Opinions on Tech Ed Europe 2010

Once again wintery Berlin is the scene for yet another adventure deep in the bowels of Microsoft. Yesterday we discovered about the Windows Phone 7, the future of C# and Workflow 4. Today I was treated to more phone stuff and (amongst others) a hard core OS lecture.

The future of C# is Asynchrony apparently. I’ve always felt all the current Async patterns unjustly interfere in what it is you’re trying to do. I also knew it was possible to write the code to potentially hide that (but writing it yourself sort of defeats the purpose I guess). They’ve decided to add new language constructs to pretty much do exactly what I thought they should do. They’re hiding the callback aspect of an async method and doing a good job of it too. I’ve always felt the problem wasn’t necessarily the callback paraphernalia by the way guys, I always felt it was the disingenuous and indirect way the arguments (state) are passed back and forth into the newly spun up async thread myself.

Windows Phone 7 appears to be a tantalisingly good platform to work with. Strict guidelines and smart lessons learned from (ahem) other mobile platforms make it look like Silverlight has finally found that home it’s been searching for. All of the problems associated with Silverlight in other environments appear to melt away when it’s considered for a mobile platform.

Being at heart a developer, all the power of the Silverlight development tooling makes the Windows Phone 7 platform an extremely attractive option to me. But as DSI’s General Manager is wont to say, there is really no point in investing in this technology unless there is sufficient user uptake. He feels a figure of 30 million subscribers is about right. He certainly knows more about these things then I do. However, I can’t help feeling that the market will go where the features are really.

I saw the gaming platform today as well and it’s pretty damn cool. The excellent and wonderfully entertaining Rob Miles made the most of the rather dour crowd, demonstrating just how relatively straight forward the XNA platform for Windows Phone 7 really is.

So even though, no native development kit is available for the phone and video capture’s not supported in the API and it doesn’t support custom Shaders yet, it still looks like a snazzy development platform. As a result I’m getting an upgrade ASAP and I may start lashing something together myself I think.

To download the SDK is completely free for both Silverlight and XNA they only charge to register once you have something ready to develop on a real phone.

The Workflow Foundation 4 stuff I saw yesterday was about what I’d have expected. It’s been considerably reworked since 3.5. They’ve removed some of the rough edges, but I can’t help feeling it still retains some of the original problems. There’s no rules engine, and no state engine, but it does have an excellent editor and now supports strong typing and of arguments.

I always feel the big problem with business process architectures is the premise that business analysts will be able to (or even want to) directly describe their own workflow. I personally think the real value of a tool like this is, the Business Analyst can easily interpret and verify the developer’s implementation.

Today I was also treated to the wonders of process and thread creation. This was actually a really useful (for me!) seminar. I think the average punter might have not seen the benefit or maybe it might have it put them to sleep. The stuff was complex enough, that a second hour would have been nice too. I can’t help feeling like I missed half of it, as the velocity the seminar was delivered at was mandated by the large amount of complex content to deliver. Still when I wear my super nerd hat, I’ll have to concede it was really interesting.

Tomorrow more Windows Phone 7 stuff and whatever else appears interesting.

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