In the days since the MS Vista OS beta came out, developers have begun to kick the proverbial OS tires. Taken together with the Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly Avalon) beta download and the Windows Communication Foundation (formerly "Indigo") beta download, developers now have a better target with which to work to create next-generation NET 2.0 apps. In action, Windows Presentation Foundation and Windows Communication Foundation take form in the WinFX runtime. WinFX is the set of next-generation managed APIs for NET 2.0.
Although never really late – Microsoft was somewhat circumspect in setting dates – Longhorn (now Vista) did lose a few key traits on the road from conference keynote Power Points to beta, and a view of the remains to be seen. The point of the beta is for developers to try it out, and find bugs that Microsoft's phalanx of test automation programs could not find.
The biggest missing trait is a new file system. The biggest new additions are backed-in .NET 2.0 support, the Windows Communication Foundation service-oriented architecture for distributed computing (Microsoft prefers to call it "connected computing") and the new front-end client scheme now known as Windows Presentation Foundation.
The Windows Communication Foundation is another attempt to improve the developer's chances of succeeding with distributed systems. COM gained adherents a number of years ago as Microsoft's take on easy-to-use object software, and its replacements and updates have had various success – and issues -- of one kind or another. .NET Remoting, touted as the way to go during the early days of Web Services, is an example of a method that was promoted not too long ago, but which, it could be said, is to be replaced by Windows
Communication Foundation. The learning curve here for service-oriented Web services will be considerable, as it was with DCOM, another one of the industry's distributed technologies that went bump in the night. Hopefully, with Windows Communication Foundation, Microsoft has got it 'right' – or more of it 'right' than has sometimes been the case.
More immediately of interest in terms of kicking the tires is Windows Presentation Foundation. VB developers, who have typically been closest to end users, will want to get a look at it, in order to start visualizing Vista client views. Again, that means a separate download.
Thinking about user interfaces is something of an art that has been in decline since the advent of the Web browser as the ubiquitous interface. To jumpstart new thinking on UIs, Microsoft has created a collection of Web pages concerning interface architecture. Aero is the term Microsoft uses for such architecture.
Vista – Microsoft downloads
Microsoft Pre-Release Software WinFX Runtime Components Beta1 – Microsoft downloads
Microsoft WinFX Software Development Kit for Pre-Release Windows Operating System Code-Named "Longhorn", Beta 1 Web Setup– Microsoft downloads
Vista Beta fact sheet – Microsoft
The Vista Experience page - MSDN
Aero page - MSDN