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PDC: Microsoft Outlines Windows 7, Slew of New Dev Technologies

Coming off yesterday's launch of its Azure cloud-based services, Microsoft today articulated how it will bridge PCs and mobile devices with an extraordinary blitz of announcements that included the first demonstration of Windows 7, its Live Framework, a bevy of new offerings for developers including WPF support for Visual Studio, and the first preview of Office 14.

The goal was to show how Microsoft plans to deliver on its long-stated strategy of bridging native clients with other devices and the Web.

"The PC is adapting once again to be even more relevant and more valuable in this era that is so centered on the Web," said Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, in today's keynote session. "It's our objective to make the combination of the PC, phone and Web of clearly more value to our customers than just the sum of their parts."

Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of the Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group, gave an extensive demo of Windows 7, showing what promise to be well-received tweaks and enhancements to the user interface, including a cleaned-up Taskbar, streamlined access to applications and system resources, and the addition of the Microsoft Touch interface for touchscreens.

The Touch demo showed how the Windows UI senses and adapts to touch commands, and illustrated application-level support in Word, Internet Explorer and a reworked update of MS Paint.

Sinofsky delivered a few mea culpas regarding Vista, which he said was finally up to snuff with the Service Pack 1 release. Sinofsky addressed shortcomings in Vista's initial compatibility, device support and even shipping schedules.

PDC attendees will leave with a pre-beta version of Windows 7, which Sinofsky urged developers to play with and provide feedback. A beta will be made available for general download, though Sinofsky declined to provide a specific timeline.

"We finish the one we're working on and that informs when the next one will be done," Sinofsky said. "We think that three years from the general availability of Windows Vista is the right timeframe for Windows 7."

From a user perspective, Windows 7 caters heavily to networked home users, who have traditionally struggled to get multiple PCs and devices to play nicely with each other. Automated Windows 7 client and device discovery promises to expose available devices and their capabilities. It wasn't clear in the keynote what device manufacturers will have to do to make their device functions fully visible and accessible to Windows 7 clients.

Guthrie Takes Charge
Showing how Microsoft will bridge the traditional client with cloud-based services, Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Division, gave an extensive list of announcements that covered Windows 7, Visual Studio 2010, NET 4.0, WPF, Silverlight 2, ASP.NET and jQuery, among others.

Guthrie announced that attendees would receive a CTP of Visual Studio 2010, the first public release of the upcoming version of Microsoft's flagship IDE. The new version, Guthrie said, was built using WPF and will enable new features such as multi-monitor support, richer code-editing and refactoring support. Richer code visualization is also promised.

The features are built under a new component model called the Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF), which Guthrie said will provide "the ability for you to very easily assemble applications from extensions and to be able to dynamically add extensions from within applications." According to Guthrie, MEF will enable developers and ISVs to plug their own functionality into Visual Studio, a prospect that will enable "really interesting scenarios and a tremendous amount of agility," Guthrie said.

The .NET Framework got ample attention in Guthrie's presentation, as well. He emphasized performance improvements delivered by the recent .NET 3.5 SP1 release, which Guthrie said provides existing .NET applications a 40 percent boost in cold-startup performance. He also highlighted streamlined installations, both of the .NET Framework itself on unequipped machines, and of individual .NET applications. .NET 3.5 SP1 will be built into Windows 7, Guthrie said.

Looking forward to .NET 4.0, Guthrie promised enhancements to WPF, including the addition of multi-touch and Deep Zoom support. He also called out the addition of dynamic language runtime (DLR) support for C# and other historically static programming languages.

Also announced was the release of the new WPF toolkit that works with .NET 3.5 SP1 across all supported versions of Windows. The toolkit includes new data grid, date picker and calendar controls, as well as support for Visual State Manager, which allows "the exact same control templates that you built with Silverlight for WPF, including support within Expression Blend as well as our developer tools." Visual State Manager enables developers to easily define and tune the behavior of controls in response to specific states.

Guthrie also announced the final release of the open source jQuery JavaScript library for ASP.NET. jQuery is being released under the permissive Ms-PL license.

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