by June 1, 2009 0 comments

When Steve Ballmer descended upon a gathering of more than 200 software
professionals, coders and engineers, at the Hyderabad International Convention
Center, he admitted to being in a ‘not usual for me’ down self, when he began
his keynote with a statement like “The world economy is currently in reset mode,
and if the economy has to grow, it cannot be done with debt, but with innovation
and productivity”. Positioning Information Technology in a rather therapeutic
avatar, Ballmer stressed that non-IT innovation will be fueled by IT innovation
at times of slowdowns like these.

Microsoft TechEd India 2009, a three day jamboorie organized by Microsoft
every year, brings together software professionals, analysts, and media under
one roof to exhibit the company’s developer initiatives for the year, and broad
product roadmaps. In both the areas, the event this year had lots to talk about
—from a sneak peek into Windows 7, to a rather surprising number of ‘open’
initiatives at the developers’ disposal — from open APIs for Windows 7,
including the Server variants, to open platform support for Windows Azure, the
Cloud offering — in short, a well-received sense of freedom for developers not
having to learn or unlearn their expertise in a particular programming language.
Microsoft echoed a rather encouraging statement all through this year’s TechEd:
“irrespective of your language specialization, we now allow you to connect to
Microsoft seamlessly.”

Deciphering developers
The event brought together domain experts and evangelists from Microsoft,
who spoke on various technical and business aspects of various products and
platforms. Don M. Smith, Product Manager (Patterns and Practices) and Blaine
Wastell, Senior Program Manager were two of them. Speaking on their
understanding of the make-up of developers worldwide, they said in unison, “the
majority of developers can be classified into two segments, one, who are
motivated by the technology itself and two, who focus on the impact of the final
solution.” Blaine Wastell explained, "The first category of developers is those
that seek to grow with a particular technology or development environment. They
begin with the basics and end up learning the technology inside out. The good
thing is that they can stretch a technology to its limit and the bad thing is
that other technology is alien to them." He continued to explain the second
category of developers. "They work backwards. The final product is what matters
to them.

Depending on the business need and understanding of the usage of the
solution, they choose the relevant technology, or have a mix and match of
technologies to achieve the desired result."

Steve Ballmer addressing software
developers at the TechEd in Hyderabad

So, which of these two methods is ideal in the current economic scenario? Don
Smith said, "A mix of both. In an ideal scenario, a product, software or
application has to be developed by a bunch of people, certain components of the
coding need deep knowledge of the relevant platform or knowledge, but for
increased usability and adoption of the final solution, you do need developers
who can shuttle effectively between platforms."

The seventh wonder?
PCQuest got an exclusive preview of Windows 7, at the TechEd this year.
According to Microsoft, the new features have been built based on three key
areas, productivity enhancement, overall speed, and ease of use. For starters,
there are the display and experience enhancements like automatic wallpaper
changes every 30 minutes, based on the theme you have selected. To make you feel
at home when you are traveling, you can use the theme of your desktop based on
the location. Another interesting enhancement extends itself from the Vista
version. The Ribbon feature, which was introduced with Vista will now be
featured in very basic applications like Paint and Calculator and Wordpad. Also,
the APIs will be made available for extensions into corporate networks.

But the ‘wow’ factor in Windows 7 comes from the Aero series of enhancements
— like the Aero Peek, which gives you a ‘live’ peek of the applications you are
multitasking. For instance, if you have your Media Player streaming a video, and
an image viewer open while you are typing out a document or a mail, all you need
to do is to scroll your mouse over the taskbar at the bottom of the screen to
open a mini video screen or the image.Taking image-based enhancements like these
to the next level, Windows 7 incorporates motion sensor technology by
understanding mouse gestures. Imagine you have four windows open running the
same or different applications, you can choose one application, for instance the
Calculator and ‘shake’ it (literally) with the mouse. The rest of the windows
get stacked up on the task bar and only the Calculator stays up on the screen.

For enterprise customers, Microsoft has paid a lot of emphasis to security
and manageability. In a scenario where an enterprise organization needs to have
data transferred between branch offices, a ‘branch cache’ of the data or
application that was invoked, is stored not in the server, but in the client
which used the application recently. Subsequently, if anyone else in the branch
needs to use the same application, it is invoked from the user’s client. Add to
it, enhancements like Adaptive Bandwidth and Application Blocker, Windows 7 is
slated to be the next big transitional operating system of the times.

Taking Interoperability a step further
Taking this open initiative a step further, Microsoft has also funded for
interoperability with other programming languages with its Java SDK for
Microsoft .NET Services and Ruby SDK for Microsoft .NET services. .NET Services
essentially is .NET on the Azure Services Platform. Vijay Rajagopalan, principal
architect, Microsoft said, "We at Microsoft have realized that we have been
going after only the developers who focus on enterprise-class applications, and
this where the concept of Silverlight comes from. Now we realize that there is a
huge breed of what I call the ‘hobbyist’ developers who grasp languages swiftly
and contribute a small chunk of a big application, or create small applications
as part of a big project. Interoperability with platforms will expose these
developers to the capabilities of the cloud."

Another interesting initiative is the ability to port Silverlight on Eclipse.
Now, a Silverlight developer can invoke instances or vice versa from Eclipse,
making software development more pervasive and taking it to higher levels of
being open.

.NET on the cloud has three important components, a Service Bus, Access
Control and Work Flow. The Service Bus is an HTTP-based clearing house for third
party platforms and applications. If a Java Application needs to interact with
one in a different environment, the Bus will form the messaging bridge based on
the Access Control, which takes care of the authorization, Authentication and
Registration. The Work Flow component orchestrates the connection effectively.

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