Over two years ago Rudder pulled together a retreat for 20 media and analysts, where much of the current deliverables were demoed in early form. It was clear at the time that ASP.Net was at the center of a new generation of rapid Web app development tools. Microsoft Research work in leveraging patterns, modeling and testing was also beginning to make its presence known in the product groups, and an executive decision to back away from .Net branding toward the more familiar Windows brand was gingerly offered to the group.
Attribute-based programming? Remember COM+? Here's your reliable messaging right here, pal, says Indigo product manager Ari Bixhorn:
The efficiencies of .Net's managed code runtime have accelerated developer productivity and code stability to the point where the only attacks are from those worried about a generation of business "developers" who don't understand how the code they're creating actually works. Another complaint: developers are now too productive, outstripping the enterprise's ability to keep up with change. We should all have such problems.
A week earlier, Bill Gates keynoted the 2005 Microsoft Office System Developer Conference. At its core was this mission statement:
Fair enough. Let's build on that thought.
Sure, I can see that. Wireless, tablets, more efficient, same investment. I can even see the classic Microsoft economics at work: drive cost out by economy of scale, deliver more services for the same dollars. One problem, though. Who's going to pay for it?
Here's the rub. One of every three dollars of Microsoft revenue comes from Office. What if, from a purely disinterested perspective, the way to achieve savings and accelerate productivity was not to use Office at all, but rather shift to another architecture--say one that supports lightweight routing of XML fragments around the network in a highly accelerated virtualized kind of digital dial tone infrastrucure? Let's call it RSS, flowing through an attention-based inforouter.
In this alternate universe, user interfaces would be plastic in nature, morphing as data types trigger template switching that routes packets of information through transformation engines based on metadata-driven signals. Charting services are overlaid with ticker text treaments, then piped to handheld devices as a stream, and cached on terminal screens to be called up on demand. Color-coded expert opinions are syndicated to executive information feeds to provide real-time "gut decisions" from consultants and rating data from affinity groups.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is band-aiding Outlook to approximate a CRM application, performing razzle-dazzle sleight of hand and indirection with Win Forms to "attract" knowledge workers to remain in Outlook's brain dead XML-Lite container. Think I'm kidding? Check out Platform product manager Tom Caputo's demo:
So we've got standard tabs, you see we've got some data grid controls here that our developers pulled in and it created a very rich way to represent this data and give the field the ability to manipulate it but remaining right within the Outlook interface.
So the goal here was to facilitate that. So our developers have actually come up with a pretty clever way to address it. They've now put a toolbar on all of the e-mail that has the ability to convert.
So I say this is an opportunity, I want this data in Siebel. I say convert to Siebel opportunity. We parse the underlying e-mail, we pop a new opportunity, we pre-populate the information, I scan over it and make sure it looks right, I click Close and Save and if all goes well we actually have that updated in the back-end.
Will Microsoft deliver? You bet. As Rudder put it: