Living in a state of accord.

Should I Be Excited Yet?

I'm with Geek News – PDC has been a big build up for an average set of announcements.  I've got to stop reading Scoble's blog, he over hypes everything and then the actual announcements disappoint.  Here's Scoble's summary of the announcements:

  1. Office 12 demonstrated publicly for the first time. Tons of new features and new UI.
  2. Windows Vista features demonstrated publicly, including search integration, new performance enhancements, new sidebar.
  3. LINQ (Language INtegrated Query). Cool database stuff for .NET developers.
  4. Windows Presentation Foundation/E. "E" for everywhere.
  5. updates released.
  6. Atlas (our AJAX Web development toolkit) demoed for first time.
  7. Microsoft Max. A new photo sharing and display application.
  8. Digital Locker. A new place to find, try, and buy software.
  9. New sidebar and gadgets and new Microsoft gadget Site.
  10. Coming later today? Sparkle. A new way to build Windows applications.
  11. Coming later today? Lots of server stuff.
  12. Coming later today? More Office stuff.
  13. Coming later today? Workflow stuff.

All in all a pretty nice set of announcements but definitely nothing revolutionary.  There are a couple of things that could have been really excited but got slaughtered by the Microsoft, gotta maintain the monopoly policy.  In particular Windows Presentation Foundation/E – cool, cross platform support that includes all the major browser that's awesome.  Wait, what's that?  It's a subset?  So when I develop my application I have to have two versions – a Windows only with all the cool stuff version and a other suckers version.  That's great, for Microsoft at least.

It doesn't seem to have made Scoble's list but the MSN Messenger SDK could have been really cool, except that when you read the intro to the SDK you discover you have to get Microsoft approval to ship anything you develop, and it can't do anything similar to what the MSN message client already does.

Your MSN Messenger Activity must not contain any functionality that would normally be controlled by the MSN Messenger client. This includes (but is not limited to) the following items:

  • Instant messaging
  • File transfer (for example, digital photos or sound files)
  • Audio conversation capabilities
  • Control of a Web camera or use of a video conferencing session
  • Application sharing
  • Creation of a white board space

That's really supporting developers and encouraging them to play around with cool stuff that is.  I couldn't say for sure but it sounds like a major opportunity for security holes as well.  Shame they couldn't have embraced openness on this one as it could have resulted in some really cool stuff.

Oh and Microsoft Max?  Did that immediately conjure up thoughts of Microsoft Bob and make anyone else think clippy was making a comeback?  I was certainly petrified.  Fortunately it's just yet another photo manager. What's with the sharing anyway?  Isn't outputting a web site simpler for everyone involved? I'm clearly missing something. updates?  Yeah great, still just a search box.

Workflow – yawn, everyone else already had it, about time Microsoft caught up.  Of course everyone else is starting to loosen up and remove workflow again – wikis are the current fad, keep playing catch up Microsoft!

Oh and don't even get me started on the Office 12 interface. People used to know 10% of Office, now? 0%.  Good work.  Not only that but the whole interface is based around modes which are one of the most frustrating things for users to deal with – if you've ever tried using Maya you'll understand how frustrating modes can be. Maybe the interface will work out okay for them, but I think it's much too radical a departure from the norm and I'm very curious how they expect people to learn keyboard short cuts now that they don't appear in the menu. I can see even more people taking the slow path of switching tabs, finding the button they want then going back to their work instead of just hitting a keyboard shortcut. I think the most interesting thing about this new interface is to see how Microsoft manage to back away from it again when businesses refuse to upgrade because of the massive retraining costs. Is this an opening for OpenOffice?

LINQ looks cool, bit too SQLish from the quick look at it I took but it's definitely not revolutionary.  People have been playing with different ways to integrate languages and databases for ages with varying degrees of success.

Gadgets surprisingly are the one thing that could prove cool or could just be a rip off of Konfabulator and Dashboard. What's got me interested is the distributed nature, but it sounds a lot like cross site scripting exploits and besides that, it's not like people aren't already doing that kind of thing when it makes sense (Technorati, BlogPulse and a bunch of others instruct you to insert a JavaScript tag pointing to their server and they provide JavaScript that adds their functionality to your site). We'll see.

I really haven't looked at any of this stuff in detail because I just haven't had time this week so maybe there's some ultra-cool stuff hidden in there that I'm missing, but overall I'm very disappointed.  There just hasn't been anything particularly exciting come out of PDC despite all the hype.