Bill Gates had an audience of thousands rolling in the aisles last week at the 2005 Microsoft Professional Developer’s Conference at the sold-out (and occasionally power-outaged) Los Angeles Convention Centre . The software giant’s chairman did this by dressing up even nerdier than usual, getting dragged on roller skates behind a bicycle, doing the grand mal dance and, at the end, receiving a geek-slap after an argument over who had the fastest reflexes.
The slapper of the world’s richest man was none other than nerd cult classic Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder, who featured in a video with Gates (although that part of the video has been cut out of the recording of the keynote on Microsoft’s website). He had been recruited to put a human touch to an otherwise humdrum presentation by Gates that looked back and summarised what had happened since the “most important” PDC 2000. At that conference, Microsoft announced a move away from the existing Win32 platform and towards its .Net development strategy, with XML and web services as two of the pillars.
Gates and fellow executive Jim Allchin enlisted the help of Microsoft in-house developers during their keynotes to demonstrate new technologies that the Redmond software house promises will increase programmer productivity. Less code means more work done faster was the general message, which an appreciative audience lapped up with applause. It was apparent from the demos that Microsoft’s focus is to deliver an integrated solution ranging from the desktop to mobile devices and the server side, with consistent APIs and user experience. To this end, Microsoft intends to release Windows Vista and Office 12 at the same time, which is said to be second quarter of 2006.
Another big push this year is for developers to simplify now over-complex interfaces for end users. Microsoft VP Chris Caposella showed off some drastic but common-sense changes to the Office interface, designed to help users actually find all the features that they want to use, but currently assume don’t exist because they are so hard to locate.
Sean McBreen, Microsoft NZ’s director of developer and platform strategy says the Shaky Isles contingent at PDC was about four times the usual size, with about 15 developers and architects attending from well-known services companies such as Intergen, Gen-i, Simpl and Jade.
PDC this year also saw Microsoft release many products on a broader front than usual, including Office 12, its entry into the graphics designer market, Expression, programming language innovation such as LINQ for integrated SQL database queries, and of course, further details on Windows Vista. A special PDC build of the next-generation operating system was also released to developers.
Saarinen attended PDC as a guest of Microsoft NZ. More of his PDC articles will feature in next week's Computerworld