Would you bet on WPF, Silverlight or HTML5?

There’s nothing like someone saying some technology is “dead” to really create a storm. It’s even more of a controversial thing when it’s said by a former Microsoft Product Manager for Silverlight about what many consider a key technology for Microsoft i.e. WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation).

Scott Barnes, made some interesting statements on where he thought WPF, Silverlight and HTML5 were headed in the overall Microsoft Strategy. His overall assertion was that WPF was on a road to nowhere and that most of the internal love was for Silverlight and increasingly for HTML5. This even prompted Scott Guthrie of Microsoft who manages the teams that builds these products to state

scottgu

I have no special insight into whether Scott Barnes is right and I’ve no reason to believe that someone as respected and trusted as “The Gu” is not being honest.

My own insight and thoughts on this, with 20 years experience, in the technology/software industry is that I would be very surprised if there weren’t tensions between product groups at Microsoft. I think that is the nature of a large corporate business like Microsoft and I’m sure the Windows 7 team doesn’t like the Managed Code .NET teams and possibly views it with suspicion. It might explain the reason that we’ve not seen any WPF app built into Vista/Windows 7. I have previously blogged and stated at Microsoft Partner  meetings why Microsoft wasn’t porting more of it’s own apps to WPF? Something even as less controversial as Windows Live Messenger remains as a standard Windows app.

Betting on technologies is what we do and we do it for and with our customers everyday. I know that often the range of technologies/solutions from Microsoft are quite large but from my experience customers do need choice as to how they build solutions. Even if Microsoft had only one way to build apps then people are sill faced with a wide choice of building software whether that be Java, PHP, C/C++, Python, Ruby, Objective C, Adobe Air and running it on different platforms.

The fundamental principle behind WPF/Silverlight that we needed to bridge the gap between UI designers and developers was a sound one, and that by having a declarative language like XAML we could do valuable stuff easily/quickly without hardcore programming in C# or VB.NET was absolutely right. It’s true to say that we haven’t seen a huge rush for people to build WPF apps and that Silverlight has probably been more successful. I have just installed the new Seesmic Desktop 2 Beta which is built on the out of browser Silverlight capability.

There is now talk of HTML5 killing Silverlight and I guess by inference Adobe Flash as well and I saw an article today saying whether it will kill Javascript. It is with little doubt that HTML5 is going to be a very important move in web based applications. HTML is a funny old beast! It’s one of those technologies which was designed to give a very basic user experience because we are essentially working with the lowest common denominator to get a uniform experience, i.e uniformly bad!!. We then had more stuff pushed to the browser with Flash for more interactive experiences and then AJAX and more recently Silverlight. HTML5 is still developing as a specification whereas Silverlight is here and now and provides a great set of developer/designer tools and capabilities.

Obviously, we have some “big beasts” backing HTML5 such as Apple & Google. Microsoft cannot be seen to backing away on HTML5 because it’s been there and done that before. That’s why it’s been quick to release the public beta of IE9.

So, which do you back? Well, I think it does really depend but it’s still a very good bet to be backing Microsoft technologies!

SMBs Still Wanting to Buy Servers?

With all the talk about “Cloud Computing” at the moment you’d almost be forgiven that SMBs would be dumping physical server purchases by the bucket load to move to the new promise land of public cloud services!

This is one case of where the hype does not match the reality as highlighted by this article on the Windows Server Division Weblog, which points out recent IDC stats showing the biggest year-on-year server shipments in more than 5 years! As the article points out is that this is explained by the fact that businesses are in a different stages of their adoption of cloud services. A typical Microsoft Small Business Server is a multi-role solution within a single physical server and even shifting email services to Gmail or BPOS, still leaves you with file sharing, identity management/security, print sharing, remote access & possibly remote access, software deployment, policy management of desktops and possibly some line of business application (LOB). You could move your storage to the cloud as well and sync the data locally and there are solutions to do that but about your LOB? It might well be a bespoke solution which is not untypical in many businesses and so there might not be a cloud service doing quite what you want.

Sure, the cloud market is going to grow dramatically in SMB but there is going to be a process of organisations shifting to that gradually. There is still demand for physical servers as SMBs adopt virtualisation as they need new hardware capable of supporting virtualisation technologies from VMWare and Microsoft to do this.

Microsoft’s move to providing Azure as a platform for providing an environment to build cloud services is absolutely right because competitors like Google, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com and others are pushing hard on this.

The Microsoft Web Platform & Increasing Revenue

It’s no secret that I am fan of Microsoft technologies but there is no point in being a fanboy of a technology if it’s not delivering for your clients and ultimately for you as a business. It’s always great, when as a business owner, you can deliver a solution that makes a fundamental impact for your client and allows them to grow their business and be more successful. This is one of those occasions that I’d like to share.

Last year we started working with a company in Luton which provides car parking facilities for the popular Luton Airport. The car parking is provided offsite and is just outside the perimeter of the airport. It’s a competitive business and relies on taking much of it’s bookings online. It is therefore imperative that the business has an efficient and usable site.

Our client had a website but it was an old site which had been developed in ASP and used SQL Server 2000 as the backend database. It was hosted by a relatively unknown company which didn’t deliver the best service in the world. The website could only be accessed by Internet Explorer because key parts of it were implemented using VB Script. The payment system was integrated through to SagePay and there was a VB Basic application which the staff ran to access bookings from the SQL Server. It was a system that was not scalable and not reliable as the site would often stop connecting to database (at least once a week). This could only be fixed by a support email to the hosting company, who would reply with saying it was fixed but never said what the problem was or how to resolve it permanently. The system was no longer supported by the original developers.

Our client recognised all these issues and that it was holding their business back and had employed a relatively large IT/Software outsourcing business to develop a new site for them. This business failed to deliver and produced virtually nothing after 12 months and a serious of money having been spent.

Having eventually approached us, that is Ardent iSys, we embarked on a complete redevelopment of the site. We chose to develop the site using ASP.NET MVC 1.0, JQuery and SQL Server 2008. The aim was to put the entire business online, so that the backend booking management could be accessed via the browser as well. We moved the hosting to iomart using two dedicated servers running Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 on the second server. This gave significant scalability and the possibility of hosting multiple sites on this platform/configuration. Since deployment at the beginning of the year there has been zero downtime due to platform issues and the hosting is backed by SLAs. The costs have risen for the hosting but this is well worth the money for having your business up and running all the time. The new site can be found at http://www.airportcarparkz.com and is a complete end to end development by Ardent iSys including the site design. This site was developed in about a 6 month period and since going live has functioned without any critical issues or causing the business to be offline for any time at all. The site can now be accessed via any browser and as we are using ASP.NET MVC we will eventually make the site W3C compliant. We are working on a new site design which is why we haven’t made the site fully W3C compliant at the moment. Gone are the days when Microsoft Web technology was the poor mocked cousin when it came to web standards.

The most important thing is that the new site is competing with some of our client’s bigger car parking competitors and after seeing the site they have started to get in touch with our client. The traffic to the site jumped rapidly after initial launch as people were able to use different browsers. Bookings have been steadily climbing and the search engine ranking of the site has gown as well. During the last few months traffic to the site has risen again by 40% and the revenue is greater than at anytime during the businesses existence.

There are plans to add a content management system, provide business reports from SQL Server about bookings and build an affiliate programme. The site is no longer a block to growing the business and our client can now concentrate on building and further growing revenue and profitability. They now know they have a technology solution that can deliver for them a Microsoft partner who can make that happen for them.

We are now developing a new site for a holiday business for this client which will be developed using ASP.NET MVC 2.0 and hosted on the same platform.

Sharepoint 2010 Evolution Conference

SharePoint 2010 Evolution Conference

19th – 21st April 2010 – London, UK

This 3 day SharePoint 2010 Evolution Conference consists of over 70 Sessions dedicated to IT Pro’s/Developers/Designers/Information Workers/Business Adoption and Power Users and with a new Deep Dive 400 track and 5th Power User Track added this is set to be Europe’s Premier SharePoint Conference for 2010!

Why you should attend the SharePoint Evolution Conference…

1. The conference is dedicated to SharePoint

2. Born from the very successful Best Practices conference in 2009 hailed by many as the best SharePoint conference ever.

3. Sessions list second to none, speaker list second to none.

4. 55 Expert SharePoint speakers from Microsoft and well known companies. Never before has such a group of talented speakers like this been brought together.

5. 75 breakout sessions all being recorded and post conference DVD sent out afterwards. 90 sessions including the community track !!

6. The Conference is in April 2010 it won’t just be a re-hash of the SharePoint Conference from Las Vegas in 2009. There will be lots of new content with new things to show.

7. Session tracks for all from IT Pro’s, Developers, End Users to Business and project managers. 6 tracks in total.

8. Appeals to all verticals including education, government and local councils.

9. Just Announced – A new 6th Track for the SharePoint Community – Speakers from the community presenting real world SharePoint scenarios. New for 2010

10. Ask the experts panel – Get a chance to see the best in business in one panel to try and stump with a question.

11. Only £695 for the three, days bulk discount available for multiple tickets.

12. Prize draw giveaway every week to win prizes for people registering.

13. Great hotel deals and easy to reach from anywhere in the World.

14. Great Exhibitor hall with the top SharePoint vendors to interact with.

15. Fantastic Conference Party – New for 2010

16. Exhibitor evening and SharePint event in Central London

New Community Track

This track has sessions for all verticals and will include speakers from all types of companies who have implemented SharePoint and what they learnt by doing so. All speakers are actively engaged in the SharePoint community and user group and have a wealth of knowledge to share.

To register: www.sharepointevolutionconference.com

Whitehouse.gov moves to Drupal

This has been big news recently that Whitehouse.gov has moved to using the Opensource Drupal system. The Opensource advocates have been pretty excited that this heralds a new dawn in deploying Opensource solutions in Government.

I am not saying that Drupal is a bad choice and in many ways it makes sense. Tim O’Reilly as always has a great overview of this decision. I don’t really know anything about Drupal and I am not against using Opensource as this blog and the Ardent iSys site uses Wordpress which is a great solution for content managed sites.

However, what seems to have been lost is that another high profile US Government site actually went from using Drupal to using Sharepoint, namely the Recovery.gov site which is meant to highlight how the stimulus money is being spent by the US Government. It is interesting to read the reasons for this choice although this switch has not been cheap costing $18 million. However, I have not heard how much the Whitehouse site switch cost?

SBS 2008 Courses

Implementing and Administering Windows Small Business Server 2008 (4 Days) Various Dates and Locations

This hands-on workshop provides students with the necessary knowledge to plan and implement Windows Small Business Server 2008. Students gain first-hand knowledge on topics such as installing, migrating, monitoring, securing, and backing up data. £200 per delegate.  Register Here

London 26th Oct, East Midlands 9th Nov, London 30th Nov

Implementing and Administering Windows® Essential Business Server 2008 (4Days)Various Dates and Locations

This hands-on workshop provides students with the necessary knowledge to plan and implement Windows Essential Business Server 2008. Students gain first-hand knowledge on topics such as installing, migrating, monitoring, securing, and backing up data. £200 per delegate. Register Here

London 26th Oct, Edinburgh 2nd Nov

Varvid Videos from WPC

Aaron Booker has done it again with some great video interviews from the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in New Orleans. Check out the whole collection at Varvid. Aaron has also got an interview with Birger Steen – VP of Microsoft SMB Division who has just been appointed to this role. Nice one Aaron again :-)

NetlinkIT Windows 7 Video Case Study

I just saw this at the UK SBSC Blog and just had to share. Richard Tubb, owner of NetlinkIT and member of AMITPRO, has a great Windows 7 Video Case Study produced by Microsoft showcasing how some of his customers are using it within their businesses.

Great work from Rich to get this exposure for himself, his business and his customers. He’s currently at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans and you can follow him at his blog or on twitter.

It goes to show you the great FREE PR you can get when engaging proactively with Microsoft!!

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conf 2009

The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2009 starts today and is on until 16th July. You can watch the keynotes live at http://www.digitalwpc.com. It’s also nice to see that on the homepage of the Digital WPC site they are tracking tweets with the WPC09 hashtag.

The Midlands SBS Group Leader, Steve Wright, who is also one of the new SBSC PALs for the UK has some videos of his WPC09 experience in New Orleans so check that out as well on his blog or on twitter.

So the things I’m expecting to be announced are :

  • More details as to the new Microsoft Partner Programme
  • Windows 7 (will they announce RTM?)
  • Sharepoint Server 2010
  • Office 2010
  • Silverlight 3 (already released but expecting more announcements around it)
  • Visual Studio 2010?
  • Pricing details of Azure? ( …or will they leave that until PDC?)

These are some of the things I’m expecting, so we’ll see over the coming days.

Scott Guthrie’s Silverlight 3 London .NET UG Talk Now Online

Scott Guthrie’s talk at the London .NET User Group last week about the newly release Silverlight 3 is now online.

You can check the video out here and comes courtesy of Ian Smith at http://twitter.com/irascian

Thanks to him for recording these and putting them online. They are in three parts.

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