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Microsoft’s approach to ubiquitous interoperability, do you buy that?

There’s been a lot of babble on the newswires this week on the subject of Micrsoft’s MIX10 developer conference in Las Vegas. That’s alright guys, the invite probably got lost in the post, don’t worry about it.
Written by Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor on

There’s been a lot of babble on the newswires this week on the subject of Micrsoft’s MIX10 developer conference in Las Vegas. That’s alright guys, the invite probably got lost in the post, don’t worry about it.

Much of the spiel has centred around interoperability. Microsoft loves to say that systems development should always feature ‘baked in’ interoperability from the start, like they thought of it first – that still kills me.

Anyway, as Microsoft pushes for broader multi form factor interoperability so that mobile, web, desktop (and presumably tablet) applications perform with more consistent user experiences, the company is hoping that Silverlight 4 will build the necessary bridges to make this possible.

But while Microsoft is fond of saying that Silverlight (as essentially a web application framework) is capable of turning developers into mobile software developers, should it be quite as simple as that?

Yes the company has opened to the door to allow developers to use so-called “proven” technologies such as Silverlight and the XNA Framework to build mobile applications and 3-D Games on the new Windows Phone 7 Series developer platform.

But you know what I find strange? At no point in the announcements that hit my desk did I see the term GUI used.

Broad reaching and comprehensive as Silverlight is, given the work that is going on with multi-touch gesture-based GUI interaction, don’t you think that we should have heard a little more about the front end of the equation if we are to buy the ubiquitous interoperability patter that Microsoft is so slickly plying us with?

Digging deeper, a new tools support package for Silverlight on Windows Phone 7 Series has been announced. Developers can get their hands on various goodies here including a Windows Phone 7 Series Emulator for application testing and Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone. Lots of details about powering user experiences directly from the cloud, but still no upfront mention of GUIs or the user-facing side of the coin

Oh no wait, hang on – last bullet point on that tools support package list is Expression Blend for Windows Phone Community Technology Preview (available as a separate download on the same site). Yay, three cheers for Expression Blend, Microsoft’s user interface design tool for both web and desktop apps that purports to blend and MIX (see what I did there?) the best of both types of apps.

OK so I’m obviously being deliberately difficult, but there was a lot more info about the back end project management of these tools and even the customer adoption levels of Silverlight than there was of the GUI.

Microsoft MIX is a ‘user experience’ conference, I just figured they would say user experience and user interface in the same sentence a big more directly.

I guess they did say it here, but at a somewhat granular level, “As part of its commitment to interoperability, Microsoft detailed its support for a number of HTML5 specifications, including CSS3, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), XHTML parsing, and the video and audio tags using industry-standard (H.264/MPEG4 and MP3/AAC) codecs.”

NB: end note – to be fair to Microsoft I am in the middle of moving house and was offered a supporting interview with Paul Foster who I know to be a thoroughly decent bloke. I will post any follow up comments I get as addendums to this blog.

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