Microsoft accomplished at lot at last week’s PDC 2005 event. Some thoughts below:
- If you appreciate advances in user interface and user experience then you have to love Vista. I want it…
- For developers, the biggest news I thought was Windows Workflow Foundation (WinWF). Having a common infrastructure platform upon which multiple host applications can be implemented is a natural evolution of the scale/scope of communication middleware.
- For customers, the biggest news had to be the expansion of document life-cycle support within SharePoint Products & Technologies (namely, Windows SharePoint Services). With Office12 Microsoft makes a credible play into the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) market. However, it essentially will be a V1 release so while it is conceptually perfect on paper, we’ll have to assess progress of the beta releases and initial experience with early adopters.
- What I was most intrigued with was the way Microsoft portrayed all the different ways organizations can get to Vista and rich/smart clients – Vista in its native form – Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WinPF/E) – and Atlas. With support for other platforms and downlevel versions of Windows (namely, Windows XP). This approach avoids the “forklift upgrade” attack Microsoft usually suffers through (and many times, rightly so).
- I don’t buy the generalized benefits around productivity, security and reduced costs re: justifying a Vista upgrade. IT decision makers need more detailed information on the specifics and then compare it to their own environment which might already have a multi-faceted approach to security and operate within a well-managed PC environment in terms of refresh cycle, software distribution, etc. Enterprises will pay for Vista via Software Assurance and upgrade on their own timelines with no forced march required. The productivity argument needs to be put in the context of reducing business latency or improving process performance, not just improving personal tasks. PC-based personal productivity is not going to move many CXOs to free up monies to come off-schedule of their normal refresh cycles.
- Vista does have a lot of interesting capabilities though when it comes to local search, organizing information, enriching documents with meta data, user interface functions to better visualize work activities, etc. What’s unclear is how it gets connected off the client and supported by back-end applications.
- The .Net application customization via VSTO / VSTA I think has more long-term importance than how it was presented – a fundamental element of Microsoft’s Information Worker strategy is to treat Office as a platform but it remains positioned more as a product (on the client) that you can extend. I would prefer to hear that Office on the client is really about end user middleware (infrastructure) – that when you install Office on the machine, the entire machine behavior is extended and available to any application, not just the Office applications (e.g., Word, Excel). Microsoft has not moved as much as I would like on this but at least with VSTO/VSTA they de-couple the development from the refresh cycle by more loosely coupling application customization, a huge barrier to management that has long (mostly bad) memories of office development.
- The RTC story at PDC was both innovative and confusing with People Near Me … while it demonstrated how P2P applications become natively supported within Vista, it seems to overlap with Groove and lacks alignment with Communicator, LCS and Live Meeting as well as with OneNote as it builds out its own RTC capabilities…
- SharePoint gets a lot of nice enhancements from a user perspective but there are improvements in the underlying architecture as well with better cohesion between the portal and services embedded within Windows 2003 Server that will help with deployment, configuration and integration.
- If you haven't seen Vista you have to get Beta 2 and play with it...
So that's it - a very good PDC overall - unfortunately we have to wait another year before delivery and the competition is not standing still.