This was PDC week for Microsoft - this is their annual software development conference, and single best place to glimpse the future of software development according to Microsoft. This year's big splashes came from Azure (Microsot's cloud computing platform), C# 4.0, and Windows 7 (I still can't believe they're really calling it "7").
In all cases, we got to see a little more detail about these platforms, but there weren't too many real surprises. Azure seems to have been met with guarded enthusiasm, tempered by the fact that Microsoft didn't realease *any* pricing information *at all*, so we've got an offering that could be really, really powerful, but nobody knows how to make a business case for it. Sigh.
I think it's also worth mentioning the fact that there's been no mention whatsoever of any ability to run Azure services on your enterprise infrastructure. Microsoft's done hosted services before, but this is the first time - ever - when there wasn't an equivalent-or-better software package that you could run in your own datacenter if you're so inclined. This is big, and it dropped without so much as a ripple in the tech community.
Next up: C#. Definitely some cool stuff here, led by all the dynamic language support. I'm a little perplexed, though - of the hundreds of articles I've read, from dozens of bloggers, is nobody but me completely baffled at the absense of support for PHP?
Has nobody else noticed the massive number of plugins for blogging platforms like Drupal and WordPress? Wouldn't you love to be able to extend your apps by dropping some of those plugins into your application? These plugins are the closest thing the Web's got to VB 1.0's VBX's, and we can't touch them from a .Net platform. Yes, I know about Phalanger, but there's just not enough momentum behind that project to make me feel warm and fuzzy. Just like Mono a few years ago, they might make it, and they might not, but they'd surely thrive if Microsoft would throw them a bone. Really disappointing.
Last, but not least is Windows 7. I'm really encouraged by the consensus opinion that "7" is Vista done right. As much as we've come to rely on the Web as our computing fabric, I'm still aware that the OS can still have a mighty effect on our experience as power users. I really think that Microsoft is coming to grips with the idea that they're losing market share both on the low end (from Linux) and on the high end (from Macs).
Given the fact that Microsoft is going to have to keep a version of XP kicking around and selling it for peanuts in order to hold the low end, I'm not sure it's a big loss to them to let that go, but they should be scared as hell that they're losing the high end. I've seen more than one developer claim that Macs (with virtualized Windows) are the best places to develop not only Mac software, but also Windows software. Be afraid, Microsoft! Be very afraid. Windows 7 had better stop this bleeding, and soon.
If all this sounds a little negative, it's because I think that despite the great stuff that made it to PDC, there were a couple of places where Microsoft stopped just short of a home run, and I would've loved to see them swat one out of the park.