The highlight was the discussion between Tim O'Reilly and Bill Gates. This was unscripted, casual, and really interesting to watch. Some quotes and themes:
- Tim commented about Navtek being the real force behind Google maps and many other mapping systems. Bill said that a community based approach in GPS enabled cars submit information to a common system could displace them. Tim remarked that this is an interesting facet of Web 2.0 - collection of data from users as they go about their daily lives.
- On the history of Microsoft knocking out competitors such as Netscape, Bill noted that "many of our competitors knocked themselves out."
- Bill remarked that browsers need to be more agile and release on the 9-12 month cycle (the IE team backed away from this during their talk later that day).
Scott Guthrie's ATLAS demo was impressive. He built an AJAX task manager app from scrstch in 10 minutes, demonstrated it running on Mac (Firefox). This demo was the first time I've actually seen ATLAS as more than just another AJAX library - it's a way to declaritively "AJAX Enable" an ASP.NET site (new or existing) in a cross browser, standards compliant manner. ATLAS is used in Live.com.
WPF "in-browser" demo was disappointing for me. Looked like a lot of Flash sites I've seen, and those run everywhere.
Bill's speech didn't say anything really new from a technical point of view, but the way he discribed Microsoft's strategies in the AJAX space finally seemed like a clear value proposition - apply Microsoft's skill in simplifying development to the task of "hacking the web". AJAX really is a hack at this point, and frameworks like ATLAS clean it up quite a bit. The upsell, of course, is that it's easier to develop and run on Microsoft tools (ASP.NET on Visual Studio).
Dean H, the GM in charge of IE, appologized for the lack of development on IE for the past several years. It was good to get that out of the way and start looking at what's ahead. I thought this was very well done.
Show Me Me The Money
Panel with Michael Arrington (TechCrunch), Royal Farros, Tim O'Reilly (O'Reilly Media, Inc.), Adam Trachtenberg (eBay), Jeremy Zawodny (Yahoo!)
The discussion was on shifting "monetization" strategies in the Web 2.0 era. This was generally interesting, but what was most interesting was to see a panel like this at a Microsoft sponsored convention. Strange times.
Future of IE7
Panel with IE team and web standards leaders like Molly H, Andy Clarke, and Eric Meyers. I sat in the front row, next to David Shea and Tantek Celnik.
No roadmap was presented, which was disappointing. I guess the idea of this conference and similar discussions is to help define the roadmap, but I think a straw man roadmap might spur a better discussion.
Dean H's intro focused on the high level features of future IE versions: Standards, Safety, and Experience. He then touched on some balance points they're working through:
- User control vs. developer control (e.g. popups)
- Compatibility vs. security
- Security vs. user experience
- Frequency of updates
- Standards vs. compatibility
Then the panel was asked what they'd like to see from the IE team:
- Andy Clarke: Since side by side IE installations won't be forthcoming, can Microsoft offer subsidized VPC discounts.
- Molly H: IE doesn't need to pass the ACID2 test suite, but a common test suite should be agreed to and used on all browsers.
- Eric Meyers - Not all CSS3, but certain key modules like the Selectors Module (things like last-of-type and last-item layout) and the Colored Background Module (allowing things like RGB+Alpha and HSL).
- Mike Rowan - Data sharing in the security space
- Chris Wilson - Talked about security for unsophisticated users and the tradeoff between frequent releases and test load.
Discussion on Standards vs. Compatibility with previous IE versions
- Molly - the two should be complementary. Browsers should compete on features, not their rendering engines. Need more developer support - how to fix specific issues, for example.
- Andy made a remark that web developer can see this as an opportunity to work on upgrading sites from IE 6 to 7 (another Y2K type issue?).
- Release frequency shouldn't be artificial (Eric Meyers and Andy Clarke), it should happen when there are enough new features.