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News from Mix 2009 – Day 1

News from Mix 2009 – Day 1

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Here is a short summary about my key takeaways from the Mix 2009 conference in Las Vegas.

Expression Web 3

Besides support for the latest web standards and various languages including PHP, the new “Super Preview” feature of Expression Web 3 really stands out. It allows web developers to preview their sites cross-browser in a preview-pane or full screen. And by “cross browser” I mean the real rendering of a page on Internet Explorer 6, 7 or 8 as well as Firefox or Safari on Windows or Mac. All just from one machine, without these browsers even being installed (Internet Explorer cannot be installed in different versions at the same time).

Cloud services take on the task of rendering the pages and sending the result back to the browser.

Another nice feature is that different renderings can be displayed side-by-side or overlaid over each other for pixel-perfect testing.

Super Preview highlights DOM elements on mouse-over and selects it in the source by clicking.

Even better – Super Preview will be released as a free stand-alone for testing.

Microsoft Web Platform Installer and Web Application Gallery

The idea here is to have one place to get all web platform components plus updates from Microsoft for your servers / developer machines as well as a one stop shop for community web projects like for example .NET Nuke. Very straight-forward installation including prerequisites checking and application configuration. The gallery can be found at microsoftcom/web/gallery.

Windows Azure Platform

One of the interesting announcements around the Azure platform is that SQL data services will provide a full, relational DB including APIs and ADO.NET support. The Azure services are on track for commercial release in 2009.

Microsoft Silverlight 3

One of the big announcements at the Mix 2009 keynote, Silverlight 3 is available for testing in a CTP, including Visual Studio Tools for Silverlight 3 and the new Expression Blend 3.

Silverlight 3 Video

Some of the highlights include GPU acceleration for video and graphics, that allows perspective 3D to be applied to all content, including video – in real-time!

H.264, AAC and MPEG-4 codecs are supported and a raw bit stream audio- and video-API provided allows for own codecs to be implemented.

IIS Media services featuring smooth- and adaptive-streaming used with Silverlight 3 allows “Live smooth streaming”, giving users the possibility to pause, rewind and play live streams in slow motion! These features will be featured in the 2010 winter Olympics, broadcast in Silverlight 3.

Silverlight 3 RIAs

GPU acceleration here as well allows for some amazing 3D effects – real-time distortion of all controls, from pictures to videos to datagrids, even while editing data.

A Bitmap and Pixel API will allow for some very powerful image manipulation applications to be written in Silverlight 3.

Library caching in Silverlight 3 allows for libraries referenced in varying Silverlight applications to be stand-alone downloads that are cached on the client computer.

Silverlight 3 Out of Browser

Yes, Silverlight 3 will run offline! On Windows and on the Mac. Nothing more than the Silverlight 3 runtime is needed. Also for developers, making a Silverlight application offline-capable is very easy. A manifest file is needed that contains the description and icon to be used by the Silverlight application when run offline.

When running offline, OoB Silverlight apps can use the existing isolated storage to cache data. The quota for OoB SL apps is automatically upped to 25MB.

The offline Silverlight application is still fully sandboxed, but a “load” and “save” file dialog allows the developer to let the user choose (!) a file that the OoB SL app has full access to – even outside the isolated storage.

OoB SL apps automatically check for updates every time they are started. By default, updates are downloaded in the background and applied on the next application restart. But an event fired lets the developer react to the existing update as well.

A set of classes lets the developer react to the Silverlight application state – online or offline, in the browser or “Detatched”.

The right-mouse-click menu on Silverlight applications get a new item “Make available offline”.

Even with all the additions, the Silverlight 3 runtime was highly optimized to be 40k smaller than the current Silverlight 2 runtime! Amazing.

Blend 3

Blend 3 has some very nice enhancements, Photoshop and Illustrator import, “Behaviors” which allows designers to link various events like animations to controls without coding as well as intellisense for XAML, VB and C# which means that developers can now write code right in Blend as well.

The hottest addition to Blend 3 is certainly “SketchFlow”, a powerful way to design application UIs and states, the way, various pages are connected together without any code. “Wiggly controls” make prototyped Silverlight UI look like hand-drawn, but they still retain full functionality and can easily be converted into regular controls.

A “SketchFlow” player on the other side allows customers to review the designs and annotate/comment the various states in the “Flow”. Designers then see the annotations in Blend 3. The “SketchFlow” player is written in Silverlight and can be run on every platform supporting Silverlight without installation.

Christian Schormann already wrote a great article on SketchFlow: Sketching and Prototyping in Expression Blend

Windows Mobile 6.5

Even though the first screenshots of Windows Mobile 6.5 didn’t excite me too much at first, seeing the new UI live in action impressed me.

The lock screen has the most important things at a glance – the time and the next appointment. With one tap, all notifications can be displayed (missed calls, SMS messages, appointments, etc.) and by sliding each item, the corresponding application can be launched immediately.

The whole chrome is finger-friendly and even existing applications, managed or native benefit from these improvements.

Microsoft MyPhone

An online-service by Microsoft that allows for all data on the Windows Mobile 6.5 device to be synchronized with the cloud.

Data can be reviewed and edited online and should the device be lost or replaced be easily restored to the new device.

Marketplace for Windows Mobile

Installed on every device, the Marketplace will allow users to easily find, purchase and install applications for their device. Developers can publish and sell their applications on the marketplace with the same ease, be it native, managed applications or the new W3C compliant “Browser Widgets” that the improved Internet Explorer on WM 6.5 supports. The marketplace will launch in September 2009, interested developers can sign up starting May on http://developer.windowsmobile.com.

Speaking of the new browser, it’s based on Internet Explorer 6 with components from IE7 and the Javascript engine from Internet Explorer 8. It fully supports Flash out of the box, but unfortunately not Silverlight yet, which is in the works.

Developers can use Visual Studio 2008, the .NET Compact Framework 3.5 and SQL Compact 3.5 to develop applications on Windows Mobile 6.5.

These were my key take-aways from the first day at Mix 09.

The whole conference is very Twitter-intense and you can follow the latest news with the #mix09 tag: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=mix09

The first session recordings should soon be downloadable from http://live.visitmix.com/.

See you tomorrow for more updates!

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