Microsoft to offer production-ready Vista technologies

Setting the stage for its planned Windows Vista desktop OS, Microsoft will release production-ready versions of Web services and workflow technologies slated for inclusion in Vista.

The vendor will offer "Go-Live" versions of Windows Communication Foundation, which is Microsoft's Web services technology, and Windows Workflow Foundation, which provides a workflow engine. Windows Communication Foundation formerly was known by the code name Indigo.

These two technologies and the Windows Presentation Foundation technology for building rich client interfaces are part of Microsoft's WinFX managed code framework. The Go-Live licenses will be included as part of a January Community Technology Preview of WinFX on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).

Although the two technologies are still classified as being in an early release phase, they can be used in production environments, said Ari Bixhorn, director of Web services strategy at Microsoft.

"These special builds [of Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow Foundation serve as] the green light for customers to deploy these technologies," Bixhorn said.

Expected to be Microsoft's most enterprise-class version of Windows, Vista is due to ship at the end of the year. But WinFX technologies also will function with the existing Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 platforms.

The primary intent of the Go-Live deployments is to allow for testing in real-life applications. "Customers have told us the reason they want Go-Live releases is so they can test their applications in a live production environment," said Bixhorn.

Microsoft has positioned Windows Workflow Foundation as a platform for building software to model business processes. Windows Communication Foundation is intended to keep Microsoft at the forefront of Web services development.

"Windows Communication Foundation dramatically reduces the amount of code that developers have to write when building service-oriented applications," said Bixhorn.

The Go-Live software gives developers a head start on Vista, said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink, in an e-mail.

"Apps built with this Go-Live version of the software will run on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, bringing Vista capabilities to apps before Vista actually launches," Schmelzer said.

New features in the Go-Live release of Windows Communication Foundation include a service configuration editor, for tweaking settings, and a service trace viewer, for viewing messages being sent between multiple services. The Go-Live release of Windows Workflow Foundation features new policy activities to evaluate complex rule sets and a new file format based on XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language). Microsoft's usage of XAML as a way to specify business processes is unique, Schmelzer said.

Microsoft is not releasing a Go-Live license for Windows Presentation Foundation because this software does not require the type of scalability testing necessary for the other two technologies, according to Microsoft. The early version of Windows Presentation Foundation being offered on Wednesday has support for frame-based animations as well as support for applications accessed through a browser.

In other developer-related news at Microsoft, the company's Visual Studio for Devices and .Net CF (Compact Framework) teams are eyeing improvements in mobile application development, according to Microsoft executive S. "Soma" Somasegar's blog. Somasegar is corporate vice president of the company's Developer Division. Mobile improvements are anticipated in the planned Orcas release of the Visual Studio tools platform.

"The Visual Studio for Devices team will continue to invest not only in rapid application development, but also in addressing end-to-end life cycle management. The device emulator is another area where will continue to invest and enhance," Somasegar wrote. "Also, the team is also working on delivering an integrated development experience with SQL Mobile, Windows Mobile, and Windows CE SDKs," he said.

"The .Net CF team is already planning and doing some incubation work on taking some of our new API Frameworks down to device size," Somasegar wrote. "Another thing that is high on the list of things to get done is the addition of improved 3-D graphics, sound, and cooperative gameplay APIs, all geared towards the best gaming experience on devices" he added.

No timeframe for shipping Orcas has been set yet, according to a Microsoft representative.

Microsoft also plans to make its Windows Live and Office Live Internet-based services available as rich development platforms, Somasegar said. "Developers will be able to customize, enhance, and innovate on top of these services," he said. As part of its Internet services plan, the company anticipates improvements to Visual Studio in the area of building and consuming services.

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