Tuesday, March 21st, 2006
The Ajaxians are at Microsoft’s Mix conference this week. Mix is a new event for Microsoft, designed to target those folks who aren’t the typical attendee of a Microsoft show. The content is basically a primer of what Microsoft is up to, focusing on IE7 and Avalon (WPF). Plenty of other news outlets are covering Microsoft’s announcements at the show, and frankly, most of the content isn’t new material, but there are a couple of items we want to highlight:
First, Microsoft announced the release of a “go-live” license (effectively immediately) for Atlas to accompany the latest beta (“CTP” in Microsoft-speak) release, making it legal to use in production and bringing it one step closer to final release.
Second, today Microsoft gave out more information on their “WPF/E” (Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere) product, the portable subset of Avalon (i.e., WPF) that is positioned as a Flash-killer. Here’s what we learned:
- WPF/E allows a subset of XAML to be rendered in a browser on IE and Firefox on Windows and Safari (Firefox?) on OS X (Linux and Solaris support uncertain).
- This subset consists of a pretty impressive set of functionality, including: 2D vector graphics, advanced text rendering, audio/video playback, imaging, animation, and advanced composition of graphical elements. In short, all of the pretty eye-candy coming in the new WinFX APIs with the exception of 3D graphics and the Metro document rendering (i.e., MSFT’s PDF killer; my my, they are really going after Adobe, aren’t they?).
- WPF/E will also include a standard controls library as well as layout managers. Controls will be extensible; custom layout managers will likely not be supported.
- WPF/E is targeting a beta release for 3Q 2006 and a final release in the first half of 2007.
- WPF/E includes a port of a portion of the .NET run-time, meaning it can execute C# and VB.NET on platforms other than Windows. This is interesting news for folks clamoring to have .NET ported to non-Windows platforms. However, because WPF/E does not include the standard .NET run-time class libraries, its ability to execute .NET code is fairly inhibited. WPF/E will ship with a specialized small set of class libraries designed just to serve the needs of WPF/E development.
- The anticipated size of the WPF/E run-time will be 2 MB or less. Microsoft side-stepped questions about their distribution plans for the plug-in; their only real statement on the subject was that they hope the plug-in achieves ubiquity (no kidding).
- Someone asked about SVG and WPF/E, but Microsoft side-stepped the question entirely.
- WPF/E uses its own video playback engine for video-related content; it does not rely on Quicktime on the Mac or Windows Media Player on Windows.
- A mobile devices version of WPF/E is targeted for 2Q 2007.
The demos of WPF/E were very impressive. On both Windows and OS X (and in multiple browsers) Microsoft showed video content and interactive 2D vector content being rendered quickly and smoothly — the rendering performance seemed at least as good as Flash.
With Microsoft’s new suite of designer tools targeting XAML as an output format, and WPF/E as a cross-platform, cross-browser delivery platform for that content, it will be interesting to watch how Ajax versus Flash versus WPF/E plays out in the marketplace, and how all these technologies are used to complement each other as time marches on.
Posted by Ben Galbraith at 8:15 pm