MIX 2011 – First conference day

MIX 2011 had its kick off today. After a pre-conference days with nice bootcamps and the Open Source Fest, we were already warmed up, but after the nice continental breakfast, the keynote was the official opening of the conference itself.

Center stage view at the MIX keynote

Personally, I was a bit underwhelmed by the keynote. Not a lot of news, other than the fact that only shortly after the IE9 launch, Microsoft announced the IE10 platform preview today. Of course this went along with the obligatory demos of how fast IE is compared to Chrome. Sure, impressive, and some really cool demos, but I wasn’t blown away by all of this.

I did like what Dean Hachamovitch had to say about the pace in which Microsoft is putting out IE releases. A fast pace (like Google’s Chrome update cycle) only leads to higher version numbers and unfinished software. Another nice little touch is that the IE10 Platform Preview demo was running in Windows 8 on an ARM processor. The performance was great. The remainder of the keynote was focused on the web development tools from Microsoft. Mainly HTML5 and ASP.NET MVC3, featuring a nice demo from Scott Hanselman.

Nice, but not overwhelming.

After the keynote, I attended three sessions:

HTML5 for Silverlight Developers: an overview of what HTML5 has to offer from the viewpoint of a Silverlight developer. A nice overview for someone like me, who hasn’t spent a whole lot of time and effort learning about HTML5. Some of the nicest things I saw were a little tool for converting XAML coming from an Expression Design vector drawing to SVG and

a plugin for Adobe InDesign for saving a drawing (even with animation) to an HTML5 document containing the code to represent the drawing/animation.

Top tips for successful Windows Phone apps: a nice session by Stefan Wick, who is a test lead for the Windows Phone. He talked about some of the things you need to pay special attention to when building apps for Windows Phone, to make the user experience and the overall quality of the app better. A nice takeaway for me was that he had written a WP7 test app alongside his actual app for quality assurance. This test app could automatically perform and validate end user scenario’s, do stress testing, unit testing and measure the behavior of the app in terms of memory usages, etc. Another thing I noticed was that Microsofts choice to demand 3 hardware buttons (Back, Home, Search) might give the user a consistent user experience, it does add a lot of extra stuff you have to worry about as a developer in order to correctly handle the Back or Search button. I still prefer the iPhone approach to this. But hey, I’m an Apple fanboy 🙂

Identity unraveled: a session about the Azure Access Control Service. I was expecting a lot of news, which wasn’t the case. However it was a good session as an overview of what the ACS does and when it’s useful. I like the product and it’s good to see that it’s now out as a final release. A bit disappointed though that good support for Windows Phone (and with that, Silverlight, but also MonoTouch and Mono-android) was not available yet, other than an open source Sign In control in a showcase app on CodePlex. It was updated recently though, so I’m glad to see that it’s active.

Afterwards, we got to talk to some interesting people in the Windows Phone community, as well as the people from Falafel Software, who were interested in developing for iPhone and Android using the Mono stuff. Falafel Software has a nice app out in the App Store called EventBoard. Currently, it’s developed natively for iPhone, Android and WP7. We talked about the ability to share business logic code across these platforms using MonoTouch and Mono-android, while still maintaining the native look & feel of the platforms themselves.

The conference day ended with Ask The Experts roundtable discussions. Nice to attend, had some nice talks with the guys from the Phone Developer Tools team and one of the graphical designers responsible for the look & feel of the Metro interface in WP7.

Willem and I went for a quick bite to eat on the Strip and caught a show of the dancing fountains at Bellagio, which is always nice to see as soon as it gets dark.

Tomorrow is going to start off with another keynote. Rumours are that this is going to be a bing one. The overall vibe is that something exciting and big is going to be announced here around Windows Phone 7. What will it be? Let’s find out… Here goes day 2!

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