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Some takeaways from Bill Gates’ finale

Bill Gates just finished what Microsoft has billed as his last public speech as a company full timer. Gates is stepping down from day-to-day involvement as of July 1.

At TechEd 2008 part one (for developers) Gates hit on some familiar themes and presided over demos of upcoming modeling, database, and development technologies.

Not coincidentally, a lot of time was spent on software modeling (IBM Rational, the leader in enterprise-class modeling is hosting its own conference just miles away from TechEd’s Orlando venue. Accident? Plan? My money’s on the latter.)

Some scheduling tidbits from the keynote: Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 is due in August, Silverlight 2 beta 2 is due by the end of the week (with Go Live license); SQL Server 2008 release “within a month or two.” The Microsoft Sync Framework will be released in the third quarter and will support for the FeedSync open protocol format on devices. A CTP for Windows Mobile support will also be available in the third quarter 2008. Expect to hear more about next-gen “Oslo” modeling tools at the Professional Developers Conference next fall.

 Some recurring themes: Gates stressed again that all Windows server functionality will be mirrored in analogous services. He also reiterated (again!) that Exchange Server will some day rely on a SQL data store and that SharePoint, which already uses that store to some extent, will get even deeper integration with it over time. “SharePoint is already using SQL in a very rich way and we will expose more to the SharePoint developer,” he said.

Modeling stuff:

Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry demonstrated development modeling techniques in Visual Studio Team Foundation that would let the developer check his code against a visual representation of the application. The diagram would depict which parts of the app work on the client (thick or thin) and which on the server.

In theory these tools would enable developers to work in a scenario tailored to their needs or persona (shades of the Office user experience spiel here.)

What WAS clear is that he talked about how developers will be able to develop for outside databases (namely IBM’s DB2 database) without leaving the Visual Studio IDE. Hmm. Take that IBM!

Database stuff:

As Microsoft has said, SQL Server 2008 will add support for geospatial and other visually-oriented data types. Technology fellow Dave Campbell talked up the nascent SQL Server Data Services as part of the company’s strategy of putting data where it most makes sense. SSDS, running on Microsoft infrastructure, can act as a data hub for information flowing in from wherever and can sync up using the aforementioned sync framework with local data.

Campbell built a blogging app on the fly, incorporating a digital photo taken of him onstage. Because of its database roots, this application and its underlying data can be protected using SQL Server strictures. And, contributors can be paid for their contributions using the database’s native transactional capabilities.

Overall development stuff:

S. Somasegar stressed again that developers in the Microsoft sphere will be able to apply their existing skill sets “and frankly their code anywhere.”

Silverlight suits app development for browser clients while the Windows Presentation Foundation — which Gates called a “perfect superset” of Silverlight —  can take full advantage of fatter Windows clients.

“You can do great things in Silverlight, but there will always be things in WIFE that you cannot do in Silverlight. WPF assumes the full power of the PC, not just the browser. Think 3-D thinks like ink recognition or playing video back at arbitary speeds. WPF connects into all of Windows.”

Somasegar presided over a demo of Crossfader, a social networking application being built with Silverlight. It promises to enable development of apps that share digital music, pictures, videos using a visual, moving conveyor belt interface.

Somasegar said overall development for this app will take three months, compared to over a year if developers used older tools.

Barbara Darrow can be reached at

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