Those who keep close tabs on what Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) team is doing no doubt heard that IE veteran and Platform Architect Chris Wilson left IE back in May. He's still with Microsoft but has a broader though equally challenging role: Helping the company flesh out its "open Web platform."
Wilson, who first joined the IE team back in 1995, has spent a lot of his time on the hot seat. Wilson has represented Microsoft -- a company many have come to see as throwing a monkey-wrench into Web standards, rather than championing them -- as part of various standards groups. Wilson has been part of groups forging standards for Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML, the Document Object Model and XSL through various W3C working groups, and currently remains co-chair of the HTML working group.)
Wilson's new job is Principal Program Manager of the Open Web Platform in Microsoft's Developer Division. In that role, Wilson reports to John Montgomery, who is group program manager of the year-old browser programmability and tools unit. The new post marks the first time that Wilson hasn't been part of the Windows client division (IE is part of the Windows unit) since he joined Microsoft.
"There's been a recognition (at Microsoft) that the Web platform is a programming platform and runtime APIs (application programming interfaces) are super-important," he said.
So, what, exactly, is "the open Web platform" in Microsoft's view? I've only seen it described fairly vaguely as something encompassing core Web products for developers, designers and end users.
At the Mix '09 conference, Microsoft officials rolled out a new test version of the company's Web platform installer (version 2.0), as well as a gallery of third-party Web-development tools from both open-source and closed-source vendors. Is this part of Microsoft's open Web platform, as well, I asked Wilson. The Installer provides a single download for everything from Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio, to IIS 7.0, to PHP (Community Version 5.2.9-1). Microsoft may make a follow-up announcement about the platform/installer at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) next week in New Orleans.
"We have disparate pieces that aren't tied together at Microsoft," Wilson acknowledged. "We need more than debuggers. We need to explain 'how do I sit down with a blank slate and write Web apps'?"
In other words, it's not just the server-side components upon which Microsoft largely focused at Mix '09, but also tools like Expression Web -- "whch isn't seen right now this way, but is actually an open Web tool," according to Wilson.
What do you think Microsoft should do to help developers who want to write Web apps? What kinds of tools, products and standards (other than the obvious, like HTML 5) do you want to see the company offer? and support?