Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Random thoughts on Mix06, WTF is WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), the "Multimedia Web" and other stuff...

I've been pretty bad about this whole blogging thing. I'm finding that it really does take a big commitment to do. Lately I've been in a slump and haven't felt the passion or desire to write up anything new or insightful. Its probably all the traveling that's been stopping me from being able to slow down and reflect. I'm just not totally used to being on the road again 60%+ of the time.

Its also a struggle for me to figure out what type of "noise to signal" ratio that I want to achive with this blog. Or maybe it really doesn't matter, since I'm frankly mostly writing this for my own personal sake/sanity.

One thing that I discovered while researching some of the players in our space was PBase's Camera Database and Museum (PBase is a really cool, and long standing whom some might consider one of our "competitors", but frankly, I feel like we are really going after a very differenent audience). They have this great setup that is sort of like an IMDB for cameras. I can't help but think there's an awesome opportunity for a mashup to do a sort of a DPreview with a network of photo sites.

I know that as a fairly passionate digital camera user that the actual images shot with the cameras is pretty important to me, problem with most of these sites that enable you to pivot/search on specific cameras is that everyone has different skillsets. But its still interesting to see the number of users that have purchased and actively use specific cameras.

I know this is probably old news for most of you now, but I must say that I was impressed by many of the technologies that were in the MS pipeline that were shown at Mix06. WPF (windows presentation foundation) is absolutely a tech to track.

So WTF is WPF?

Here's a good tid-bit from Wikipedia:

The Windows Presentation Foundation (or WPF), formerly code named Avalon, is the graphical subsystem feature of Microsoft Windows. It will be included in Vista, the next version of the Microsoft Windows operating system. WPF is also available for installation on Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 SP1 as part of WinFX Runtime Components, a managed-code programming suite that extends the Microsoft .NET Framework. It provides a consistent programming model for building applications, whether they are installed on a system or are loaded into a web browser. It also enables richer control, design, and development of the visual aspects of Windows programs. It aims to unify a host of application services: user interface, 2D and 3D drawing, fixed and adaptive documents, vector graphics, raster graphics, animation, data binding, audio and video.

WPF/E is a subset of WPF, and stands for "Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere". It is basically a mobile version of WPF, based on XAML and Javascript. 3D features are not included, but XPS, vector-based drawing, and hardware acceleration, are.

Regardless of how it plays out, by the very nature that it's going to be closely tied to a major MS operating system, any developer that is going to be building something for consumer PCs should keep tabs on the technology. I keep seeing the North Face Demo over and over again with its 3D + video capacities and vector graphics, and everything else that I had already saw in Channel 9, but I am really looking forward to seeing something that goes beyond that. I thought photo triage was pretty cool, but that stuff should be more than a year old now. There must be some really cool stuff in the pipelines form some of the MS ISVs (or at least I hope so ;). WPF (windows presentation foundation) is clearly a powerful technology, and yes, being a Mac fan myself, I recognize a lot of the stuff is already available in OSX (but not all of it). However, 2007 will be an interesting year I think for many vendors (and users) as we start to see the emergence of what I would called the "Multimedia Web." I call it the multimedia web as a reference to the old school definition of the term -- because I remember when the word multimedia were used to describe things that were built for CD-ROMs using something like Macromedia Director or Hypercard/SuperCard/Authorware/whatever (but not so old school as to reference film based slide shows synced to audio -- i.e. BubbleShare zero point oh). At last the web is finally catching up and going far beyond the stuff stuff I remember doing in Macromind (now Macromedia) Director in 1994. The 3D stuff and "ajaxy" interactivity we'll see in UIs in the coming year with WPF and next-gen flash and Ajax apps I think will make for some interesting apps.

Again, I have to say that from what I saw in the demos between sparkle, the layout engine, and other smaller demos of WPF, I walked away impressed by the valiant effort that Microsoft is putting into building a platform on Vista to defend the desktop and in trying keeping the OS a very relevant piece of the puzzle. As an ISV(independent software vendor/developer) myself, I still tend to lean towards building web based applications simply for the bang/buck ratio. However, some of the things I saw with WPF seem to be really blurring the lines between web and desktop -- but only time will tell. Lets hope for Microsoft/future of PC (P)OSes that WPF/Avalon v1.0 doesn't end up like Macromedia's first attempt at creating a more robust UI/app development environment that was Flex (which IMHO, I think has a lot of potential, but just not "there yet").

Since I've been rather lazy about making my blog look pretty, here's a quick album of the Mix06 party that I meant to put up earlier. Scoble, these pix are for you (even though, well, you're not in any of the photos... and neither is bill). ;)


  1. Interesting read Albert, I've always wondered what the next generation of UI for OS/Internet would be like, and I guess its coming pretty soon!

  2. The term Avalon rings a bell. I think I worked on a related project last year in ATI.

    It's true that some of these features existed already in OSX (or did someone mention the Looking Glass project from Sun?), it'd be cool to see what m$ has to offer.