Category Archives: Silverlight

Microsoft – User Experience @ Vitra

uxv-surface
Photo by Pieter Baert

I just returned from a nice evening in Brussels where Microsoft held a user experience event, showing some of what their technologies have to offer. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised about the whole setup. Nice venue, great food and drink and a nice atmosphere for networking.

While personally I thought the evening was more about vision than actual user experience it was definitely the best Microsoft event I’ve attended so far.

 
Presentations

First session we attended was one on SharePoint — not something I’d normally be looking at but we got to see how you could use it for public facing websites and integrate things like the open source Podcasting Kit for SharePoint.

Next up was the Microsoft partner program and the “Web Solutions Toolkit”. It seemed like quite an interesting offer, though the user experience of their online registration form could be improved quite a bit.

Caught some glimpses of other sessions including Internet Explorer 8, Silverlight, SketchFlow, Windows 7 etc. but the one that really struck me was Microsoft Surface. Its not exactly a brand new product and you’ve all no doubt seen it, but getting hands on with the technology did bring it home how multi-touch interfaces bring a whole new level of interactivity to the table (pun intended).

When using an iPhone or other touch enabled devices you get some idea of what that might be but real a real multi-touch, pressure sensitive and collaborative environment (up to 52 touches in the case of Microsoft Surface) is unlike anything else. Microsoft Surface will soon be available to the general public, but with a price tag of around 12.000 Euro I don’t see it sitting in everyone’s living room quite yet.

With Windows 7 fully multi-touch enabled and multi-touch screens like those by HP soon being a commodity, I see that as a logical first step. While not allowing the full collaborative experience it would allow you to go beyond the realms of the Microsoft Surface SDK and develop using any technology, which I would personally be a lot more interested in.

 
Conclusion

I had the opportunity to talk with Luc van de Velde, Microsoft’s Director of the Developer and Platform Group, mostly on Silverlight and WPF. I’m hearing a “write once, deploy everywhere” story similar to what Adobe is working on, though the definition of everywhere might be slightly different. Designer/developer workflow is another important aspect I see getting addressed, again parallels can be drawn with the Flash Catalyst / Flash Builder 4 approach though in certain areas there I do see Microsoft with somewhat of an advantage.

I sense a change in Microsoft’s marketing of their rich client technologies. Maybe less dominant and more pragmatic, but slowly but surely they’re getting there. My guess is that enterprise is going to be the first battle ground where in my honest opinion Adobe might have a less compelling offering. On the other hand, user experience is still Adobe’s strong suit and I don’t see Microsoft overtaking them there any time soon.

I for one can’t wait to see what innovation the next few years will bring!
 

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Interview with Scott Barnes about Silverlight 3

Scott Barnes, MicrosoftThose of you that follow me on Twitter will no doubt have been witness to some interesting (and sometimes tedious) discussions between myself, other Flash Platform enthusiasts and Scott Barnes of Microsoft. Scott was an ardent supporter of Flex before his move to Microsoft which makes his perspective all the more interesting.

Thought it was worth asking him to answer a few questions about the latest Silverlight developments. As you might imagine I don’t fully agree and sometimes strongly disagree with some of the points he makes, but its an interesting read nonetheless.

 
Thanks for your time Scott, can you introduce yourself and explain a little about your role at Microsoft?
Sure. I’m a Rich Platforms Product Manager, which is a great title to confuse many with. I’m simply part of the WPF & Silverlight team. I used to be the first RIA Evangelist for Microsoft, so it does in part derive from this previous role.

My role varies from month to month as simply due to my background, and I have a wide degree of interaction with not just the WPF & Silverlight teams but other teams within Microsoft. Overall, my main focus is ensuring we’re putting the right features into Silverlight & WPF whilst ensuring we keep a balanced view between designer and developer needs. I’m currently focused on a complete upgrade of our website experiences.

I also spend a great deal of time monitoring and interacting the online/offline developer and designer communities, as I’m constantly searching for evidence on how we can better meet our customers’ needs. Continue reading

Silverlight and the Adobe Creative Suite

If you’ve followed the announcements at MIX09 its hard to deny Microsoft is making some good progress with Silverlight. I was just browsing the session recordings and thought this one was interesting to post up on my blog: “Silverlight and the Adobe Creative Suite”.

I’m happy to see Microsoft realizing that Adobe’s creative suite software is where designers live and don’t make the mistake of trying to force them into a different workflow, so particularly Photoshop and Illustrator import are great features to see implemented.


Get Microsoft Silverlight

I was assured by Microsoft employees any resemblance with Adobe product features is purely coincidental, as I’m sure is the case at 10:30″ where she converts some imported graphics into a working horizontal slider.

When I have the time over the next week or two I’ll do some testing of Silverlight 3, unfortunately the tools shown here only run on Windows but the third party Eclipse Silverlight plugin should come to my rescue (if I can finally get it installed on my Mac that is).

At this time I don’t see any compelling reasons to use Silverlight over the Flash Platform but things are definitely getting closer. If Microsoft ends up with a good development story on Mac I can see myself potentially starting to use it. Long term though, when it comes to enabling creative expression and their commitment to cross platform Adobe still has the edge.

Now with a third party Visual Studio plugin for Flex also out in the wild, I think we’re seeing the beginning of a consolidated effort towards bridging various RIA technologies for the web and the desktop in the different tool sets.