Intro

Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) is often mentioned in revered tones around the water-cooler. Not just because it’s notoriously difficult to get a ticket (usually the conference is a sell-out), or hard to get to (Los Angeles is not, by any stretch of the imagination, near the UK), but because this is the place where Microsoft’s best speakers make the biggest announcements, and lift the lid on the company’s technical strategy and evolution.

Actually, the real buzz is around the “goods”: delegates receive stacks of DVDs loaded with pre-beta code and early releases. In fact in 2008, there was so much code distributed, that delegates received a whole hard-drive full of fun.

So, on with the sunglasses, and off to the Los Angeles Convention Centre. Who said what, and what does it mean?

Keynotes and Sessions

As is usual with this kind of giant conference, the days are split into keynotes, and technical sessions. This year, keynotes were delivered on two days (with queues snaking around the convention centre by 8am).

Day 1 saw Ray Ozzie announce the public launch of Windows Azure. The platform itself has been around in trial form for a little under a year, and has evolved considerably over this time. As well as a mature developer model, there was a lot of attention given to SQL Azure, and to tools for data migration or partitioning between on-premise data, and Azure-hosted data. This is an area to watch and skill up in – it’ll take a couple of years before our customers untangle the options available to them and decide on an implementation strategy, but one thing is sure, no-one will ignore the cloud-hosted option.

Also announced on Day 1 was codename “Dallas” – a project making massive datasets available to companies and developers, and a set of tools to take advantage of this data. We also got a glimpse of the latest Live Labs project: Pivot – a tool for visually searching and organising data from large datasets. It’s a wonderful demonstration of Seadragon integration.

Day 2 keynotes saw a focus on Windows 7 – building up strongly differentiated applications is key to Microsoft’s success here – and Steven Sinofsky took to the stage with some remarkable statistics around the development of this product. Over 800,000 applications were compatibility tested, and 500,000,000 pieces of telemetry data were received from the CTP and beta releases. It’s a staggering piece of engineering involving thousands of developers – and the progress of Windows 7 can be read over at the Engineering Windows 7 blog. We also got a peek at IE9, which was only a couple of weeks old. Key changes at this early stage include a massive increase in rendering performance, and some wonderful use of the DirectX platform to ensure smooth and performant display.

Next, enter Scott Guthrie, who wowed the audience by announcing the beta of SilverLight 4 – less than six months after SilverLight 3 went live. A full list of improvements can be seen on the SilverLight team blog, but highlights include:

· A full set of visual form controls, and Visual Studio 2010 tooling support

· Printing and localisation support

· Multi-touch support

· Trusted application support – allowing COM automation and full desktop integration

So, what of the rest of the sessions? Really, there were too many to mention, but a couple of off-the-beaten track highlights for me included

· DryadLINQ – scalable search for distributed datasets

· Convergence of Windows 7 touch and the Surface touch APIs

· UML tooling support in Visual Studio 2010

· A debate on the Future of Programming (Don Box prediction – EMACs won’t be going away soon!)

Oh – and what of the “goods” this year? Well, the conference exceeded last year by giving attendees a whole laptop! A snappy little Acer touch-enabled tablet in a very cool PDC box – how cool is that?

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Where to find out more?

The good news is that the whole conference is available online, broken down into ppts, webcasts and streaming media (indeed smooth streaming media) – check out http://www.microsoftpdc.com. However, here are some links to the tech I’ve mentioned above:

· Day 1 Keynote

· Day 2 Keynote

· A Lap around Windows Azure

· Bridging the Gap from on Premises to the Cloud

· SQL Azure

· Microsoft Project Codename Dallas

· DryadLINQ

· The Future of Programming

· F# Parallel and Asynchronous Programming