Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

Summary: We know a bit about Windows 8 as we head into Microsoft's Build conference next week. But we still know surprisingly little about the development tools and technologies which will be stars of the show.


The core audience for Microsoft's Build conference is developers, developers, developers. So far, while we know a few things about Windows 8, we still know surprisingly little about what Microsoft is going to show and tell those awaiting word about new tools and frameworks for creating Windows 8 applications.

Yes, we're expecting to hear more about the still mostly mysterious Jupiter app model/ user interface (UI) library for Windows. And if there isn't more clarity around Silverlight and how it does or doesn't fit into Microsoft's Windows future, there will likely be a mutiny. I'm also  hoping and expecting there will be guidance, as to what developers should do to build classic vs. "modern" (immersive, tailored or whatever the new word of the week is) apps, as well as what Microsoft is encouraging developers to do regarding native and/or Web apps.

But what else could and should be on the docket for conference-goers, starting on September 13?

One would think Build would be the natural venue for any HTML5/JavaScript-related tooling announcements Microsoft may have up its sleeve. While there already is some HTML5/CSS/JavaScript tooling in Internet Explorer as part of the F12 set of tools, there is room for more.

Other topics I think are likely lurking in those still-hidden sessions behind the bare-bones Build agenda:

Visual Studio 2012: Microsoft officials offered some high-level guidance about the application lifecycle management (ALM) "roadmap" for the next version of its tool suite back in May at TechEd. But the Softies haven't provided any details yet about anything else in the suite. I'm betting at Build we'll finally hear more about the new "Visual Studio tools for graphics developers" (something Microsoft originally planned to talk up at its GameFest conference, but cancelled at the last minute). And maybe there will be word on what else is coming in Visual Studio 2012 around additional HTML5/JavaScript support (beyond what's in VS 2010 SP1). Visual C++ Next: It's not a secret that Microsoft is breathing new life into C++ and is expected to emphasize the importance of native languages for those writing Windows 8 (and also Windows Phone) apps, going forward. The Visual C++ team has started blogging recently about some of the changes coming with the next version of Visual C++. (For a great look at C++'s past, present and future, check out the latest .Net Rocks podcast with Kate Gregory of Gregory Consulting Ltd.)

Visual Studio LightSwitch: Microsoft execs haven't talked about the next release of its brand-new tool for building line of business (LOB) apps for the cloud and PC. However, it appears that Microsoft is going to position the follow-on version of LightSwitch as suited for writing Windows 8 apps -- at least according to one job description (from August) on the company's Web site:

"We are shipping our v1 release soon which leverages many technologies required to build modern LOB apps: Silverlight, Azure, Office, Entity Framework, WCF RIA Services, ASP.Net Authentication, and more. For our next release we are looking at adding new scenarios for OData and Windows next while continuing to expand existing scenarios based on customer feedback. This position will require you to be hands on with a wide array of technologies key to the Microsoft’s long term success." (emphasis mine)

Expression Blend/Web Next: Will Microsoft use its Expression tools as a vehicle for providing more/better HTML5 tooling? There's been little news out of the Expression team for ages. They did just release the "Expression Blend Preview for Silverlight 5," indicating there's heat and light in there....

ASP.NET and MVC: Given the number of known Build speakers who work on ASP.NET and MVC, I'm guessing we'll be hearing more on these two topics. Corporate VP Scott Guthrie has been blogging recently about some of the changes coming to ASP.NET. Possibly related: Signal/R: I've been seeing more references on Microsoft blogs lately to Signal/R, which is "an synchronous, persistent connection asbstraction library for ASP.NET" for building real-time, multi-user web applications." Anyone know more about how this does/doesn't fit into Microsoft's next-gen dev story?

.Net 4.5: Microsoft's next release of the .Net framework is going to be 4.5, according to various hackers of leaked Windows 8 builds. We've heard bits and pieces about Microsoft's plan to try to slim down the Common Language Runtime (CLR) at the heart of .Net, as part of its RedHawk project. (And RedHawk mentions have been found in leaked Windows 8 builds.)

Cloud Application Platform: Remember, Guthrie's new role at Microsoft is about building out the developer story for Windows Azure. Whatever this "cloud application platform" is, it seemingly brings together the work being done by the Web platform and tools and application server teams. I'm betting we'll hear lots at Build about AppFabric (both the Windows and the Azure versions) and building applications that can span public and private clouds. As it often does just before Microsoft is set to unveil some new products/strategies in a given area, Amazon launched a preemptive strike here with its just-unveiled Amazon Web Services (AWS) Toolkit for Visual Studio.

I'll be at the Build show all next week and filing lots of blog posts from the show. Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott and I will be co-hosting our regular Windows Weekly show live from Anaheim on Thursday next week (2 pm ET/11 am PT) -- hopefully with some special guests.

Our usual band of bloggers (as noted in the graphic at the top of this post) will be live blogging the two Build keynotes on Tuesday September 13 and Wednesday September 14 starting at 12 pm ET/9 am PT. We're hoping you'll chime in with us then!

Topics: Operating Systems, CXO, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Software, Software Development, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

    <live blog/>? No content? :-)
    • No content yet... :)

      Come back on Tuesday 9 am PT for the first of our two live blogs :) MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

        @Mary Jo Foley ...See you at build. Should be a great show. Looking forward to your insights on your live blogs during the show.
  • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

    VS 2012 really must have the ability to compile .NET code to Javascript instead of CIL and WPF/SL to HTML5/CSS3 - MS are, after Windows and Office, known as a company that makes developer tools and this is the only path that makes sense.

    If we are told next week that the VS2010 types tools are what we are expected to create HTML5/JS/CSS3 based apps with - well, whoever announces that had better be ready for a less than kind reaction.

    Keep up the good work on the conf!
    • Thanks

      and thanks for the good insights re: what is needed. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
    • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch


      You are obviously not a software developer. HTML/JS contains a (very) small fraction of the capabilities of XAML/.NET/CLR. If you were going to convert from one to the other, the only thing that would make any kind of sense would be to go in the oposite direction from what you are talking about.
      Sir Name
      • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

        @Sir Name. What @MSFollower says should be possible (CIL to JavaScript, but SL/WPF to HTML lesser so, probably a new UI library with the Framework) - you should be able to compile to JavaScript, but the functionality will be a subset of what XAML/.NET/CLR offers. Think of it as a subset like Silverlight is to WPF, only a much smaller subset, but in truth only a small subset is required to still be useful. For heavy applications, XAML/.NET/CLR would still be required, for example lots of computation. Google have managed such a compiler to JavaScript. It would be great to unify my development environment.
        P Newton
      • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

        @Sir Name

        Just for the record I've been writing and/or managing software since 1978 so I think it is not unreasonable to call me a software developer.

        The comparisons that are relevant here are not between HTML5/JS/CSS3 and XAML/.NET but between CIL and JavaScript.

        Having figured out how to emit an awful lot of lines of CIL (before being saved by embedding Python) and writing even more lines of JavaScript I would contend JavaScript is the more powerful of the two.

        The big question with this approach is how would Microsoft give us access to all of the .NET libraries? If I may paraphrase Dire Straights...

        I want my
        I want my
        I want my WCF

        (that would have worked so much better if Microsoft had called it WFC)

        If you'll be at BUILD I'll happily discuss why Javascript could make a great "assembly language" over a cold beer.
    • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

      @MSFollower <br><br>Are you serious!!!,HTML5/Javascript is 1000 year behind what .Net offer. It will only turn the power of WPF/silverlight into a pure total worthless crap.<br><br>To do as u say would means to remove many of nice features from WPF and CLI that HTML5/Javascript can't support like: <br>-DataBinding, <br>-The Parallelism library (Task); Javascript now support some basic background threading,but nothing to compare to real threading as the CLI offer.<br>-The amazing animation system; Wpf and silverlight time based animations are nothing to compare to the mockery of animations HTML5/Javascript offer<br>-3D models,Lights,Camera<br>-Dependancy properties<br>-Rooted Events<br><br>I do beleive HTML5/Javascript is great.but still soo far behind WPF/Silverlight.
      • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch


        Don't you think that might be a strategy for Microsoft. You write your app and target only HTML5/JS/CSS3 and live with all those restrictions (limited threading, web sockets(one day), SVG/canvas that doesn't stack up in animation, binding and more etc.) or target appx/immersive/whatever-they-decide-to-cal- it and get all that .NET/WPF goodness.

        That way they get to brag about working with standards but give developers the reason to write for and end users the reason to buy Win 8 machines instead of an el cheapo Android/iOS (ok iOS might not be so cheap) tablet.
    • I'm a little confused as to how you reached your conclusions

      @MSFollower <br><br>You can implement JavaScript IN IL... Therefore IL is at least as powerful as JS. That aside, it's not a question of "power" per se, but appropriateness. I mean you could emit an entire IL VM in JavaScript and then execute IL code on it - it's technically possible - but it's insanely expensive and it's going to be a performance pig.<br><br>You could also emit a sequence of one to one subroutine calls to match the IL byte code, which improves performance, but will make things like reflection and self-emission very difficult.<br><br>What's needed isn't a way to turn .Net into HTML5 - what's needed is a good way to integrate them seamlessly across as many platforms as possible. .Net (in the form of Silverlight) does very complex things in a way that lets the developer implement systems very easily - HTML5 simply isn't there yet and, in my opinion, will never be there.<br><br>If Microsoft is actually pushing everyone to an "HTML5 is the ONLY way" model, as MJ notes, there will be a mutiny. Microsoft may like the idea of build-once/run-everywhere using HTML5 even if it means living with some pretty severe limitations - but WE (ie: the people who make the apps that run on Windows) do not and we've made that very clear.<br><br>Not everyone wants to be a web designer - and not every *likes* how the web is built. It's a massive, rickety scaffolding on which to build solid end-user oriented applications.<br><br>I'll switch to MacOS (ObjC/Cocoa) or Android (Java) before I'll switch to HTML5. I'm building serious apps, not toys to keep the masses entertained.
  • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

    The most likely model I see coming out of Build is one where a lot of the functionality of WPF/SL, in the form of XAML, is moved directly into the OS and build on top of a new version of whatever they're calling DirectX these days. That way native code in the form of WinC++ would be able to use it, managed code in the form of C# and VB.NET would be able to use it and be faster, and the HTML/JS stuff they're trying to cram down our throats would either compile/interpret down either to it or, more likely, to exposed APIs from IE that would be built on top of the same thing as the now native XAML. I think they are basically going to give us three new app paths: native (C++), managed (.NET), and web-like (HTML/JS) plus legacy native and .NET support for Intel based systems.

    I find it extremely unlikely that any fairly full featured app built for Windows 8 using HTML/JS is going to run very well in a browser on another OS however. It is most likely going to be taking advantage of Windows native libraries that just aren't available elsewhere.
    Sir Name
    • Native HTML5 is a self-contradictory concept.

      "I find it extremely unlikely that any fairly full featured app built for Windows 8 using HTML/JS is going to run very well in a browser on another OS however. "

      Agreed. Their attempt to pitch to H5/JS folks won't work and already has pissed off their own .Net camp. Very bad strategy.
  • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

    I just want to hear about the app store!
    this what matters to most developers I believe. A lot of developers have started to buy Mac to develop for iOS. The App Store is what matters and MS should put in every version of windows!
  • I'll be watching for Expression and Lightswitch

    For anyone that is building business applications: you need to do yourself a service and look at Lightswitch. It's awesome.

    Relational database application development. Coding optional.
    • FYI


      Lightswitch also has a Metro-style theme pack available for download.
  • I wonder which one of today's (VS2010) technologies...

    ...(WPF, Silverlight, ASP.NET, WinForms) will be the easiest to migrate to that of Metro (VS2012).
  • My predictions

    1) C# 5.0 will be announced. It will include the new (awesome) async capabilities as well as compiler-as-a-service. The latter will finally bring something resembling meta programming to C#

    2) XAML sediments into to operating system, becoming available for C++, C and all of the dynamic and managed languages.

    3) WPF and Silverlight will converge. This will be a (restated) commitment rather than anything which will happen over the next year.

    4) Tooling in both Expression and VS2012 will support HTML5 and Javascript even better (debuging, intellisense, codegen)

    5) More emphasis on ALM in VS2012.

    6) Windows 8 and Phone 7/8 eventually will enable websites to appear and be manipulated through tiles by simple micro-format markup within the pages. Think webslices brought to the desktop.

    7) Silverlight will become the full-featured way to write tiles on Windows 8. One way will be HTML5/JS but to get to all the features, SL will be needed.
  • Went to register for BUILD today

    Got my "Conference Schedule":
    "Sessions, sessions, sessions" at "various locations".

    Methinks they are trying to pull an Apple. Secrecy spurs interest. Only it isn't really working.
  • RE: Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

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