MIX 10It’s day 2 of MIX 10, and today’s keynote was all about the Web: from the browser, to standards, to development tools, to empowering applications via data services.

Dean Hachamovitch led things off with Internet Explorer 9 and Microsoft’s focus on five aspects of consuming content on the web:

IE9Performance

IE9 brings with it a new JavaScript compilation engine called ‘Chakra’, which leverages a separate core on your machine (when available) thus enhancing the overall end-user experience.  A blog post from last November shows how IE9 compared at that point using the SunSpider benchmark, and an updated post from the IE team today covers this and other announcements at MIX 10.

Standards

Dean pledged that IE9 would do for standards like HTML5 and CSS3 what IE8 did for CSS 2.1.  To focus on standards compliance for the things that matter, the team has harvested data from the top 7000 sites to determine what DOM and JavaScript APIs are the ones that people are actually using.  But they are also looking at support for other standards, anticipating capabilities that HTML5 applications will need.

The team has already contributed over 100 test cases to the W3C at this point covering HTML5, CSS3, DOM, and SVG.  Acid3 was brought up as well, and IE9s current score is 55/100; for sake of comparison, IE8 achieves a 20.

GPU-Powered HTML5

IE9 leverages hardware acceleration across the board – PNGs, SVG, Text via DirectWrite, and so on.  In fact, it’s the first browser to provide fully hardware-accelerated support.  For you, the web developer, it’s all the same markup; it’ll just run faster on IE.

IE9 Platform Previews and Community Feedback

You can test all this out now too!  The team announced the first IE9 Platform Preview is available for download, and there will be a regular 8-week cadence for updates.  It’s not a complete browser - there’s no back button for instance and no phishing protection - but it’s a pretty significant step in transparency for the IE team and can only result in a better product at release.

IE9 Platform Preview

Support for HTML5 video (with more to come)

Although it seems like this should just have been grouped with ‘standards’, the experience demonstrated on stage explains why it wasn’t.  Dean showed an HD-encoded video, first running in Chrome with a fully-pegged CPU and multiple dropped frames.  Next he showed it in IE9 with less than 50% CPU utilization and no dropped frames, but then… wait for it… he scrolled down to reveal a second video playing at the same time!  For a browser taking its lumps on HTML5 “standards” support, to see IE one-up the competition like this was really awesome.

The overall theme here: your markup doesn’t need to change, it just gets faster on Windows!

The team of Scott and Scott (Guthrie and Hanselman) showed a number of the cool features in Visual Studio 2010 to enhance the development experience:

    • true multi-monitor support
    • profiling and debugging improvements
    • Intellisense updates – searching for substrings and camel-case awareness
    • cleaner markup and view state in ASP.NET Web Forms
    • multiple configuration support for deployment (production, staging, testing, etc.)
    • ASP.NET MVC 2 in the box
    • smarter and faster (up to 4x faster than Visual Studio 2008) JavaScript intellisense

Speaking of JavaScript, Scott Guthrie announced that Microsoft was taking a more active role in the development of jQuery by contributing jQuery: Write Less, Do More.development and QA resources to the open-source effort.  Of the the first aspects of that effort is a proposal for a new client templating engine.

John Resig, author of jQuery, was on hand as well to relay further information about the continuing partnership

In a great testament to the WebsiteSpark and BizSpark program models, Michael Coperda from curse.com (an on-line gaming site), explained how they were able to leverage the Microsoft platform (replacing a LAMP stack) to handle 3 times the amount of traffic with 1/3 of the previous hardware.

Doug Purdy, Partner Architect, took the stage next to talk about empowering applications through services, namely addressing three main points

  1. How do you enable many experiences for broad reach?
  2. How do you make it scalable?
  3. How do you monetize it?

Open Data ProtocolThe linchpin to all of the answers here is leveraging standard protocols (such as HTTP and Atom) to provide a consistent and open mechanism for sharing data on the web.  WCF Data Services (formerly ADO.NET Data Services, formerly “Astoria”) is really the enabling technology here, and the data format produced is known as the Open Data Protocol (or OData for short).

NetFlix, for example, demoed the availability of their entire catalog as an OData service, leaving only the need for an HTTP stack, XML parser, and some creativity to provide engaging mash-up experiences for whatever platform you desire.  There’s a number of client options for OData, including PHP, Ruby, Objective C (iPhone), and even the .NET OData client released today under the Apache 2.0 license.

Taking it from on-premises to the cloud, Doug announced that SQL Azure can expose an OData stream directly as well (it will be part of the SQL Azure labs site soon), and “Houston” provides a database management experience for SQL Azure using nothing more than a browser and Silverlight.

Lastly, building on the data interoperability protocol (OData) and the scale and performance of Azure, it was announced that Project Codename “Dallas” (one of my favorite things to demo) has brought 25 new datasets on-line since PDC, and Doug alluded to the marketplace as having a ‘name your price’ model.  Personally, I’d hoped for a little more detail on this, but suspect there will be more detail on the business model at some of the breakout sessions (so I’ll be in the dark for at least another 24 hours).

Bill BuxtonBill Buxton, Principal Researcher and amazing speaker and ‘idea man’, took us a step away from the tools to what he termed as the most important technology – the human being.  His points were all rooted in the concept of a natural user interface needing to be an extension of the innate skills we’ve acquired, using music and art as specific examples – see Project Gustav, for example.   In short, there’s a progression of how deeply technology can aid us, beginning with an ‘input device’ respecting various dimensions of our skills, including motor skills, cognition, social awareness, and emotional response.

It’s really hard to do Bill Buxton justice in prose, so if you don’t have time to catch the full two hour keynote, try carving out 20 minutes or so and fast forward to about that far from the end.  Note, if the video isn’t there now, it will be soon.