Microsoft targets Adobe … why?

Adobe’s John Dowdell has the best question (and best set of links) about Microsoft’s new “Blend:” why do it and not support Flash?

Because of what Blend lets Microsoft do: get Macromedia stuff out of the Windows development process.

Huh?

Remember all those “Longhorn rules” posts I made about four years ago? Do you know where they came from?

I do. And I’ll never forget the software development lesson that was harshly handed to me.

Microsofties (before I was an employee) showed me some prototypes of Vista. I didn’t know they were prototypes, though. Later, after becoming a Microsoft employee, I found out that all we really saw were Macromedia Director-based movies.

They looked so cool. Tom Koch, today, and I talked about that MVP meeting where we saw those prototypes and how good they made us feel (almost everything that we saw back then was totally changed in the final release).

This actually was NOT a good thing for Microsoft. Why? Because when you build up expectations and you aren’t able to meet them you look pretty silly.

But behind the scenes things were even worse.

Why? Because executives bought into the Flash and Mirrors song and dance too. They thought what they were seeing was possible.

The problem was, developers weren’t involved. Only people who studied interaction, design, and Macromedia Director.

Problem is, anything you create in Director has to be thrown out and rewritten in C++ (if you work on the Windows team).

That meant a whole bunch of time is wasted, plus it’s very possible that what you are dreaming of is simply not possible. It’s also possible that development teams, that don’t understand interaction design, will change your “experiences” and totally munge things up.

So, could Flash ever be “force fit” to be the UI of Windows? Not according to the engineers who’ve studied the problem.

They needed a system that could be used to design real pieces of Windows, if not the entire UI, and handed off to a developer, or team of developers, without having to have the developers touch the UI at all.

You can see this in my early Channel 9 videos with the Sparkle team (which became “Blend” today).

Blend is based on .NET 3.0, and goes beyond anything possible today in Flash or Adobe products — at least as it comes to the combined design and development team.

I saw how a designer built the original Longhorn clock and a developer coded the interactions behind it using Sparkle in a fraction of the time it would take using other approaches.

Does Microsoft care about cross-platform and all that other stuff? Yeah. But it’s only secondary to Microsoft’s need to make the Windows development process much smoother. The executives never want to go through another schedule slip like they did with Longhorn.

Blend will let the Windows team designers get rid of Macromedia stuff. At least that’s the hype.

How will we know the hype is real? Show me those Vienna prototypes and let me play with them! (Vienna is the code name for the next version of Windows).

UPDATE: TechMeme is all over Expression Blend.

72 thoughts on “Microsoft targets Adobe … why?

  1. Once again Microsoft builds products for Microsoft, the fact that other people outside of Redmond will find these tools useful is a fantastic bonus.

  2. Once again Microsoft builds products for Microsoft, the fact that other people outside of Redmond will find these tools useful is a fantastic bonus.

  3. Quick comment on the use of early Director-ware for Longhorn/Vista.

    To be clear, at the time those prototypes were developed Avalon/WPF was expected to be a core part of the final release of Vista, with some/much of the new UI developed using this new graphics platform. These rich protoypes were generated as much to show the WPF team the kinds of effects and quality that were going to be required from their technology in the final release as they were intended as a vision to energise the team. At the time they definitely provided that energy to the team even if subsequently what was shown wasn’t deliverable. And that lack of deliverability was as much down to WPF being decoupled from Vista as it was to any other failing. It meant a restart of all UI work that expected to use that technology.

    The mistake with the prototypes may have been using them as a sales/marketing tool to an external audience, something MS tends to try and avoid. Internally they definitely helped put the emphasis on quality UI, even if they over promised, which I personally think you can see in the much higher level of finish and interaction experiences in the final release.

    The reality of Windows is that it’s a hugely complicated product and is historically constrained by what it needs to continue to support for legacy reasons both in code and UI. It’s always going to be the case that there are too many expectations put on it and too much disappointment in the final product. The team developing it is always going to try to do too much, and will always get real half the way through when they realise what is realistically deliverable. Maybe next time that process shouldn’t be quite so public.

  4. Quick comment on the use of early Director-ware for Longhorn/Vista.

    To be clear, at the time those prototypes were developed Avalon/WPF was expected to be a core part of the final release of Vista, with some/much of the new UI developed using this new graphics platform. These rich protoypes were generated as much to show the WPF team the kinds of effects and quality that were going to be required from their technology in the final release as they were intended as a vision to energise the team. At the time they definitely provided that energy to the team even if subsequently what was shown wasn’t deliverable. And that lack of deliverability was as much down to WPF being decoupled from Vista as it was to any other failing. It meant a restart of all UI work that expected to use that technology.

    The mistake with the prototypes may have been using them as a sales/marketing tool to an external audience, something MS tends to try and avoid. Internally they definitely helped put the emphasis on quality UI, even if they over promised, which I personally think you can see in the much higher level of finish and interaction experiences in the final release.

    The reality of Windows is that it’s a hugely complicated product and is historically constrained by what it needs to continue to support for legacy reasons both in code and UI. It’s always going to be the case that there are too many expectations put on it and too much disappointment in the final product. The team developing it is always going to try to do too much, and will always get real half the way through when they realise what is realistically deliverable. Maybe next time that process shouldn’t be quite so public.

  5. Robert, if none of Windows has ever been created with any of Microsoft’s commercially-available development tools, why should we believe this is going to change?

    Also, remember how you kept castigating everyone who dared to suggest that developers should wait on adopting MS technologies or tools until they actually ship? Where is the competitive advantage for ISVs who adopted WinFS beta code as part of there infrastructure today?

    MS consistently overpromises and under-delivers, at every level.

    Show me actual shipping bits that offer good balance of cost/return, and I’ll consider using them to build an MS-platform specific desktop offering, as long as the license doesn’t restrict my business model (Hint: This means that I must be able to offer my software under the GPL). From everything I can see today, none of this is very likely.

  6. Robert, if none of Windows has ever been created with any of Microsoft’s commercially-available development tools, why should we believe this is going to change?

    Also, remember how you kept castigating everyone who dared to suggest that developers should wait on adopting MS technologies or tools until they actually ship? Where is the competitive advantage for ISVs who adopted WinFS beta code as part of there infrastructure today?

    MS consistently overpromises and under-delivers, at every level.

    Show me actual shipping bits that offer good balance of cost/return, and I’ll consider using them to build an MS-platform specific desktop offering, as long as the license doesn’t restrict my business model (Hint: This means that I must be able to offer my software under the GPL). From everything I can see today, none of this is very likely.

  7. Youre supposed to be a sharp guy, Scoble. Dont you realize the majority of interactive developers/designers currently working in the industry see right through this crap? Its like youre trying to convince us all that the emperors butt naked ass is the new fashionable rage.

  8. Youre supposed to be a sharp guy, Scoble. Dont you realize the majority of interactive developers/designers currently working in the industry see right through this crap? Its like youre trying to convince us all that the emperors butt naked ass is the new fashionable rage.

  9. Jonas says, “That’s the old linux nerd way of thinking: It *should* be hard.”

    Engineering will always be hard when tackling hard problems. By definition.

    Certainly changes have taken place over the years that affect development time, especially for simple problems. The question is by how much. Blend may affect development time. But time from prototype to production being “greatly shortened” is a bit too optimistic.

  10. Jonas says, “That’s the old linux nerd way of thinking: It *should* be hard.”

    Engineering will always be hard when tackling hard problems. By definition.

    Certainly changes have taken place over the years that affect development time, especially for simple problems. The question is by how much. Blend may affect development time. But time from prototype to production being “greatly shortened” is a bit too optimistic.

  11. Ben says: “WPF/e will NEVER supplant Flash Player as the de facto cross platform, cross browser runtime for dynamic content and media. It simply won’t happen.”

    Right. And Excel will never supplant Lotus 1-2-3 and Word will never supplant WordPerfect and IE will never supplant Netscape and Exchange will never supplant Notes and Windows Server will never supplant Netware and…. MSFT is very very good at sticking with it and (too slowly) getting it right…or at least good enough for most people and businesses. If I were a betting man I’d say it will take MSFT a very long time to “supplant” Flash but they’ll eventually do it.

  12. Ben says: “WPF/e will NEVER supplant Flash Player as the de facto cross platform, cross browser runtime for dynamic content and media. It simply won’t happen.”

    Right. And Excel will never supplant Lotus 1-2-3 and Word will never supplant WordPerfect and IE will never supplant Netscape and Exchange will never supplant Notes and Windows Server will never supplant Netware and…. MSFT is very very good at sticking with it and (too slowly) getting it right…or at least good enough for most people and businesses. If I were a betting man I’d say it will take MSFT a very long time to “supplant” Flash but they’ll eventually do it.

  13. > http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/12/05.html

    Yeah, ok… So standard libraries, toolsets, node-based systems (like werkkzeug, filterforge), O/RM tools, code generators, wrist-friendly languages like Boo doesn’t affect development time, and how much you need to know about low-level details? And prototypes will never be “ported” to actual production?

    That’s the old linux nerd way of thinking: It *should* be hard. Nobody should be able to understand the things I’m doing except a select few, otherwise it just *can’t* be good.

    With more standardized middleware, and less programmers, more projects will be finished on time and on budget. We’re still recovering from a period in time where people with no specific skills became programmers because the computer and the nerd community was a safe haven, but with each tool or technology that empowers non-programmers to do what previously required computer…er… “idiots savants”, the world is getting a little better.

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