Back from Mix ’08
>I attended the Mix ’08 conference in lovely Las Vegas last week. Mix is Microsoft’s conference for discussing and launching web technologies held at the Venician Hotel and Casino.
At Mix ’07 Microsoft launched Silverlight, their competitive technology to Adobe’s Flash. This year they launched Sliverlight 2 Beta 1 during the keynote. Not having ever worked with Silverlight 1 I cannot speak with much authority on the subject. I can say that the demos were impressive, especially the Hard Rock Memorabilia Deep Zoom demo. In addition, my colleague Than, who has been working with Silverlight 1 for the last year, informs me that the 2.0 release is an enormous improvement on the prior version.
Internet Explorer 8
Also during the keynote Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 8 beta. I did not expect to care much about this announcement considering my primary browser has been Firefox for years now, even before I made the move to the Mac. However, my tune quickly changed as they demoed the new version. Having been a web developer for many years now, I have come to accept the constant battle with browser compatibility. I was not prepared for their first demo to involve a basic CSS styled site, being shown in Firefox. The site looked fine, and then the speaker switched to Safari and again, it looked just fine. Then he switched to IE 7, and a giant red square appeared on the page, obviously highlighting a standards compatibility issue that IE has had for ages. And finally, he switch to IE 8, and the sight looked just like it did in Firefox and Safari. I am truly impressed with Microsoft’s acceptance of the fact that yes, they are not standards compliant, and one of their major goals in IE 8 is to fix that. This feels like a complete 180 from the Microsoft of the past, and it is a welcome change in my opinion. The rest of the IE 8 demo was pretty good as well. They showed off built in development tools that should make anyone’s life much easier as we all continue to build sites that must work across various browsers.
I attended a couple of session that I found to surprising as well.
Developing Data Driven Web Applications Using ASP.Net Dynamic Data
I walked into this session not really knowing what I was about to see. The presentation was about how Dynamic Data allows you to generate a UI scaffolding based on your data model for instant CRUD based UIs, sound familiar? It should, this is clearly Microsoft’s answer to Ruby on Rails, or at least part of it. What they demoed was fairly good and comprehensive, and moreover, it wasn’t being pushed as the end-all-be-all of frameworks as MS is known to do, but rather as yet another option in your ASP.Net arsenal. This again, is not not something I would have expected to hear out of the Microsoft of the past.
The ASP.Net MVC Framework
By far my favorite presentation was Scott Hanselman‘s session on the new MVC framework for ASP.Net. This was true for a couple of reasons, the first being that Scott is a truly engaging and entertaining speaker, which is a pretty impressive feat when you consider the content and audience. Secondly I enjoyed it because again, this framework was not being pushed as a replacement of anything, but rather another alternative. MVC makes up the second piece of competing with the Ruby on Rails framework, with the model-view-controller architecture becoming baked into the tools. It is still in its early stages, but looks very promising. I have been doing a lot of iPhone web application development lately, and one of my biggest issues is keeping may page size small. Due to the MVC framework’s natural lack of your standard viewstate/postback architecture, it seems to me that the views you generate can be much more easily optimized for a device like the iPhone that can handle full HTML, but may sometimes be limited by bandwidth.
Overall I had a blast at Mix. Thanks Microsoft for hosting the party at Tao in the Venician, I can’t imagine what the bar bill looked like for that.