Microsoft Build: Developer topics to watch

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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!

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