Microsoft has temporarily halted development
work on some aspects of its upcoming professional graphics
application as it tries to bring companion tools and its
next-generation Windows Vista operating system to market.
The application -- called Expression Graphic Designer -- was first
released in test form in June last year, and is based on
Expression, the tool Microsoft acquired with its 2003 purchase of
Hong Kong company Creature House. But despite being widely seen as a rival for Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator products, Microsoft does not see the product as a stand-alone offering.
"At the moment, there's no great reason for us to release it
as a stand-alone product," the company's senior product manager
for the Europe, Middle East and African professional
designer markets, Wayne Smith, said last week during a trip down under.
In an interview with ZDNet Australia, Smith explained that Microsoft was taking so long to bring Graphic Designer to market because the company had put "a lot" of the development work for the application "on pause", until sibling products and Vista could be
"It's not been that someone's been beavering for all these
months and getting nowhere," he said.
Smith said that Microsoft sees Graphic Designer solely as a
companion product for other products in the Expression range --
namely Interactive Designer and Web Designer.
Interactive Designer is for building the user interface and
layout of interactive Web or Windows applications, while Web
Designer is purely aimed at Web site construction.
The Expression range is meant to ease coordination between
software developers who write code and graphic artists who create
visual elements, using the Extensible Application Markup Language
(XAML) which Microsoft developed.
"So if the other two tools haven't been released, there's no
great reason to have this released yet. It absolutely exists to
support both Web Designer and Interactive Designer," said
The executive said Graphic Designer would probably be released
at the same time as Web Designer, with both likely to make it to
market before Interactive Designer and Vista.
"We can maybe even possibly put them in the same box as a
mini-studio of some kind," he said.
"Web Designer, because it's a traditional design tool on
current-based standards will be the first release, I don't know
when, but towards the back end of 2006," Smith said. "Maybe
around October or November.
"Graphic Designer will probably sit alongside it, because it
makes sense from a synergistic point of view to have the two
Smith said Interactive Designer depended on Microsoft's WinFX
programming model being introduced with Vista, itself due to ship
in late 2006.
"Interactive Designer's going to be after Vista, because it's
built on the WinFX architecture," he said. "We need to wait for
WinFX to ship in its final release, and then to do a couple of
months of stabilisation work."
Microsoft has already released test versions of Graphic and
Interactive Designer, dubbed community technology previews
"There will be those CTPs all through the process. So we will
keep on banging CTPs out, even up until the last few months
before it's released, people will be able to use the tool," Smith
said of Interactive Designer.