An interview with Bill Gates at PDC 2005

Today's half-hour podcast is an interview with Bill Gates, following a morning of keynotes at the PDC. Topics of discussion include:

The scale of the PDC event is daunting as always, but here are some quick impressions. The demos of Vista in the morning session underwhelmed me because several of the highlights are already available in OS X Tiger: desktop search (Spotlight), the sidebar (Dashboard). What was notable, in Vista's Aero shell, was the ability to "paint metadata" on the display, and adjust views accordingly. This echoes the tagging that's become so popular on the web, and also prefigures the more complete union of manipulation and query that's now presumably slated for a WinFS-equipped post-Vista product.

The Office 12 demos, on the other hand, were quite impressive. The Office team has done a whole lot of analysis of how people fumble around in the various interfaces, and has worked hard to suppress nested menus, put common things onto context-sensitive panes, and most importantly do live previewing of results where possible. So as you hover over a font menu or a chart gallery, the effects are previewed live, before you apply them. This may be the most sensible use of Avalon's graphics engine I've seen, and it's also just a great dynamic approach that you'll expect everywhere once you've gotten a taste of it.

The biggest round of applause, I think, went to Anders Hjelsberg, whose LINQ technoloogy was shown issuing SQL-like queries, as native C# syntax, to query in-memory CLR objects, to query SQL tables, and to perform joins between both. On the XML side, LINQ was used to construct XML, though not to query it -- I'll want to ask Anders about that when we meet later this week.

Don Box and Chris Anderson showed how to encapsulate a LINQ-written RSS 2.0 feed as an Indigo service. One version emitted SOAP, another RESTful POX (plain old XML). Another configuration change, and InfoCard was used for third-party authentication. Finally and delightfully, a JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) transport was specified, to show off how Indigo can do something that's lately become popular in the AJAX world. (Gmail uses JSON, for example.)

The JSON example set things up for Scott Guthrie, who showed how to build an AJAX-style client of the Indigo service using Atlas, the new AJAX framework for ASP.NET. Notable here was the way in which VS.NET provided the same kind of Intellisense features client-side, for the JavaScript object model, as was used on the server side in C#.

I'm seeing lots of pragmatism and a fair bit of agnosticism here, and it's refreshing. There will always be second-guessing about the extent to which Windows and Office can continue to dominate as they have in the past, and I'm certainly one of those second guessers. Only time will tell. Meanwhile, there are lots of good ideas bubbling up. And as a Swedish developer I had breakfast with said, there's a new sense of collaboration between Microsoft and its developers. That certainly bodes well for all concerned.

Former URL: