you need to build on our platform and where to get them
    • Learning facilities where you can get online training on our platform technologies – for free!
    • Information on how to join the Microsoft Partner Program and why registering for free can help you grow your business
    • Offers on software, 3rd party training and other benefits to help you get up to speed at a reduced cost
    • Whitepapers to help you understand some of our best practices for building Microsoft-based web solutions
    • Links to important blogs on our web platform
    • How to find a hosting partner for your solution on Windows
    • and much, much more

    If you are building web solutions on the Microsoft platform or if you are thinking about it, I strongly encourage you to visit the site.  If you have feedback on the site, please let me know by submitting a comment to this post!

    -Paul

    Technorati Tags: Web Development Resource

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Dude, Where’s My Mango Update?

    • 0 Comments

    Photo Credit:  Mohammed Aly By now, many of you have probably seen the news that carriers around the world will start pushing updates very soon and through the next couple of months.  It’s exciting because many that have seen and used the Mango update for Windows Phone in its beta format have seen it to be a very usable, interesting and viable platform that rivals any of the mobile platforms out there today.

    Like you, I’m excited as well.  I have been running the beta (build 7712) version of Mango on my own phone since around late July and it’s made me much more productive on the go.

    So, with all that said, when can you expect the Mango update to be released by the 3 major carriers supporting Windows Phone in Canada?  The answer is “soon”.  I can’t tell you the exact date because that is something that is managed not only by Microsoft but also by our carrier partners, so saying a date right now on this blog would make a commitment not only of Microsoft but of our carrier partners as well.  I can tell you Canadian users waiting for Mango will get it in the publicized timeframe that Eric Hautala statedin his post (which I linked to above), however.

    What can you expect in your Mango update?  Well, here’s a few of the features that I love:

    • Multi-tasking: All apps (original Windows Phone 7 apps or Mango apps) will support multi-tasking.  The awesome thing I’ve noticed is that this addition doesn’t affect the battery in a significant way from what I’ve seen.
    • Threaded Conversations:  Start a conversation on SMS, switch to Facebook and then to Messenger in one single conversation thread.  No need to start a new thread in separate apps; the phone is smart enough to manage the thread regardless of the service!
    • Enhanced Live Tiles: The Push Notification service for Windows Phone is top notch and it became even richer and more meaningful with Mango – Live Tiles continue to push useful app info to your tile, but also you can now use the back of the tile (which flips on the start screen) to provide even more info.
    • Threaded Conversations in Outlook: You know that awesome feature in your desktop client for Outlook 2010 that allows you to manage an email conversation in a thread so you don’t have to search your inbox for historical responses?  Yeah, that’s supported in Mango.  Bazinga!
    • Internet Explorer 9: The browser on Mango has been rev’ed to the newest production browser from Microsoft available on the desktop, namely IE9.  It’s essentially the same rendering engine as well as the GPU acceleration capabilities that IE9 has on the desktop to make graphics super-fast.  Oh yeah, and it supports HTML5.  Boom.
    • Full Sync Support for Office 365, SharePoint and SkyDrive: Ok, so sync support with SkyDrive and SharePoint existed in the initial WP7 release, but now we also support Office 365.  Great for small and medium sized business support.  To the Cloud
    • Native integration for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn:  You’re a social butterfly, eh?  Well, in addition to Facebook integration found in the initial release of Windows Phone 7, we have also now added Twitter and LinkedIn in the same manner.  Boom again.

    So where can I check in on my update and scheduling by my carrier?  As with previous updates, Microsoft will hold the latest information on the Where’s My Update page on the Windows Phone portal.  Right now (as of the publication time and date of this post), there’s 3 updates listed, all showing “Delivering Update” status.  As an FYI, none of these updates are Mango (7008 was the initial test update from January, 7390 was the NoDo update in March which introduced copy and past among other things and 7392 was a security update  from April that fixed a certificate issue).

    So stay tuned and rest assured that the Canadian carriers supporting Windows Phone will be pushing out your update in a timely fashion!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    ASP.NET MVC Code Gallery Released

    • 0 Comments

    Joe Stagner, one of the people at Microsoft that I greatly admire wrote in his blog about this nice little gold nugget about the ASP.NET MVC Code Gallery being released.

    If you are a fan of the MVC pattern and you’re interested in using the ASP.NET MVC framework, this is a great place to start.  The code is contributed by the community and the licensing for it Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license so have a look and feel free to use it to learn and build MVC-based applications in ASP.NET!

    Technorati Tags:  MVC

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Welcome Swag (includes Sketching UX book!)

    • 0 Comments

    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.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmall[1]

    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 http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

     

     

    MIX09 Swag Bag
    MIX09 Swag Bag

    This year’s Swag Bag Contents:

    • 1 Sketching User Experiences book (highly cool - I already gave my previous copy to a friend)
    • 1 MIX09 Notebook (also cool -this image does not do justice to the pages of the notebook, which alternate graph and plain. Session eval forms attached to back.)
    • 1 MIX09 T-Shirt with “<3 Your Web” slogan
    • 1 “Live at Kexp” Music CD (KEXP is a non-profit Seattle-based Radio Station)

    MIX09 Mystery Sticker
    MIX09 Mystery Sticker

    • 1 Sticker Thingamayoke which I have yet to grok (at first I thought it was maybe something that Lego Mindstorms sensors could do image recognition with or something, now it looks to me like an abstract representation of web content)
    • 1 Clip-On Flashlight
    • 1 Pen
    • 1 Water Bottle - handy for us winter-pasty Canoodians, as it is 22 degrees Celsius here and sunny!
    • 1 Coffee Mug
    • Misc Advertisements (not pictured)

    For reference, here’s what was in the MIX07 Swag.

    MIX07 Welcome Swag
    MIX07 Welcome Swag

    I’m most grateful for another copy of Buxton’s insightful book!

    I wonder if we’ll have any software to play with tomorrow, or if we’ll be downloading lab content ourselves.  I always come armed with extra storage to events like these in case I need to truck home some VPCs.

     

    Technorati Tags: ,
  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Join the Microsoft Partner Program, Get Expression Web

    • 2 Comments

    Microsoft Canada has a great offer for any Canadian web solution provider that isn’t already a Registered Microsoft Partner.

    For a limited time, we are offering a free copy of Expression Web 2, our premier web design tool for building compelling web sites.

    All you need to do is go to this site, register as Microsoft Partner on the site (which is completely free) and enter your Partner ID to get your free copy of Expression Web 2.

    There are many other benefits with this offer as well.  We are offering access to free training on Microsoft web platform technologies, great hosting offers and other benefits as well.

    In addition to all that, by registering as a Microsoft Partner, you get other offers for training, deeply discounted software to help you start your business as well as support from Microsoft to help you grow your business.

    If you haven’t registered as a Microsoft Partner yet, this may be a great time to do it!

    -Paul

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Day 2: “Return on Experience”

    • 1 Comments

    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.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmallCATKR3TE

    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 http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

     

    Deborah Alder at MIX09 Keynote
    Deborah Alder at MIX09 Keynote

    Bill Buxton, the Spirit of MIX09 (who, incidentally, now has a typeface named after him), was very welcome back for this morning’s keynote to introduce Deborah Adler, whose work as principal designer for Target’s ClearRx medicine bottles provided the focus for our discussion about design and its impact on user experience.

    ClearRx Case Study

    Deborah’s research identified and addressed many serious problems with traditional medicine bottles. Her prototype was refined by Target into the ClearRx products, and the resulting “return on experience” includes brand awareness for Target — and, much more importantly, the potential to change behavior and save human lives.

    Her advice to us was twofold - to have a love affair with our customers, and to bring our design skills to bear both humanly and humanely.

    There is more information about Deborah’s work at the Target:Health site.

    [Update: I just saw Robby Ingebretsen's post and agree with him - these two keynotes together (and particularly, Deborah and Bill's contributions) made for the best and most inspiring MIX keynotes yet.]

    Clear Rx
    Clear Rx (link goes to Target ClearRx site)

    IE8: In other keynote news, Dean Hachamovitch announced that Internet Explorer 8 was released today.

    For more info: You can now watch streaming video of the keynotes (for both days) here, and Tim Sneath’s thorough Play-by-Play is here and here.

    The Cloud?

    So I expected today’s keynote was going to be about the Cloud. I was totally wrong.  But it’s all good.

    My Mind Map, with Day 2 on the bottom, now makes more sense: the “Return on Experience” discussion provides the roots for everything we’ve discussed at MIX09 this week.

    MIX09 Keynote Mind Map - Days 1 and 2
    MIX09 Keynote Mind Map - Days 1 and 2 - with Return on Experience at the root

    p.s. More Misc MIX notes on the rest of Day 2 in a future post — I am shattered tonight. Johnny Lee’s HCI talk was particularly memorable (link goes to his killer TED talk).

    Technorati Tags: ,,
  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Line of Business Silverlight Apps that Rock

    • 0 Comments

    Silverlight, Microsoft’s plug-in for delivering cross-platform Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and experiences has been out for a while now.  The first, JavaScript-only version was released at Microsoft’s MIX07 conference in May of 2007.  Subsequently, Silverlight 2 (the first .NET-enabled version) was released as a go-live technology shortly following the 2008 Beijing Olympics where the beta version of Silverlight 2 had a stellar performance providing a truly immersive experience for viewing the Olympics online.  Silverlight 3, the newly announced next version of the plug-in was introduced in beta version at MIX09 back in March of this year has provided increased buzz and is looking like a very promising, forward-looking platform for RIA experiences.

    Given the amount of time the platform has now been available, we’re starting to see some incredible creativity and very focused, user-centric applications being built for Silverlight.  I’m very excited about many of these applications and solutions for both business and consumer scenarios and I want to share some of these great experiences with you.  This first post will be about business-oriented Silverlight applications and a subsequent post will highlight some consumer-oriented applications.

    It used to be that most rich experiences on the web were focused on public-facing or consumer-based applications.  It makes sense; we often see user-centric innovation outside the firewall before we see it inside due to the cost of re-vamping existing line of business applications as well as focusing investment on activities that directly impact customers positively.  While that is certainly still true, we are seeing business from all sorts of industries adopting user-centric software platforms for internal applications as well as customer-facing business applications.  Below are examples of how you could implement some business-oriented experiences in Silverlight:

    The Patient Journey Demonstrator 

    PatientJourneyDemonstratorThumbnail[1]
    Industry Vertical:  Healthcare
    Focus:  Internal LOB Application


    The Patient Journey Demonstrator is a Silverlight 2 application built by the Microsoft Common User Interface team to demonstrate how Silverlight can positively enable patient management in healthcare scenarios.
    Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
    Focus:  Customer-Facing Application


    The Woodgrove Financial demo application (built by Infusion)was built to provide inspiration as to how you might be able to deliver a rich experience to customers using an online banking system.  While it is likely that an online banking site would not be built entirely in Silverlight, it is very interesting to see how a bank might implement important pieces of functionality with Silverlight to create a customer-focused experience.
    Woodgrove Financial

    WoodgroveBankingThumbnail[1]
    Stock Trader Reference Application

    StockTraderThumbnail[1]
    Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
    Focus:  Customer & Internal LOB Application


    The Stock Trader Reference Application is included in the Microsoft Patterns & Practices team’s Composite Application Guidance for WPF and Silverlight.  This application is meant to be a demonstration of the types of applications you can build using a composite architecture (i.e.:  modularizing your UI into components to make it more manageable, maintainable and reusable).
    Industry Vertical:  Manufacturing
    Focus:  Internal LOB Application


    The Factories Map application demo built by ComponentOne is a mashup using Virtual Earth, Silverlight (via the Virtual Earth Silverlight Map Control) and internal data to provide a visualization of where a company’s assets are located worldwide as well as provide efficiency and productivity data for its factories.  The power of this demo is in the ability for solution providers to provide effective data visualization solutions at the fingertips of employees.
    Factories Map

    FactoriesMapThumbnail[1]
    Stock Portfolio

    StockPortfolioThumbnail[1]
    Industry Vertical:  Financial Services
    Focus:  Customer & Internal LOB Application


    Another demo application delivered by ComponentOne is the Stock Portfolio application.  The scenario to this application is similar to that of the Stock Trader Reference Application above, but the implementation is different and shows how you can deliver an effective user interface for stock traders through data visualization and UI customization through various different and disparate data feeds.

    These are just a few of the LOB-focused applications we are seeing built in Silverlight.  If you have an LOB application built in Silverlight that you would like to share, please let me know by commenting!

    Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Guest Post: MIX09 Inspirations: Back to the Drawing Board

    • 1 Comments

    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.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmallCAZH1CS5

    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 http://robburke.net and his shiny new Twitter account is @rob_burke.

    The original post by Rob can be found here.

    In the hope they may also inspire you, here are four other sources of inspiration I found at MIX09,

    Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place
    1. Bill Buxton at MIX09 Third Place

    1. Bill Buxton’s visit to “The Third Place.” He cites Henry Dreyfuss’s “Designing for People” as the next must-read book after his (preferably 1st Ed.). Render in the correct fidelity. Don’t rely on a “muse.” Consider minimally five alternatives. Persona and “Place-ona.” “Design is Choice.”

    Johnny Lee at TED
    2. Johnny Lee and HCI wonders

    2. Johnny Lee’s HCI talk. @shanselman a fanboi too. Know Johnny? Watch his MIX talk. Don’t know him yet? Check his TED talk first, which was worthy of a standing ovation. Johnny on the future of HCI: Dive off today’s local maxima. Want more HCI? Follow UIST, SigGraph, SigCHI, UBICOMP.

    Joe Fletcher MIX09 Surface Session - already online!
    3. Joe Fletcher Surface Session - online!

    3. Joseph Fletcher delivered a mightily polished Touch Computing presentation yesterday, and the session video is already online! Surface UX is “Hyper-real,” and Surface is Social, Seamless, Spatial.

    MmmmmUrl
    4. MmmmmUrl

    4. Purdy & Sells delivered an energetic talk on their RESTful DSL MUrl. Interested in languages, human and machine? “Oslo” and “M” are sexy. Probably this a good place to start. Their MIX09 Session is here.

    Back to the Drawing Board - Literally

    Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote
    Bill Buxton during the second MIX09 keynote

    To sum it up, there are four things I carried away from MIX09:

    1. Bill Buxton urges us to focus on people, and craft our technology with informed design.
    2. Johnny Lee says we’ll need to get off our local maxima and be uncomfortable before we can progress.
    3. Joseph Fletcher and his team want to invent a totally new paradigm.
    4. Purdy and Sells were among speakers and teams too numerous to mention who introduced potentially game-changing technologies with which we can innovate.

    This reaction in our community is consistent with the global sense of a need for something new.  Put simply, the status quo isn’t good enough any more.

    This message was embodied by Deborah Adler.  There’s a reason why Microsoft so boldly chose to focus half a keynote on Ms. Adler’s contribution — it’s time for us to stop thinking like techies, and start thinking about the people using our creations, and the contexts in which they’ll be using them.

    To get there, we were all encouraged to use unconventional tools, and reminded that big ideas can come from going back to basics: a sheet of paper and a decent pen.

    I’m sure I’ll see more techies at the local cafe, rubbing elbows with thinkers who have always used these basic methods to achieve greatness.

    Until Next Year…

    As I type, the sessions are coming online at the VisitMIX site. Through a fog of tweets and jetlag this morning in Toronto, I was struck hard that MIX has made me want to return to doing the stuff that brought me here in the first place, whatever that means for me in 2009.

    I want to extend my thanks to the organizers of MIX for so much inspiration, and to the Microsoft Canada team for letting me share MIX09 with you.

    MIX09 boldly declared that “The Next Web” is a place where design matters.  We were taught to seek returns on user experiences, and think first about how our creations influence lives.  This is a future I want to help invent.

    Looking forward to continuing the discussion. You can always find me at robburke.net.

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    It’s a big day for RIA!

    • 0 Comments

    Today is a landmark launch day for anyone building Rich Internet Applications (also known as RIAs), particularly those that build compelling web-enabled experiences on the Microsoft platform.

    We launched 2 new product versions today and it’s something all of us at Microsoft are very excited about:  Silverlight 3 and Expression Studio 3.

    Silverlight 3 represents a big change in how you can build RIAs in .NET.  In a nutshell, below are some of the enhancements and new features you can use with Silverlight:

    • Out-of-Browser Experience:  Build RIA applications that don’t require a browser to run.  This is a big deal as it means that you can use Silverlight to create connected desktop experiences that run on any Silverlight 3-supported platform.
    • GPU Acceleration:  One of the hurdles many Silverlight developers and designers needed to overcome in prior versions of the platform was dealing with (or rather “faking” or “hacking”) 3D support within Silverlight.  This was due to the fact you couldn’t take advantage of the GPU hardware on the PC to deliver the 3D experiences you wanted to build.  With Silverlight 3, now you can leverage the PC’s GPU.
    • Smooth Streaming Video:  Everyone is familiar with the experience of choppy video online.  Smooth HD Streaming has been incorporated into Silverlight 3 to help alleviate that problem.  In essence, Smooth Streaming allows the streaming server and the Silverlight plugin to determine your bandwidth and adjust the quality of the stream to best fit your bandwidth restrictions.  There is a good demo of this here.
    • Development and Design Support:  The Silverlight 3 SDK provides over 100 new UI controls that Designers and Developers can use out of the box in their Silverlight apps.  It also provides a newly introduced navigation framework that helps with deep-linking and back/forward browser control.  It also provides much richer network support.
    • Developer Tools:  With the launch of Silverlight 3, we also provide the tools for building Silverlight 3 applications in Visual Studio.  It’s also your choice where to get these tools.  You can get them using the Web Platform Installer or through the traditional channel at the Silverlight Dev Site.

    You may have noticed I talked about developer tool support but I didn’t spend any time on Designer tools.  That’s because I want to focus a bit on the design tools in the section below.  Expression Studio 3 has been launched (although Expression Blend, the interactive design tool has been launched in RC form for now).  There is several cool things we have added into the Expression suite of tools for Version 3 (including full support for Silverlight 3).  I want to highlight the new features of two of the tools here, namely Expression Blend and Expression Web:

    • Expression Blend 3 RC
      • SketchFlow:  This is a huge productivity gainer for developers.  Remember the days of sketching a screen design and app workflow on a napkin to show to the client?  Now you can do the same thing with Expression Blend without having to do manual sketches, wireframes and then build the actual app.  You can do this as one step now.
      • Intellisense support:  If you like to get into the code while using Expression Blend, you now have Intellisense support within the tool (including intellisense for C#, VB and XAML).
      • TFS Integration:  “Does Expression Blend support for code repositories (including check-in and check-out)?”  I have been asked this question many times and the answer was always a let down.  My answer was basically “save the work you did in Blend, go back to Visual Studio and check in the code assets from there”.  Well, no more – I’m happy to say that Blend now supports the ability to check your project assets into Team Foundation Server, Microsoft’s code repository tool.
    • Expression Web 3
      • SuperPreview:  If you design websites, you are probably acutely aware of the pain that is testing your web application for rendering in multiple browsers.  Your process for this testing likely included multiple machines, constant flipping back and forth between browser windows and you still ended up missing incompatibilities.  SuperPreview fixes a lot of this pain by providing you with a way to look at how your website will render in multiple browsers, side-by-side with tools that help you identify inconsistencies.
      • New User Interface:  Expression Web is no longer “the tool in Expression that doesn’t look like the other tools”.  In keeping with design consistency, Expression Web now sports the slick, dark grey IDE UI that the rest of the tools do.
      • Auto-Hide Panels:  Screen real estate is valuable as a website designer.  You usually need to use most of the space on the screen to see how the website looks, viewing the actual code and the like.  Tool panels often get in the way.  With Expression Web 3, you have the ability to hide these panels as you see fit, which is very helpful when all you want to do is look at the code!

    This is just a very quick summary of some of the things we have delivered in Silverlight 3 and Expression 3.  For more detailed info on these items, I encourage you to take a look at the following resources:

     

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

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

    • 1 Comments

    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.

    RobBurkeBioPicSmall[1]

    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 http://robburke.net 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)

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Oh yeah, it’s on: welcome to the party, Windows Phone 7 Series.

    • 2 Comments

     

    wp7[1]

     

    Today marks a sea change in Microsoft’s mobile device strategy and how we are going to market in the smartphone space.  This change is fundamental rather than incremental; we have completely re-written the book on how a Windows Phone looks, behaves and interacts with a user.  With the MIX10 opening keynote (you can watch the on-demand video here), we introduced the details on how designers and developers can create incredible and immersive solutions for Windows Phone 7 Series. 

    I don’t think I can stress how different this new offering is to not only our previous smartphone offerings, but also how different Windows Phone 7 Series is compared to the most popular smartphone competitors on the market today.  In making the user central to the experience, the Windows Phone 7 Series product team has created a product that is productive, focused and fun to use.

    Some of the things we have announced are:

    • A consistent experience across devices
      • All Windows Phone 7 Series devices will share a common screen resolution and hardware specifications
    • An intuitive, delightful and fresh User Interface
      • Adoption of the code name “Metro” user interface which was derived from the highly acclaimed UI in the Zune HD media player
      • Tiles:  launch points for phone functionality on the home screen that also share contextual and relevant information important to the user
    • 4-point capacitive multi-touch screens
    • An application programming model that uses Silverlight and XNA to deliver outstanding application and mobile gaming user experiences
    • Free tools to build Windows Phone 7 Series applications, including a very powerful phone emulator
    • Harmonized user experiences by leveraging Silverlight, Zune media playback, social networking and XBox Live integration
    • A push notification engine allowing simulated multitasking while removing the overhead of multitasking resources (such as memory, disk space, etc.)

    The fact that the application model leverages Silverlight and XNA is significant in that you can reuse your skillsets that you have acquired building regular Silverlight apps and XNA-enabled games.  This means that if you have built Silverlight applications or XNA games in the past, you’ll find the application creation process very familiar and will allow you to hit the ground running.

    WP7-2[1]

    Below are some helpful resource links that you can use to learn more about Windows Phone 7 Series application development and actually start building your apps right now:

     

    Happy Windows Phone 7 Series app building!

     

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    On Phone Apps and Web Apps

    • 0 Comments

    Being a mobile developer over the past 4 years has been an interesting experience.  With the advent of modern smartphones with differentiate experiences, we found out that not only is there a viable market for great apps, but that market is booming and very competitive.  We have seen mobile apps that have literally changed the way we interact, live our lives and found ways to fill the lulls in our day with experiences that are both fun and addictive.  And along the way, we all seemed to figure out that finding a center of gravity for all the apps within a mobile platform was an effective way to make an app popular by consumers and monetize the efforts of the developer as a result.

    During that time, the web has evolved a great deal as well.  The debates over which plug-ins were best were fought and then along came HTML5 (or rather the promise of HTML5) that many believe will fundamentally change the way we see the web and how we interact with content on the internet.  Even though HTML5 is in its infancy (it’s not even a ratified set of standards from the W3C yet and likely won’t be for a while yet!), already we are seeing some very interesting examples of what HTML5 can bring.  Frankly, this is game changing stuff.

    As HTML5 standardization marches on, becoming more popular for web developers/designers and as more and more people start building native mobile apps, it seems that a line in the sand is forming between the pro-HTML5 and pro-App groups.  There is a polarity that is appearing between the two and we are starting to see a sentiment that the two camps are becoming mutually exclusive (adopt one or the other, but not both).

    There is a decent argument being made by both camps.  HTML5 enthusiasts are advocating that mobile experiences should turn into HTML5 websites that can be made to  look and feel exactly like mobile apps native to the smartphone platform in question.  They also advocate it as a way to centralize administration and maintenance of the experience (change once on the server and the new experience is delivered to anyone and everyone without the need to download an update).  The fact that HTML5 is being created as a set of standards is very compelling as it allows developers and designers the ability to design their web-based experience without having to deal with the vagaries found in each browser.  Given that most modern mobile platforms have a good HTML5 story around their browsers (either today or in future direction of their browsers), it’s a strong argument.  The other side of the coin is that the set of standards that are commonly referred to as HTML5 won’t be ratified until 2014 at the earliest.  There is also no guarantee that each of the major browsers will interpret the standard the same way which could negate the benefits of the “write once, display on any browser” vision of HTML5.

    The pro-native app enthusiasts, on the other hand are make a great point in that the development platforms for their apps are rich, well-documented, support rapid dev cycles and a centralized store where smartphone users can easily find, install and socialize the apps they like.  Apps that are native to the platform can take full advantage of the features that the platform vendor has exposed, leading to incredible innovation.  Finally, apps found in a marketplace have the advantage of marketing support that comes out of the box.  Data shows that being featured in a marketplace creates a huge spike in downloads and revenue that has the opportunity to be sustained over long periods of time.   The negatives for native apps include the need to share revenue with the marketplace the app resides in as well as the app being subject to the terms and conditions of that marketplace with the risk of being pulled with only short notice.

    So who is right?  Well, you could say both are.  They both have valid arguments and the positives for each are tangible while the negatives are equally relevant.  I would also say that combining the two (a native smartphone app leveraging HTML5) is equally right and should receive more consideration than it currently is getting.

    To make my case, let’s consider the Windows Phone 7 Codename Mango platform (I use Mango instead of the original WP7 platform as Mango introduces IE9, an HTML5-ready browser, while the original WP7 platform used a browser that was a hybrid of IE7 and IE8 which are not HTML5-ready).  For example, using the Qantas demo that was seen in Joe Belfiore’s keynote at MIX11, re-imagine the implementation of the app Qantas built as a native Mango app that utilizes a browser control within the app to deliver a rich, web-hosted experience via an HTML5 canvas.

    ie9mobileThe power of HTML5 allows you to create a truly immersive experience that is hosted purely within the browser.  If you are a registered WP7 developer on the App Hub and you have downloaded the Mango beta build you can check out its capabilities for HTML5 on a WP7 device (or you could just bring up the emulator that came with the Mango beta dev tools).  With Mango, you can leverage the power of IE9 and HTML5 to create amazing apps that can be skinned to fit the look and feel of the Mango platform (i.e.:  the metro design language).  You can then use this same experience, if you wanted to, on normal desktop browsers or even in other mobile browsers.

    qantasLikewise, if you hosted that web experience within a browser control, you could still leverage the amazing features of the Mango platform to create a truly immersive experience that you simply couldn’t by only using an HTML5 app in the mobile browser.  By using a native app to host the browser control, you could still leverage new features in Mango such as Agents and Alerts, double-sided tiles, fast app switch and even deep app linking.

    Even if you were looking to avoid revenue sharing for your paid app within the Marketplace (paid apps are split as a 70/30 with you retaining the 70% portion), you could make your app free in the Marketplace and implement your own in-app purchase mechanism within the HTML5 part of your app (assuming, of course, your app isn’t a Mango game, as the Marketplace certification guidelines prohibit any in-app purchase within WP7 games as of the publish date of this post).

    So I’ve made my case for hybrid native/HTML5 apps.  I suspect some of you may have different ideas around this, so please let me know what you think!

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Taking your first steps into Silverlight

    • 2 Comments

    In my previous post, I spoke of how Silverlight is bringing some great user experiences for viewing the Olympics on the web.  While it’s likely a large number of people reading this post have seen Silverlight even prior to the Olympics, you may be wondering how you can start learning Silverlight 2 and building compelling web solutions with it yourself.

    As you might expect, there are a number of great primers on how to build Silverlight applications.  If you’re new to Silverlight development, the best place to start is by going to Silverlight.net to get examples of what is available as well as visiting the Get Started tab.  It will tell you what you need to start building great Silverlight applications.

    For those of you that have already gone through that material, you may also want to take a look at the list of training videos available for free online below.  The list was compiled by my colleague Joe Stagner who has a great blog on building web solutions on the Microsoft platform.  The list of videos can also be found below:

    1. Silverlight - Hello World
    2. Silverlight - Anatomy of an Application
    3. Silverlight - The VS Environment
    4. Silverlight - Content Controls
    5. Silverlight - Built-In Controls
    6. Silverlight - Width, Height, Margins, Padding, Alignment
    7. Silverlight - Using a GridSplitter
    8. Silverlight - Grid Layout
    9. Silverlight - StackPanel Layout
    10. Silverlight - Canvas Layout
    11. Silverlight - Databinding UI to .NET Classes
    12. Silverlight - Simple Styles
    13. Silverlight - Custom Types in XAML
    14. Silverlight - Binding with Conversion
    15. Silverlight - List Based Data Binding
    16. Silverlight - Simple User Control
    17. Silverlight - Templating a Button
    18. Silverlight - Resources from XAP/DLL/Site Of Origin
    19. Silverlight - Animations & Storyboards
    20. Silverlight - Uploads with WebClient
    21. Silverlight - Downloads with WebClient
    22. Silverlight - Calling HTTPS Web Services
    23. Silverlight - Calling Web Services
    24. Silverlight - Making Cross Domain Requests
    25. Silverlight - Using HttpWebRequest
    26. Silverlight - File Dialogs and User Files
    27. Silverlight - Using Sockets
    28. Silverlight - Using Isolated Storage
    29. Silverlight - .NET Code Modifying HTML
    30. Silverlight - Using Isolated Storage Quotas
    31. Silverlight - Calling JavaScript from .NET
    32. Silverlight - Evaluating JavaScript from .NET Code
    33. Silverlight - Handling HTML Events in .NET Code
    34. Silverlight - Handling .NET Events in JavaScript
    35. Silverlight - Calling .NET from JavaScript
    36. Silverlight - Displaying a Custom Splash Screen
    37. Silverlight - Passing Parameters from your Web Page
    38. Silverlight - Loading Media at Runtime
    39. Silverlight - Dynamically Loading Assemblies/Code
    40. Silverlight - Reading/Writing XML
    41. Silverlight - Multiple Threads with BackgroundWorker
    42. Silverlight - Insert/Update/Delete with the DataGrid
    43. Silverlight - Getting Started with the DataGrid
    44. Silverlight - Embedding Custom Fonts

    Happy Learning!

    -Paul

    Technorati Tags:  Silverlight, Silverlight Training

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Like HTML5? Like Phone Apps? Then you’ll LOVE Mango because…

    • 0 Comments

    A few weeks ago, I wrote a post referencing how you as a developer don’t have to be torn between building mobile experiences in HTML5 or native phone apps.  In fact, with the upcoming Mango release for Windows Phone, the “better together” story is a strong one that allows you to take advantage of great HTML5 goodness while harnessing that advantages that the native platform provides (like push notifications and live tiles) to create a full, rich experience for users and a manageable one for developers.

    To that end, I was very excited to learn that Nitobi, a great Vancouver-based company with a strong history in building mobile development platforms, has announced the release a beta of its popular PhoneGap framework supporting Mango.  This is a really big deal, not only for Microsoft, but for you as a mobile developer.  PhoneGap is a framework that is already available on platforms such as iOS, Android and Blackberry that allows you to build apps using HTML5/CSS3, JavaScript and native phone resources to create amazing mobile experiences catered to the targeted phone platform.

    In a very high-level nutshell, PhoneGap allows developers to create application experiences by building code in HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript and wrapping it in a native phone platform app.  PhoneGap generally takes care of the “plumbing” for the web code to communicate with the actual app it is wrapped around.  This allows you as a developer to leverage your web skills in creating the app’s content and then take advantage of the great, native features that the phone platform itself provides.  It is, as I like to call it, a win-win.

    There are literally thousands of apps built leveraging PhoneGap across all of the phone platforms available today.  This presents a great opportunity for developers with existing PhoneGap apps to port their solutions to Windows Phone Mango.  With IE9 as the browser on Mango, the ability to leverage HTML5 and CSS3 capabilities on the phone while merging it with the great native features of Mango brings a new and fresh look for your apps that can reach net new users.

    If you’re new to PhoneGap but know HTML5 or web development in general, then chances are it’s a great place to start if you’re interested in building apps for Mango as you can leverage those web skills and then learn how to code in some of the great app offerings that Mango provides.

    Oh, and if you know nothing about building Mango apps but you want to know how to start (or know how to code for Windows Phone 7 but want a primer on Mango), the Mango Jumpstart training course is now available on demand!  I blogged about the Mango Jumpstart training course a couple of weeks ago.  It was a two-day, deep-dive, online training course that was delivered live for free.  We have recorded each of the 14 sessions in this two-day course and they are now available for you to watch whenever you want.

    The sessions available in this course are as follows:

    1. Mango Jump Start (01): Building Windows Phone Apps with Visual Studio 2010
    2. Mango Jump Start (02): Silverlight on Windows Phone—Introduction
    3. Mango Jump Start (03): Silverlight on Windows Phone—Advanced
    4. Mango Jump Start (04): Using Expression to Build Windows Phone Interfaces
    5. Mango Jump Start (05): Windows Phone Fast Application Switching
    6. Mango Jump Start (06): Windows Phone Multi-tasking & Background Tasks
    7. Mango Jump Start (07): Using Windows Phone Resources (Bing Maps, Camera, etc.)
    8. Mango Jump Start (08a): Application Data Storage on Windows Phone | Part 1
    9. Mango Jump Start (08b): Application Data Storage on Windows Phone | Part 2
    10. Mango Jump Start (09): Using Networks with Windows Phone
    11. Mango Jump Start (10): Tiles & Notifications on Windows Phone
    12. Mango Jump Start (11a): XNA for Windows Phone | Part 1
    13. Mango Jump Start (11b): XNA for Windows Phone | Part 2
    14. Mango Jump Start (12): Selling a Windows Phone Application

    So, what do you need to do now?  Here’s a little list that is worth checking out:

    • Download the Windows Phone Mango RC tools.  It’s the first thing you’ll need to start developing apps for Mango.
    • If you’re new to Windows Phone development or looking for training, check out the Mango Jumpstart Training course links above.
    • Interested in PhoneGap for MangoDownload it here. 
    • Bookmark our Windows Phone Development resources page.  It contains a great list of resources on Mango that you’ll want to have handy.  We’ll be keeping the content fresh so check back on occasion to see what’s new.
    • Start coding apps and games for Mango!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Event: Make Web, Not War Episode 2009

    • 1 Comments

    As a solution provider, the web presents an ever increasing opportunity to grow your business.  As more and more customers (and potential customers!) look to the web as a way to broaden their message, increase their own revenue and lower their cost of doing business in general, you have the opportunity to make a real impact to those businesses with the skills you have in building web solutions.

    It is for this reason that Microsoft Canada has created the Make Web, Not War Episode 2009 in-person event.  We know that Microsoft technologies are only part of a larger ecosystem of web platform technologies out there.  What many people may not realize is that Microsoft is playing an ever increasing role in reaching out to web solution providers that aren’t traditionally building web software on Windows.

    Make Web, Not War Episode 2009 is a 2-city tour reaching out to web solution enthusiasts, whether you build your solutions on Windows or not.  The Vancouver stop is on Tuesday, June 2nd and the Toronto stop is on Wednesday, June 10.  For details on the specific agenda items for each of these cities, please visit the website but in a nutshell, we have a number of speakers from both enterprise and open source communities speaking about how Windows is a great platform to build web solutions on.  It will certainly not be the only platform you will likely build web solutions on, but you may very well find that expanding your skillsets to include providing Windows-based web solutions may well be worth your while.

    Value Proposition:

    • Hear from other Web Partners who build on Open Source & Microsoft technologies
    • Network with fellow members of the Web Community
    • Learn about the latest Microsoft technologies & how they work with Open Source
    • Get technical training to build your Web Development portfolio
    • Win prizes & get your Web Warrior DVD of all the latest Microsoft Web Resources

    Some of the topics we’ll be covering between Vancouver and Toronto:

    • Building great WordPress sites with Expression Web (Vancouver)
    • How DigiTweet (an open source WPF-based Twitter client) was built (Toronto)
    • The business opportunity on the web (Vancouver and Toronto)
    • How Windows Hosting can help you build web solutions and your web business (Vancouver and Toronto

    There is still limited seating available for both Vancouver and Toronto, so if you’re interested please register online at Make Web, Not War Episode 2009!

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Event Debrief: Developing Rich Interactive Applications

    • 1 Comments

    Over the past two weeks, I have been travelling with my colleague Jamie Wakeam across Canada conducting a half-day presentation on how to build Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) on the Microsoft platform.  I want to thank everyone who came to our briefings in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto - the response to the event was overwhelming and we were very happy that it hit on the right topics for you as solution providers.

    The topics for this briefing were:

    • Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)
    • ASP.NET 3.5 (specifically the AJAX and MVC components)
    • Silverlight 2
    • Internet Explorer 8

    For those of you who were unable to join us, not to worry!  There are a few tricks up our sleeve to make sure you can get the information as well.  Over the next little while, we will be recording screencasts of the content we presented so you can view the presentation online.  Stay tuned for a future blog post with the links to these presentations.  In addition to this, we will be conducting a webcast on the content we presented for the Internet Explorer 8 component of the talk on Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 2:00PM ET.  You can register for this webcast here.

    In addition to these resources that will be made available, you can also download the presentation and associated demo code we showed here.

    -Paul

    Technorati Tags:  Rich Internet Applications, Microsoft Platform, Silverlight, IE8, Internet Explorer 8, Windows Presentation Foundation, ASP.NET

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    The “Ignite Your Venture” Webcast Series

    • 2 Comments
    Ignite Your Venture - Register Today!

    Your Host, Angie Lim

    Do you have a great business idea but don’t know where to start?  Do you have questions about the process of creating a start-up business but never knew who to ask/  Just curious what the big deal is with the start-up side of technology??  We are proud to introduce a free, new webcast series called Ignite Your Venture that aims to help you understand the in’s and out’s of the start-up process and give you a forum to ask people with expertise in the start-up ecosystem.

    Hosted by Microsoft’s very own Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager for the Microsoft Canada Partner Network  and featuring the experts at Intrepid Equity and others, the intent is to bring discuss topics that entrepreneurs often ask and to help provide insight into all things start-up. 

    The webcasts will run every Wednesday of April 2010 (see the list of webcasts below for details) and registration is free.  We look forward to seeing you on these webcasts!

     

    Webcast #1 – Wednesday, April 7th, 2010 from 2:00PM ET to 3:00PM ET:  Bring Your Ideas to Life with a Venture Capitalist

    Venture capital plays a key part in enabling entrepreneurs to help accelerate their businesses. At the same time, raising funds can be a laborious and intimidating task. In this session, you will gain insight into the capabilities and approaches that venture capitalists value the most. You will learn how to prepare a comprehensive growth plan, and how to approach and engage diverse sources of finance. You will hear a variety of views from key business leaders on how to best help you get the outcome you deserve – the funding you need and an ecosystem of support to help you make the most of it.

    Featured Presenters:

    • Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager, Microsoft Canada Partner Network
    • Alkarim Jivraj, Founder, Intrepid Equity Finance
    • Ian Gilbert, Venture Partner, Intrepid Business Acceleration Fund LP

    Register for this Webcast Here

     

    Webcast #2 – Wednesday, April 14th, 2010 from 2:00PM ET to 3:00PM ET:  Finding the Right People to Make the Right Team with Randy Street

    In business, you are who you hire. Randy Street, co-author of "Who: The A Method for Hiring", a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek best seller, offers a ground-breaking solution to your #1 business problem - hiring mistakes. In this webinar you will discover a simple 4-step method for hiring the right people that has helped its practitioners to achieve a 90% success rate, gain insights from exclusive interviews with more than 20 billionaires, 60 CEOs, numerous investors, and other thought leaders on the subject of hiring, and also learn the secrets of success for over 300 CEOs who participated in a University of Chicago study.

    Featured Presenters:

    • Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager, Microsoft Canada Partner Network
    • Randy Street, President, ghSmart
    • Alkarim Jivraj, Founder, Intrepid Equity Finance
    • Ian Gilbert, Venture Partner, Intrepid Business Acceleration Fund LP

    Register for this Webcast Here

     

    Webcast #3 – Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 from 2:00PM ET to 3:00PM ET:  Helping to Increase Profits with Focus on Channel Engagement & Helping to Accelerate Your Sales

    Channel selection, deployment and execution represent a strategic minefield for many companies. This session will focus attention on the critical components of an effective channel engagement strategy. You will learn approaches that help you make the most of every dollar you spend in accessing and engaging customers. You will gain insight into effective methods for assessing which channels to use, and how best to use them. You will hear views from experienced entrepreneurs and channel builders about the most effective ways to drive deal velocity and scale – helping to contribute to the accelerated growth of your business.

    Featured Presenters:

    • Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager, Microsoft Canada Partner Network
    • Shane Davies, ISV Partner Manager, Microsoft Canada
    • Alkarim Jivraj, Founder, Intrepid Equity Finance
    • Ian Gilbert, Venture Partner, Intrepid Business Acceleration Fund LP

    Register for this Webcast Here

     

    Webcast #4 – Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 from 2:00PM ET to 3:00PM ET:  Business Lead Generation that Really Delivers

    Generating and effectively managing leads, especially when resources are scarce, can be a real business roadblock. In this session, you will learn how to establish a strategic lead generation and management process that accelerates performance and that utilizes resources effectively, particularly in an entrepreneurial environment. You will also discover how to measure the real effectiveness of your lead generation efforts – so that you can ensure every dollar you spend contributes to revenue creation.

    Featured Presenters:

    • Angie Lim, Channel Audience Manager, Microsoft Canada Partner Network
    • Cadman Chui, Marketing Executive and Entrepreneur
    • Alkarim Jivraj, Founder, Intrepid Equity Finance
    • Ian Gilbert, Venture Partner, Intrepid Business Acceleration Fund LP

    Register for this Webcast Here

     

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    The Art of SEO and IIS

    • 1 Comments

    If you develop/design public websites for your customers, you likely already know first-hand how important a good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy is to its success.  Generating traffic to a website is hard and is downright impossible to do well without making it easy for internet search engines like Bing, Google or Yahoo! to find the content on your site and index it properly for search queries.

    Anybody that has been following most of the events I have been presenting of late knows that I think the Microsoft Web Platform Installer (WPI) is kind of a big thing.  If you’ve seen or played with the WPI, you know how useful it can be for laying the groundwork for you to build your web solution on top of.  If you haven’t seen it yet, it may interest you to watch my webcast on the WPI on-demand here. You may be wondering how the WPI and SEO are linked.  Well, today, Microsoft announced a new feature added to the WPI called the IIS Search Engine Optimization Toolkit.  You can download the SEO toolkit on its own from the link, but most web developers/designers building a site hosted on IIS will use the WPI to install it.

    SEO-Toolkit-SMALL[1] The initial announcement of this new feature of IIS came from the blog of Microsoft’s corporate VP for the .NET Developer Platform and serious technical wizard, Scott Guthrie.  He gives a very detailed tour of the IIS SEO Toolkit in that post so if you want to know the nitty gritty details, I would invite you to take a look at the post. 

    In a nutshell, the IIS7 SEO Toolkit can:

    • Improve the volume and quality of traffic to your website from search engines
    • Control how search engines access and display your web content
    • Tell search engines about locations on your site available for indexing

    The IIS7 SEO Toolkit contains:

    • Site Analysis tools to help you identify and fix SEO-related issues on your site
    • User friendly tools to manage robot and spider exclusions
    • A user interface for sitemaps and managing sitemap indices

    Below are important links for the IIS7 SEO Toolkit:

     

    So if you’re building public websites where traffic is an important consideration, you may want to check this tool out.

    -Paul

     

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Why Can’t We Be Friends? Art and Function in Windows Phone Apps.

    • 0 Comments

    Even ten years ago, “experience” was not really something that was given much thought in building software.  More often than not the primary goal of a piece of software was simply to display results, or data.  How the data or results were displayed was more often a function of technical specifications than it was a matter of user-centric design.  That is to say, while the user was often a part of the process of creating specifications for a software solution, the end result was often not differentiated on being tailored to the user, but rather the data.  It can be argued that if you polled software publishers ten to fifteen years ago on what user-centric design was, the answer would largely be centered around presenting as much data to a user on a single screen as possible (“less clicks is more productivity”).  The end result was focused on process rather than personalization and taking into account how the user works (which is not the same as process).

    That line of thinking was certainly acceptable in the past, but things are much different today.  As web platforms became richer and aesthetic design became more important to the digital consumer experience, users frankly demanded more of the software they used.  Gone now are the days where "battleship grey” is acceptable.  Software that is successful in today’s market often makes effective use of user-centric principles including the determination of user personas, natural flow of information, content taxonomies, effective and intelligent use of colour, wireframing and storyboards among other things.  Making the right experiential decisions in the software design stage has become just as important as making the effort to test the code prior to flipping the switch on a production instance.  If that sounds bizarre, think of it this way:  what use is the best, most robust software solution if your users hate the way it works for them?  If the user doesn’t buy into it, the software solution has ultimately failed in its objective.

    The phone as a platform is no different, especially in mobile platforms that are truly modern and provide great amounts of feature capabilities out of the box (GPS, modern browser, multitasking, notification engines, etc.).  The base experience that the platform provides enables software developers to create an even richer, more user-centric experience with the apps that they build on top of their chosen mobile platform.  With Windows Phone, Microsoft has built a unique base experience (in Metro) that software publishers can leverage to create applications that truly raise the expectations bar for users and the apps they install on their Windows Phone device.  The rest of this post focuses on the things that you as a developer/designer can do to create a truly amazing and user-centric experience within your Windows Phone apps.

    Fresh and Simple

    The Metro Design Language used in Windows Phone was inspired by everyday signs that are universally recognized regardless of cultural, educational or personal background.Windows Phone represents simplicity in design.  When describing the principles of modern Windows Phone design, you may have seen phrases like “fierce reduction of unnecessary elements”, “fast and responsive”, “focus on primary tasks” and “content, not chrome”.  All of these phrases revolve around the idea of making it easy for users to find the information they need. 

    When wireframing your app, think of the following things:

    • Prioritize: Top level screens should not be cluttered; make use of secondary (or “deep”) screens to provide detailed information.  Think of it like this – top level screens should be the 30,000’ view while deeper screens provide the elemental details.  Ultimately, top level screens should provide actionable data to the user, but if the user wants more information they can get it from deeper screens.
    • User Orientation:  Data should be order logically.  If you are thinking of putting two or more very different data groups on a single screen, you likely should be separating those groups into separate screens.
    • The App Bar: The only buttons that should appear on any screen are buttons that are considered primary to the screen’s action.  If you have put a button on a screen that is likely not expected to be used often or is not pivotal to the functionality of the page, you should instead transfer that button to the app bar.
    • Metro before Brand: Apply the Metro design to the page before you inject any branding on a page.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is in fact the most effective way to build a Windows Phone app. If you focus on the branding first, it is sometimes difficult to design the page to be consistent with the look and feel of the phone platform.

    App Navigation

    Hub and Spoke is a fundamental navigation principle for Windows PhoneNavigation in your Windows Phone app should respect the flow of the Windows Phone platform.  Always use the hardware back button for going to the previous screen and never create a navigation structure that breaks the back button stack.  Simply put, this will cause the app to fail certification.  It’s also the most common reason why apps fail the certification process in the first place.

    Below are some of the more important considerations around Windows Phone app navigation:

    • Hub & Spoke Model: Design the page flow of your app to resemble a hub and spoke. Focus on creating one major page and section off features of the app on separate pages from that main page.
    • Predictability: If you design your app to match the flow and spirit of the Windows Phone platform, your app will be much more intuitive and therefore predictable to the user.  Predictability does not equate to being dull or boring.  It means the user will actually enjoy your app more as he/she will understand what comes next.  The less the user has to think about how to get to a piece of information when using your app the more fun it will be.
    • Integrated Experiences: If your app makes heavy use of functionality that is found in the foundational experiences (aka:  hubs) on Windows Phone (like Music & Videos, Pictures, People, etc.), then you should integrate your app into those services rather than building your own. Not only does it save you the effort of implementing your own code around those features, it actually makes your app look and feel much more slick and integrated with the phone experience overall.

    Creating a User Journey

    It’s one thing to think you have a killer app idea.  It’s an entirely other thing whether that idea translates into a popular app.  Your intent as an app developer or designer is to create an experience that is lasting and meaningful.  Actually, that is the goal of not only mobile app creators but of any app creator in general. Aside from solutions that are considered “one-offs” or temporary solutions, what really drives us all is to create apps that frankly everyone wants.  Your ultimate goal for success may differ from someone else (e.g.:  “I want to become rich from the revenue from my app” vs. “I want to be popular because everyone downloads my app” vs. “I want to make a positive impact on someone’s life because they use my app”), but the fundamental desire is the same:  “I want people to download and use my app”.

    So when you are thinking of your app, there are three major questions you need to ask yourself before you hit Visual Studio and Blend:

    • Will this app be useful to my users?
    • Will this app be usable by my users?
    • Will this app be desirable to my users?

    If the answer to any of those questions is no and your intent is to make your app as popular and relevant as possible, then you probably need to think a little longer on the problem space your app is trying to solve for.

    Keep in mind this general mobile app statistic:  The average mobile application is opened by a user once.  Only around 1% of all mobile apps are used regularly long term.

    So how do you entice users to first download your app, then open your app more than once?  There is no one right answer, of course, but there are three guiding principles that greatly enhance your chances of getting to that goal:

    • Attract
      • Make the user want to download your app by providing a strong business case.  Take great care in authouring your app’s description in the Marketplace and make sure you clearly identify the value propositions for users to want to download your app.
      • Cocktail Flow is a great example of a Windows Phone app that attracts users.Embrace Metro in your App:  The best apps, regardless of the mobile platform you target, are almost always the ones that adopt the look, feel and spirit of the mobile platform it lives on.  For Windows Phone, this means using Metro in your apps.
      • Be thoughtful when you Insert your Branding:  The branding of your app is clearly important, but make sure that it flows with the look and feel of Windows Phone. If the branding is jarring or feels out of place, users will not be as likely to re-use your app.
    • Delight
      • Invite users to explore your app.  If you make it fun for users to navigate through your app and find things that they will say “Hey, that’s cool!” to, then you’ve likely won over your user right then and there. Curbside Cuisine delights users by allowing them to discover interesting app functionality, almost by accident.
      • Keep the app fresh by providing updates.  If an app goes stale, they are less likely to open it again.  Try to have a deliberate schedule for functionality updates.  Provide value-add features in as many updates as possible (i.e.:  not just bug fixes).
    • Retain
      • Let your app tell a story.  This can be done through an interesting yet effective navigation structure, great visual experience, providing some delight in surprise and yet be predictable enough that the app is intuitive.
      • Amazon's Windows Phone app makes use of Metro but also retains users by allowing them to extend their reading experience across devices by allowing the user to start reading where he/she left off on a different device.Evolution is not just a term coined by Darwin. Apps can (and should!) evolve over time.  This can include ways for users to retain and build collections of information that can be referred back to, functionality within the app that evolves with changing trends, fresh information being provided by the app whenever possible and many other ways.
  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    IE8: Goodness for Software Solutions Providers

    • 1 Comments

    [Cross-posted from the Canadian Developer Blog which I also blog on]

    If you build software solutions for a living, manage professional development teams or lead a software development company, there are a number of things that you are probably thinking about consistently on a day to day basis. 

    Two of these items likely include:

    • Productivity; either your own or your team’s
    • Driving Innovation; finding new and compelling ways to reach your customers

    If you build solutions that involve the end user making use of a web browser, you likely find both of the above items extremely challenging.  THis is particularly true given the very competitive market for web browsers out there.  There are a number of high-quality, high market share browsers out there today (including Internet Explorer and Firefox among others) that provide a great deal of functionality.  In many cases your web solution must support the majority of those browsers, which increases the complexities in creating compelling web solutions. The good news is that with IE8 some of the pressure on productivity and innovation can be alleviated.

    There are a number of new capabilities within IE8 that may surprise you in not only how they support you but enhance your business and work.  If you have used the Beta 1 release of Internet Explorer 8 you likely saw a few of these items, while as others are found in the new Beta 2 release which you may not have seen.

    Productivity Features

    One of the most talked about features is web standards compliance.  This is a big deal for a number of reasons.  If you are web application developer/provider, you are likely acutely aware of the pain caused by targeting multiple browser platforms.  While admittedly Microsoft’s past experience with web standards on Internet Explorer has been spotty, IE8 changes the game in this respect.  The development team for IE8 made standards-based browsing a priority when building this browser.  Why is this important?  Well, if you are able to target code to published standards, this eliminates the need for some of the special exception testing of your code under Internet Explorer.  If you code to standards, it will work in IE8.  Some of the standards supported in IE8 are found in the list below:

    Another productivity feature that was built into IE8 are the developer tools.  There is a developer toolbar built into IE8 natively that allows you to debug and analyze many of the components of your web application directly from the browser.  This includes ability to debug HTML, JavaScript and CSS, complete with debugging facilities such as breakpoints and variable value views as well as the ability to edit in realtime and view the changes in your browser.  These developer tools are a veritable boon for web developers as it allows them to debug client-side data and the like more quickly than with traditional development tools (such as Visual Studio or Expression Studio) alone.

    Figure 1:  A view of the IE8 developer tools

    Other productivity gains that Internet Explorer provides include:

    • AJAX Navigation Enhancements:  allows developers to manipulate the history functionality by using the windows.location.hash event so as to eliminate issues with the back button (thus reducing the amount of code required to check for data integrity issues)
    • DOM Storage:  allows developers to create a separate DOM storage area for each domain
    • Enhanced Presence/Connectivity Functionality:  IE8 supports the HTML 5 draft standard for determining whether the browser is connected to the network, thus eliminating or reducing the amount of effort to custom build this functionality

    Driving Innovation

    There are a number of features in IE8 that allow you to take your web solution to the next level.  One such feature is called Web Slices.  A Web Slice is an extension of your web solution that sits on the Favourites bar on IE8.  It allows you to push a dynamic “slice” of content to the browser without the user having to navigate to the site.  This allows you to create “at your fingertips” miniature applications relevant to your application  (such as product trackers and dashboard/KPI metrics) and provides users with a compelling reason to use your application.

    Figure 2:  An example of a Web Slice tracking products on eBay

    Another example of how IE8 allows you to build very innovative and different solutions is the use of Accelerators on IE8.  Accelerators are features on the browser that enhance the experience of your users by providing useful utilities that can be used with your application at the user’s fingertips.  A great example of this would be the ability to get a map of an address as a hover button with no extra coding required on your part.  This allows you to create truly compelling mashups for your web solution without the need to dramatically increase the coding required on the part of your development team.

    Figure 3:  Using the Microsoft Live Maps Accelerator

    Finally (although not the last new innovative feature of IE8), there is the InPrivate feature within IE8.  This feature allows users to define which websites the browser should not keep information on (such as history, cookies and temporary files).  This is a very compelling feature for applications that handle sensitive or private data.  By using IE8, you can give your customers and users further assurances that the data stored by the browser for that session will be completely removed and not accessible once the user has finished using the application.

    So as you can see, Internet Explorer 8 represents more than a “typical browser release”.  There’s a lot under the covers in IE8 for not only your users but also for your development and business marketing teams.  We truly believe that IE8 changes the game for web solutions providers such as yourselves and can help you grow your business by allowing you to harness the power of the various new features in IE8 today.

    While other browsers such as Firefox are garnering a great deal of attention for being great browsers (and with good reason), IE8 has stepped up to this challenge and brought a world-class browser to the user. 

    Useful Resource Links for Developing Applications for IE8

    -Paul

    Technorati Tags:  IE8, Internet Explorer 8, Web Development

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    The Web, the Power of Choice and the 2008 Beijing Olympics

    • 2 Comments

    I don't think anyone on the planet would dispute that the Olympics are a huge event attracting many people from a number of different walks of life and for a variety of reasons.  In a nutshell, the Olympics as an event is "big business".  This is especially true with respect to media coverage.  Every major news outlet on the globe converges on the host city to cover the biggest sporting spectacle in the world.

    While "traditional" media outlets continue to carry the lion's share of audience coverage in the form of television and print media, we are seeing a larger share of Olympic coverage being carried on the internet and in various different forms.  A lot of this has to do with providing the public with choice on how they consume the content.  The internet is different than other media channels as it provides a great deal of flexibility for people to choose what content they wish to consume and how they will consume it.  The immediacy of this choice is driving change in how people are watching the Beijing Olympics in particular.

    Unlike traditional print media or television coverage, the user is able to view or read coverage of the Olympics with a few clicks of a mouse.  While this in itself is not new, I think it's fair to say we're seeing a lot more people taking the internet more seriously with respect to being a premiere choice for keeping up to speed on the Olympics. 

    Take, for example, Canada and the United States.  Television coverage of the Olympics in these countries is provided by the CBC (in Canada) and by NBC (in the U.S.).  Both have exclusive broadcasting rights for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and they are providing a great deal of coverage on the internet in addition to their usual television broadcasting schedule.  That, it seems, was a good bet because early results are showing incredible growth for the internet as a core media channel for these two broadcasting companies for the Olympics.  There is a great article by William Houston on Canada's The Globe and Mail newspaper's website describing the increased traffic.  Basically, the CBC in Canada has been averaging around double the amount of traffic on their site compared to the same time last year and NBC in the U.S. has enjoyed much more traffic on it's site in four days of Olympic coverage than the entire amount of internet traffic for the Athens Olympics.

    Image of NBC's Olympics Player built with Microsoft Silverlight So why is this?  Well, the prevalence of the internet around the world continues to grow, therefore exposing a larger global population to the online coverage.  Also, the element of choice is a truly powerful one.  NBC, for example, is streaming live video of all events from the Olympics to anyone in the U.S. (restricted due to Olympic licensing issues) who wants to watch it through Microsoft's new Silverlight technology.  They have built their streaming video capabilities to include other great features such as Picture-in-Picture and additional content (such as archived footage and Olympian bio's) available at a click of a mouse.  The CBC is providing streaming video of their broadcast online via Flash  and providing access to similar non-live content as NBC. 

    The true message through all of this, however, is fairly easy to see.  The web has become a core platform for driving audiences to content and the barrier of entry for this platform (i.e.:  availability of the internet has reached critical mass and continues to grow) is crumbling.  The real challenge, however, will be to provide audiences with a compelling reason to want to go to their web properties ahead of other, more traditional media channels.  As the NBC Olympics web portal demonstrates, a rich interface allowing users a choice in how they  consume content is a sure way to drive your brand and message to a large and continually growing audience.

    -Paul

    Technorati Tags:  NBC Olympics, Silverlight

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Silverlight 2 Release Candidate Now Available

    • 1 Comments

    Late last week, Scott Guthrie announced the availability of the Silverlight 2 Release Candidate.  This is pretty exciting news as it represents a significant milestone towards the go-live of Silverlight 2. 

    The RC release of Silverlight 2 represents a developer release with the intent of providing a glimpse of what the final Silverlight 2 product will look and behave like prior to its release.  The reason this is being done in this particular case is that so that Silverlight solutions built with the Beta code can be tested with bits that are considered very close to the go-live release to fix anything that will break with the new version.

    You can download the RC bits for Silverlight 2 here.

    For specific information on the breaking changes the RC bits introduce, you should check here and here.

    And before you ask when Silverlight 2 goes live, don’t ask me because I’m not allowed to tell anyone.  :)

    -Paul

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Silverlight 2 and Building Rich Web Applications Today

    • 1 Comments

    A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft released Silverlight 2 as a Release to Web (RTW) product.  For us at Microsoft, this was exciting news because it represented a major milestone in presenting to you as solution developers a platform for building rich, immersive experiences on the web.

    I'm not going to go through each of the features in Silverlight 2 that you have probably heard already from various sources, but I did want to take some time to talk about a few of the things that you may have missed in all the hype and announcements or not realized was possible with Silverlight in general.

    Tool Support

    Visual Web Developer 2008 Express

    It used to be that you needed Visual Studio Standard or above to be able to create Silverlight applications with minimal configuration and the like.  Sure, you could employ certain hacks to make Silverlight work in other tools but this was clunky and didn't lead to a great experience.  With the release of Silverlight 2 RTW, you now have the ability to create Silverlight 2 applications not only with Visual Studio Standard and above, but now also with Visual Web Developer 2008 Express (which is entirely free, both to download and use without royalties).

    Eclipse

    If you use Eclipse as your development UI of choice, you now have the ability to build Silverlight 2 applications using the Eclipse Tools for Silverlight plug-in.  This is the result of a partnership Microsoft created with Eclipse plug-in maker Soyatec and represents a significant step forward in Microsoft's commitment to interoperability.

    Expression Blend 2 SP1

    Many of you who build Silverlight 2 applications probably already know this but XAML, while extremely flexible and complete with respect to expressing user interfaces for Silverlight (and WPF for that matter) is not particularly easy to manipulate, the WPF Designer feature in Visual Studio 2008 notwithstanding.  This is especially true if you plan on providing animation capabilities in your Silverlight application. For this reason, Microsoft created Expression Blend which is an interactive design tool for building great UI's for WPF and Silverlight.  The problem with this tool is that you needed a special version of Expression Blend 2 in the past in order to build Silverlight applications with it.  With the release of Silverlight 2, Microsoft has forgone this separate version of Blend 2 and create Expression Blend 2 SP1 which provides out-of-the-box Silverlight support.  As the SP1 designation alludes to, this is a free update to anyone that has a license of Expression Blend 2.  You can download SP1 for Blend 2 here.

    Silverlight Toolkit

    The Silverlight Toolkit is a collection of controls you can use within your Silverlight 2 application.  While not yet complete (we expect to have around 100 controls within the toolkit when all is said and done), there are a large number of extremely important controls that are available in the toolkit now, including:  TreeView, DockPanel, WrapPanel, ViewBox, Expander, NumericUpDown and Autocomplete.  Some of the future controls that will be included in the toolkit are DataGrid, Radio Button, CheckBox and DatePickerCharting among others.

    Features

    XAML

    I mentioned XAML a little earlier in this post, but I wanted to mention something else about it.  While it is true that XAML is extremely rich and capable in expressing user interfaces in XML format, that isn't the half of it's real power.  What makes XAML truly special is that it is an equal citizen with .NET code in defining objects and properties for your Silverlight application.  That means that any object, like a Button created in the XAML code can be manipulated through .NET code.  Likewise, .NET code can create a Button object to be used in the presentation layer of your Silverlight application. 

     

    Alternative Communication Methods

    While HTTP is a great, general protocol for most things available on the web, there are occasions where it doesn't make the best medium for transmitting information back and forth.  If you have a Silverlight application that does a great deal of talking back and forth with the server, you have the opportunity to take advantage of the power of sockets in Silverlight in order to do that communication. 

    Another technology you can use in your Silverlight applications is Windows Communications Foundation (WCF).  WCF allows you to build Silverlight applications that have robust communication capabilities back to the server.  While you don't need WCF for a Silverlight application to communicate with a server, the technology provides a great deal of goodness (like secure message transfer, custom protocol creation and robust web services implementation)  that you can use with your applications.  There are some good tutorials on WCF on Silverlight starting here (it's a five-part series of screencasts showing you what you need to know) and there's a great blog on WCF/Web Services enabled Silverlight applications here.

    .NET Language Support

    Because the Silverlight 2 plug-in for the browser contains a factored subset of the .NET framework, you can build your Silverlight apps using the power of .NET (and with .NET skills you may already have if you build .NET-enabled solutions).  Because the .NET framework is largely language-independent, this means you can code your Silverlight application in your language of choice.  This includes C#, VB.NET, IronRuby, IronPython, JScript, etc.  The choice is yours.

    These are just some of the features of Silverlight 2 that I think are important but may not be getting as much airtime as other features.  I hope you found some of these points interesting and enlightening.

    Are you building a Silverlight 2 application?  Let me know!

    -Paul

    Technorati Tags:  Rich Internet Applications, Silverlight

  • Transcending the Traditional Web

    Finding Opportunities in a Recession Economy, PART 3

    • 1 Comments

    Note:  This is the third post in a three post series on succeeding as a professional in IT during a recession.

    Without a doubt, most of us are experiencing the most serious economic recession in our lifetimes.  There's an awful lot of uncertainty that goes with that; everything from our retirement savings, disposable income and job security. 

    IT as an industry is certainly not immune to these worries and as professionals in this space, I'm sure the concerns I have are similar to those that you are facing.  So, in stressful times like these, what are some of the things you can do to be successful and how can Microsoft help you achieve that success?

    Well, to answer that question, let's take a look at it from a few different angles.  First, there's the personal angle (i.e.:  how do you make yourself more marketable and valuable in recession economy?).  Second there's established business angle (i.e.:  how can I make the business more efficient with IT?).  Third, there's the start-up angle (i.e.:  how can I launch a new business and make it successful?).  Let's take a look at each of these angles separately through 3 separate yet connected blog posts.  In this third and final post in the series, I will focus on Launching a Start-Up Business in a Recession.

    Launching a Start-Up Business in a Recession

    Yesterday a conference for Start-Ups called Startup Empire was held in Toronto.  Microsoft was one of the sponsors of the event and my colleague David Crow, a bit of a rockstar in the Canadian startup community, was one of the organizers.

    The tone of this conference was a bit different than your typical startup event, mainly because of the shape our global economy is in.  That being said, it's interesting to note that the speakers at this conference see great opportunities for startups to thrive in a situation like this, but you need to be ready to fail, too..

    My boss, Mark Relph, also notes some wise learnings for startups that are especially relevant in tough times like this.  Things like:

    I'd also add that finding the right industry vertical is important.  For example, while anything is possible, I'd argue as of today that a startup focusing on the retail industry is gambling in dangerous territory.  Launching a start-up in a more recession-resistant industry like healthcare or education (regardless of the economy, people will always need medical services and schools will always be open) may make more sense.  Something to keep in mind.

    From a Microsoft perspective, there's some exciting things that we provide to start-ups to help them build their dream solution.  The first is BizSpark.

    BizSpark is Microsoft's premier initiatives to help get start-ups off the ground.  The details about BizSpark can be found in this document, but in a nutshell, it provides Microsoft software to build the solution, gives start-ups access to partners and other global support resources and visibility on Microsoft sites like StartupZone and the BizSparkDB which potential customers can use to view solutions that might fit their needs (i.e.:  it will help you drum up customers).

    Another resource, one that is not strictly for start-ups is the Microsoft Partner Programme (MSPP).  The partner programme offers a great deal of support to companies building solutions on the Microsoft platform, including deeply discounted software in order to build your solution, free training only for partners, co-marketing opportunities and the ability to profile your solutions in the Partner Solution Profiler which customers can search to find solutions that fit their needs, among other things.

    -Paul

    Technorati Tags:  Recession, Recession and IT, Developer, Microsoft

Page 1 of 2 (44 items) 12