Windows Vista Developer Launch Event

February 13, 2007

I took the afternoon off work today to attend the Windows Vista Developer Launch Event (free coffee and a copy of MS Office 2007, how could I miss it?). It was an interesting time; the MS technology evangelist gave a four hour talk about the new developer features of Vista and .NET 3.0, and also Office 2007 development (which actually looks pretty neat, it seems like you can pretty much develop a complete .NET application inside an Office product now). I still don’t think .NET 3.0 is too exciting for the average developer, but it did raise my interest in it a bit.

Anyway, one of the biggest talking points was on the Windows Presentation Foundation, a new technology for creating user interfaces in .NET applications and webpages. WPF is more like Flash than a traditional UI library. It’s easy for non-developers to design their own widgets, either from right scratch or mixing and matching with the default look. Like Flash, there’s lots of animation, embedded media, and vector graphics. The end result is turned into an XML document that the developer can drop into his .NET application.

What I’m getting at though, is that no where during this talk did anyone mention any sort of style or interface guidelines. Rather, the designer is pretty much given carte blanche to do as they please. One of the examples she gave was a “fish button;” a button that looked, well, like a fish. That kind of thing scares me. If every developer starts using WPF there’s really no telling what Windows applications will look like. Maybe I’m being a bit paranoid, but without a good interface guideline I can easy imagine a program full of fish buttons, and the developer wouldn’t even know he did something wrong.

As a side note, those of you who don’t care much for Vista will be happy to note that the presenter’s laptop crashed, a lot. I think there were three reboots before the talk was done, and at one point the Microsoft evangelist went so far as to say “you know, I have three gigs of RAM in this laptop, but sometimes it’s still not enough for Vista.” Vista was pretty, though.

Marc Charbonneau is a mobile software engineer in Portland, OR. Want to reply to this article? Get in touch on Twitter @mbcharbonneau.