MIX 07: Wrapping Up and Returning to Earth
by John Osborn
The 72-hour conversation known as MIX 07 is over, and I'm home again, with a real lawn that's filled with unplanned violets and dandelions and neighbors who are still asleep when I step outside to pick up the morning paper.
What's the right Las Vegas image to press into service as metaphor for this "game changing" event, as Ray Ozzie and many bloggers have called MIX 07? The mouse colored hills and flats that give way to the flashing lights of Las Vegas Boulevard (aka "the Strip") as you descend into McCarren Airport? The piles of chips changing hands at the Venetian's roulette tables 24/7? The nearly full moon above MIX party-goers on the Roof of the Pure Nightclub at Caesar's Palace on Tuesday night? The electronic din and the crowds milling about the Treasure Island casino at 2:30 a.m. as I headed for the airport shuttle Thursday morning?
Any of the above would do. But for me, the memory that stands out is a human one: the near standing ovation the 4000 conference attendees gave Scott Guthrie, General Manager of the group responsible for ASP.NET 2.0, ASP.NET AJAX, and now Silverlight, when he walked onstage at the Monday keynote to take the audience through the major announcements of the day.
Over the past few years, Scott has emerged as one of the most prolific and accessible of Microsoft's bloggers, even as his responsibilities have increased. Like many of my peers, I often find myself going first to his site for a concise technical synopsis whenever a major announcement is made. You could sense a genuine warmth in the applause (and cheers, even) which took several moments to abate. What did it mean ? It struck me as both an appreciation for Scott as a person and for the steady stream of new frameworks and tools the UI Frameworks and Tools team he leads has released to the Microsoft developer community as the web has evolved.
The real star of MIX 07, of course, is the Silverlight 1.1 Alpha (formerly known as "Codename WPF/E"), a new version of Microsoft's cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in for delivering so-called Rich
- a refactored version of the .NET CLR, with memory management, garbage collection, managed exception handling, and just-in-time compiler and execution engine;
- a subset of the .NET base class library, including the type system, collections, IO, support for isolated storage, regular expression engine, reflection, and so on;
- a feature-rich presentation framework, as you would expect; but it's worth noting that while Silverlight 1.1 will support custom controls, early versions do not include a ready-to-use control library
- a data framework, including LINQ and XML support; and
- a communications framework that ultimately will include support for web services, Atom/RSS and more.
You program a Silverlight application with either C# or Visual Basic, or with one of the dynamic languages announced at MIX. IronPython, IronRuby JScript (a new ECMA 3.0 compliant version), or VBx (Visual Basic 10, which will include new dynamic programming features).
To get yourself up to speed on what all the excitement's about, I'd start first with the Scott Guthrie interview on Channel 9 and then take a look at the SilverLight Architecture article on MSDN , a good overview of what's included. Check out the handy visual it provides showing the differences between the Silverlight 1.0 and 1.1 packages. Also, check out the great Microsoft Silverlight 1.1 Developer Reference poster, which maps the collection of technologies and products lined up to support the new platform.
If you want to see slides and demos, there are some excellent developer breakout sessions posted at the MIX 07 site including (sorry, no direct links available):
- DEV 07 and DEV 22: Building Silverlight Applications Using .NET (Parts 1 and 2)
- DEV10: Extending the Browser Programming Model with Silverlight
To see the complete list of developer sessions, go to the MIX 07 sessions page, select "MIX07" as the conference, "Breakout" as the session type, and "Developer" as the track type.
Finally, don't forget to check out the new O'Reilly Short Cut, Getting Started with Silverlight, by Microsoft MVP and Silverlight insider Shawn Wildermuth.
In a MIX session that he led with Matt Gibbs (co-author of the O'Reilly ASP.NET AJAX UpDate Panel Short Cut and member of of the ASP.NET AJAX team ), Jeff Prosise, a Wintellect co-founder and consultant, said we would all remember MIX 07 as a revolutionary moment, the time "when the way we program the web changed." We'll have to leave that judgment to the future, but in bringing a new programming model to the table, Microsoft has at least broadened the web development game for everyone, regardless of your current platform of choice. And for Microsoft developers, Silverlight brings more than a measure of salvation, validating their investment in .NET technologies and tools and opening a way forward for them to lead the revolution as applications move from the traditonal Windows desktop to the web.