At its Professional Developers Conference [PDC 2005] in Los Angeles, Microsoft today provided the first public demonstration of the next version of its flagship Office suite. Office 12, together with Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista client operating system, represents the company's emerging plan to reinvigorate desktop computing.
Developers present at PDC represent the programmer army Microsoft hopes will begin to create new applications that tap into Vista and Office 12. The user interface to Office has been redesigned considerably, taking many cues from the types of capabilities that have become familiar in digital photo file managers and exploiting XML to call up metadata representations of users' information stores.
|Bill Gates at PDC 2005|
"We have to couple these advances with the tools to make it reasonable to build these applications," said Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect. He said he expects the final version of Office 12 to launch in the second half of 2006, together with Microsoft's Windows Vista client operating system.
The developer's view into the OS and productivity suite has vastly changed over the past five years of .NET style development. The WinFX API set of tools recently gained more clarity with concurrent releases of the presentation APIs formerly known as Avalon (now called Windows Presentation Foundation) and Indigo (now known as Windows Communication Foundation). Detailed walk-throughs of these development frameworks are prominent on the PDC schedule.
Also announced by Microsoft today was the .NET Language Integrated Query (LINQ) Project, comprising a unified programming model and language extensions to Visual Basic and C# which let developers create integrated queries that handle objects, databases and XML. These tools could provide an alternative for developers who want to work outside the venerable SQL and the nascent XQuery languages for querying data.
In his keynote presentation, Gates mentioned Atlas and Microsoft's MSN Virtual Earth application -- a project that provides directions, interactive maps and satellite/aerial imagery. During the course of PDC, Gates said, "We will talk about how we are exposing [Search, Virtual Earth and IM] and making them easily available."
Some of that vision may be fleshed out in sessions depicting a platform technology known as Windows Presentation Foundation 'Everywhere.' The technology is described as a platform-level presentation and display engine that enables delivery of rich content on different platforms and form factors.
The Windows Communication Foundation can provide a useful architecture on which to build future applications indicated Ryan Faris, software architect and PDC attendee. He said that his interest at this point was "more on Indigo than Vista."
He commented that .NET has made progress from earlier versions. He has worked with both .NET and J2EE.
"The biggest benefit of Indigo [Windows Communication Foundation] is the decoupling of the transport from the invocation of the service itself," he said. That is good, Faris continued, because "you don't want developers to have to be concerned about that." This suggests that, as Microsoft contends, with the new model supported by WinFX, multiple deployment channels can be supported with a single development paradigm.
A highlight of Gates' presentation was a humorous video pairing him with actor Jon Heder, from the film Napoleon Dynamite. In the video, Gates dreams he shares a home and job with Napoleon Dynamite, whom he meets at a high school career day.
Together they solve problems with Microsoft's new software. In the video, Napoleon's boss asks, incredulously, "Do you guys know how to do this?"
"Yeah," Napoleon responds. "Bill's like 80 years old."