Every year, there's one underlying theme that seems to be pushed in the technology arena more than anything. This year, I feel like it's the year of the cloud. The last time I did this was five years ago, so I'll have to back-fill a few years, but here are the themes I've noticed over the past 11 years.
- 2008: Year of the Cloud
- 2007: Year of User Experience
- 2006: Year of AJAX/Web 2.0
- 2005: Year of SaaS
- 2004: Year of Offshore Outsourcing
- 2003: Year of the Architect
- 2002: Year of Web Services
- 2001: Year of XML/.NET
- 2000: Year of Enterprise Java
- 1999: Year of Linux
- 1998: Year of the Web
It's easy to look back and see how we got here. Trends show that architectural changes typically take two or three years to gain momentum in the community, so we'll probably have a couple of years before the next major architecture peaks. The trend towards distributed computing has grown more and more, but I have a feeling things are going to start coming back a little. We've been pushing out to the web for a lot of reasons; one of which is the rise of the Mac. What we've been losing out on, however, is the power of the desktop. I see the S+S push to continue, but more as an underlying theme than a strong focus. Services will continue to be the foundation, maintaining the importance of cloud computing, but the desktop will be where the processing occurs. I see Silverlight proving a huge success, which will eventually bring .NET to the Mac. This will probably bring Novell and Microsoft a little closer together, with respect to Microsoft's relationship with Mono, but this may simply be a change in focus for Mono. Oh, and when I say, "bring .NET to the Mac," I'm not talking about the scaled-down version in Silverlight. I'm talking about the real deal. I see WPF and Silverlight merging along with the smart client architecture built into .NET today. This will take more than a few years, but it seems to be inevitable. Most likely, by the time all this happens, multi-core will be a way of life, as opposed to the we-should-be-thinking-about-threading thoughts most developers have today. Armed with a strong multi-threaded foundation, which is easy to use, the combined WPF/Silverlight presentation tier will quickly overtake Flash and Air. By this time, we should also start to see more integration into our everyday lives...
Okay, I'm probably getting a little out of hand here. If I go much further, we're going to be on the USS Enterprise, so I'll stop while I'm ahead. I'll just leave it at, it'll be interesting to see what's next. My money's on the power of the desktop, which we've lost over the past 10 years.
Yesterday, the IE team posted a comment about what's next for IE8. I didn't get much out of this except for the fact that the next set of bits will be available in early 2009 and will include all the major enhancements, which includes feature adds and performance tweaks -- and let's hope they're significant because IE8b2 is slower than IE7 for me. It sounds like this next release will be a release candidate (RC), but that statement was very non-commital, so it may end up being beta 3. Either way, it sounds like this next one will be the last pre-release before the final version. There's still no word on when that will be, but with speculation that Windows 7 will be out in late 2009, it would make a lot of sense to see it just a little earlier than that release, so it's bundled with the new OS.
I won't confirm or deny anything about what I've heard about the Windows 7 release, but IE8 has most definitely slipped past internal deadlines. I know the team has thought about IE9, but as we drive past one milestone after another for IE8, there's no telling when that'll happen -- not that I don't have a guess I can't say I'm surprised, tho. The timelines I saw for IE8 and 9 were very ambitious; especially, when you consider how long it took IE7 to come to market. Of course, that comes more from neglect than anything. I should say that those timelines were very rough and only touched on some high level things to look forward to. What's surprised me with IE8 so far is that it's missing one of the things I could swear I heard about over a year ago. Maybe it was pushed back -- although, I didn't see it in the IE9 slide deck -- or maybe I'm just crazy. Either way, I hope it sees the light of day, because it sounded extremely exciting from a productivity standpoint.
In the past, many have talked about the desktop vs. cloud wars -- is it really a "war?" -- by comparing productivity suites like Microsoft Office and Google Apps. People have had a lot of speculation about what web apps are capable of and what is truly needed when it comes to admittedly bloated apps, like Microsoft Word; but this is the first time I think we've seen two "friendly" competitors go head-to-head: Google Apps and OpenOffice. I say, "friendly," but use that term relatively loosly. Google is very open source friendly and some may say they operate in the spirit of open source, but there's a big difference between free and "open source." Either way, the results aren't too surprising: Google Apps gets spanked. While nobody has ever said Google Apps was better than Microsoft Office, it's a pretty well known fact that Microsoft Office beats out OpenOffice. Based on the transitive property of inequality, that pretty much says Microsoft Office kicks the livin' hell out of Google Apps. And, with Office Web Access just around the corner, that's pretty much game, set, match on Google Apps. I think Paul Thorrott said it best when he talked about the "small" web-based rich text editor in Office Live and how it was better than what Google Apps had to offer.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against web-based apps. I actually think we're a long way away from hitting the roof of what the web has to offer... and that's just the current incarnation. The platform itself needs another rev or two, tho. In the meantime, I'm excited to see what Google will come back with. We haven't seen Google react to competition much, other than speeding past very little, very sparse competition at 100 miles an hour. Google has vision, but Microsoft is one fierce competitor. The sleeping giant doesn't sleep for long.
Apparently, Sun has switched from bundling the Google Toolbar with their releases to bundling the MSN Toolbar. I'm kind of surprised they aren't using the Windows Live Toolbar, but at the same time, the MSN Toolbar has a much better experience. Whether this was sparked by Google dropping StarOffice like a bad habit or not, it's a win for Microsoft. The toolbar comes with Windows Live Search integration (duh) and, even better, uses Silverlight. There must have been some pretty high-level talks to get this approved because Silverlight is a competitor to the yet-to-be-released JavaFX, so I can't see this going thru just because Google pissed someone off. I have a feeling Sun was just trying to whore themselves out as much as possible. The MSN Toolbar deal only applies to Java downloaded by IE on Windows. Everyone else will keep the Google Toolbar based installer. I know Sun is hurting, so this probably just gives them a chance to pad their slowly declining product line.
Aside from all this, I have to say I hate these things. I wish there weren't deals like this. If you do feel the need to whore yourself out, make it disabled by default. I get aggravated when I see these things as opt-out inclusions. I don't want your crappy toolbar, I don't want an icon on my desktop, I don't want to change my homepage. Get off my freakin' back!!! Bad installer, bad!!!
I've been looking for a screenshot of the on-screen keyboard that comes on the Touch HD for the past few days and have been remarkably unsuccessful. Even the HTC customer support brushed me off. Wow. Luckily, I stumbled on a video that shows how to use an external keyboard. I don't care about the external keyboard, but it does start off by showing the on-screen keyboard. Unfortunately, the keyboard doesn't seem wildly fantastic, but at least it's not as bad as the keyboard on the Blackberry Storm.
If you're not familiar with the Live Search homepage at www.live.com, you should really check it out. It took a long time, but the Windows Live team finally got something out that really looks better than what you'll find on other services. I've always been a fan of the holiday themes Google and Yahoo use, but with the images on Live's homepage, I have to say there's a much better, much more interesting experience. The image changes daily and it comes with 4 or 5 regions of the image that provide some searches related to the image... usually. Sometimes they're a bit off, but other times, they're absolutely great. My favorite was the one from election day. There was a very cute section that said, "U can haz kittenz instead of politishens." Hillarious.
I try to check out the new image every day because they're very nice. I just wish I could save some as my desktop. I also wish they'd archive and make them searchable. I did talk to someone on the team, however, and it sounds like they're looking into both of these options. The issue is the licensing agreement for use of the images. Hopefully, we'll see an update to this soon. Until then, keep a look out for the latest image of the day!
When I first heard that the next version of Windows was going to be Windows "7" -- back when that was just a codename -- I thought, "What? Wait... no!" I don't have a holistic problem with the number. My problem is more with what "Windows 7" was really supposed to be based on early talks. The chatter led me to believe it was going to be a pretty drastic change from where we are today, in the Windows world. I envisioned some drastic changes from the ground up. Then, after a few months, there was talk about the next version of Windows being codenamed Windows "7." Don't get me wrong, I'm as excited about the OS as the next guy, but it just doesn't feel like a major release. The name and version number seem to be more about correcting people's invalid perceptions about the state of Windows than actually being a major version jump. Heck, Microsoft has even waffled on whether this is a major vs. minor release. That still seems more about PR, tho.
If that wasn't enough, there's one thing that really seems to be the final "nail" in the coffin to me: Windows Server 2008 R2 will coincide with Windows 7. An "R2" release, is essentially a major service pack with a couple features thrown in. At least that's my opinion. That's been turned on it's head with the .NET 3.5 and Visual Studio 2008 SP1 of late, but historically, that's how it's worked. Above all, an "R2" release is not a major release. Of course, this isn't the first time Microsoft has fallen into the version number debacle.
Hopefully, nobody else has run into this, but I've hit a bug in PowerPoint that keeps displaying a dialog with the following error message:
The printer "Microsoft XPS Document Writer" cannot be found.
I'm on Vista 64 w/ SP1, but I don't think that has anything to do with it. While there aren't many, I did notice that others have also hit this. The problem is, nobody seems to have found a fix. After talking with people close to the dev team, it sounds like this is a postponed bug. I don't know what they meant by "postponed," other than, "it's not fixed." The work-around is to reinstall the print driver. This surprises me, but there's not much to do about it, I guess. I wouldn't even know where to begin to reinstall the XPS print driver. Whatever. Part of me thinks it has something to do with a malformed PPTX file, but I haven't been able to validate that.
Netflix recently announced a new version of its "Watch Instantly" player that supports both Windows and Mac. I don't quite have much use for the latter, but I have been eagerly awaiting an update to the player. The player is very basic and, while it does what it needs to, it leaves me wanting more. After the announcement, I diligently started watching the a movie. Low and behold, nothing changed. Netflix made a comment about slowly rolling the player out, so I figured I'd just have to wait a little longer. Then, Netflix announced that we could opt-in for the new player ourselves. Score!
Unfortunately, the player doesn't the feature I've wanted the most: the ability to go to the previous and next episodes in a series. I've also wanted subtitles, but that's slightly less important. Beyond that, the player has some nice upgrades, like the still shots shown when you fast forward or rewind. I tend to watch more online than I rent these days, so I'm glad to see the player upgraded and hope they keep at it! I really want to see upgrades to the player a lot more frequently.
I saw something about keyboard shortcuts, but I didn't find anything very useful. I did, however, find a way to get some debug/diagnostic information. If you're interested, simply use Ctrl+Shift+Left Click to see a diagnostic menu with a few options you may or may not be interested in. Nothing too terribly special, tho. I doubt many would even care.
I'm not sure I can buy into this, but supposedly, Microsoft is in talks with RIM (owner of Blackberry) for a potential buy-out. I have to assume this would be riddled with regulatory issues, considering both companies are in the phone business. The key difference is that Microsoft doesn't deal with operations and RIM does. I wouldn't be suprised if there was a 3-way deal, where Microsoft got the device and software and some third party got the operations side of it. I don't know much (read: anything) about their ops, but I'd have to imagine any provider would love this deal.