Microsoft Focuses on Windows Phone, IE 9, Cloud in PDC Keynote

Microsoft kicked off its 2010 Professional Developers Conference (PDC) today by offering developers worldwide an update on its emerging cloud computing, Windows Phone and Internet Explorer 9 development platforms.

The two-day event, held at the Redmond campus, is being streamed live via a Silverlight media player that is hosted on Windows Azure to developers. More than 16,000 people viewed the keynote via the live stream.

"Make no mistake about it, when it comes to Windows Phone, we're all in," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during the two-hour keynote. "I've gotten asked various questions, 'what will you do if this or that or blah, blah, blah..."

"Boom, baby!" he enthusiastically told the crowd of developers who had descended on the Redmond campus for PDC. "That's what we're going to do. Continue to work, continue to drive, to continue to improve, but man I think we've got a great opportunity for you and for us with the Windows Phone."

During the keynote, Microsoft continued its march towards the release of IE9 expected in early 2011, comparing its performance to Chrome and reiterating its investments in HTML5. The company cited more than 10 million downloads of the beta since its release in September. IE 9 Platform Preview 6 is available to developers starting today.

"I’d be a lot more excited about HTML5 if I could program it using C#," said Rocky Lhotka, a Microsoft MVP and the principal technology evangelist at consultancy Magenic, who watched the keynote via live stream. "I love Silverlight, and try as I might, I have a hard time getting excited about HTML. That said, the capabilities provided by IE9 are nothing short of amazing!"

Windows Phone Call to Action
App development for Windows Phone 7, which is slated for release in the United States on November 8th, and already available in several countries, was promoted with free devices from Samsung, LG and HTC for all registered attendees, who will also get to bypass the $99 registration fee for the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Several upcoming Window Phone 7 apps were demonstrated including PopCap Games, Facebook, Amazon Kindle and Intuit's TurboTax companion application. Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in the Microsoft Developer Division, announced a new OData Library and showed off his own "hot deals" app that utilized an OData end point on eBay.

Guthrie also offered a "sneak peak" at an upcoming performance analysis tool that runs an instrumented version of the app on devices and provides profiler data in Visual Studio. It allows Windows Phone developers to profile their apps performance on the device by providing summary data on frames per second, CPU utilization and storyboard animations. Developers can drill down in the summary to see detailed stats on how much time is spent in the CPU and GPU and drill down further to see a Visual Tree that details how long it takes elements to render on screen. The profiler also suggests how to troubleshoot performance issues.

"I am happy to see the performance profiling capabilities, since that’s an area every phone developer must face when building applications," said Lhotka, whose team's first Windows Phone 7 application hit the Marketplace yesterday.

Ballmer said that with about 1,000 apps at launch, Microsoft is ahead of its competitors in their marketplace launch phases.

"Over 1000 apps is good, but they need to build up to the big leagues in the next 6 months…" said Al Hilwa, IDC program director, Applications Development Software, in an email. "From what I am seeing in the tools and how jazzed developers are, I think they will hit some big milestones for apps on a really fast schedule."

Azure Platform Services Start To Arrive
During the second hour of the keynote, Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Business, outlined the company's commitment to cloud services in three areas: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and software as a service. More than 20,000 applications are hosted in Windows Azure, according to Microsoft.

Muglia announced a Virtual Machine role for Windows Server 2008 R2, which allows users to create a virtual instance of the server in the cloud, to ease migrations. A public beta is expected by the end of 2010. Support for Windows Server 2008 SP2 and Windows Server 2003 and is planned in 2011, according to Muglia. Another migration feature announced today is Server Application Virtualization, which enables users to deploy an app image to a Windows Azure worker role. A preview of this functionality is expected by the end of the year, with final release planned for late 2011.

As Microsoft has asserted since Windows Azure was first announced at PDC08, Windows Azure and SQL Azure are the foundation for the company's Platform as a Service vision. Two years later, some of those services are finally closer to reality, according to announcements during today's keynote. Muglia said that the same set of services will also be supported in the Windows Azure Platform Appliance (WAPA), announced this summer, for private clouds. Developers can expect more information on WAPA at TechEd Europe in November, according to Muglia.

Developers have long requested SQL Azure Reporting Services, and Data Sync Services for on-premise, cloud and mobile. CTPs of both services are expected by the end of the year, with general availability planned for the first half of 2011.

"Microsoft’s been promising hosted SQL Azure Reporting Services since the transition from SQL Server Data Services, so I’m gratified that we can expect a CTP of SQL Azure Reporting by the end of the year," said Roger Jennings, principal consultant of OakLeaf Systems, in an email. "But there’s no news about a full-text search implementation, which was promised in the SDS/SSDS era. I’m also disappointed with the lack of news about future availability of SQL Azure Transparent Data Encryption for data privacy or data compression to increase effective storage capability within the current 50-GB database size limit."

Several Windows Azure Platform services announced at PDC09 are moving into the preview stage. That includes Windows Azure AppFabric Caching (its counterpart is "Velocity" for the on-premise AppFabric Windows Server) and AppFabric Service Bus enhancements. Both CTPs were released today.

Project Sydney, the codename for the virtual network connectivity between on-premises environments and the cloud, which Muglia announced at PDC09, is emerging with Windows Azure Connect. A preview of the IP-based technology is expected by the end of the year.

The AppFabric Composite App Service is a new developer environment announced at PDC. It is based on a Composition Model that developers create in Azure using a new Visual Studio distributed app cloud template and designer surface. Dynamic composition occurs at runtime. Code generation is not part of the designer, which is used to model relationships and wire up the workflow using Windows Workflow Foundation 4, according to Microsoft. The service relies on the model to deploy, configure and monitor the composite app. Previews of the Composition Model and service are expected in the first half of 2011.

"I’m glad to see Azure AppFabric’s Composition Model finally enable graphical workflow implementation with Workflow Foundation 4 in the cloud," said Jennings. "This bodes well for mashups with a wide range of Web APIs. Workflow was one of the features the team dropped from early Azure CTPs, long before the service went commercial."

Other Azure features expected to preview before the end of the year, many requested by developers include: remote desktop, full IIS support, elevated privileges, Windows Server 2008 R2 roles (Web and worker in addition to the new VM role), and an Extra Small Instance priced at $0.05 per compute hour for developing and testing smaller applications.

Microsoft also announced a Windows Azure Marketplace. The marketplace, which is expected in beta by December, is similar to the "Dallas" market concept for data and content providers announced at PDC09. Now called the DataMarket, "Dallas," which is live as of today with 35 data providers, is part of the Windows Marketplace.

Several apps hosted in Windows Azure were demonstrated during the keynote including migrations of  Pixar's RenderMan and Microsoft's Channel 9. For developers, Team Foundation Server in the cloud, a project discussed by Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry in his blog and demonstrated on stage during the keynote, was of particular interest. A CTP of Team Foundation Server on Windows Azure is expected in 2011.

Check out the schedule and live streaming of PDC10 sessions here.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.