A Look at PDC, 2009 Edition

By KENT SHARKEY 10/21/2009 2:05:08 PM

Well, now that we really know for certain that Visual Studio 2010 won't be launching at PDC, it's time for my annual look at what we can learn from looking at the PDC session schedule[1].

To me, the most interesting way to explore the topics of the conference is the tags (although I suspect a tag cloud would be even more illuminating). It means that certain overall messages start to pop out if you see combinations of tags in the list.

For example, it's hardly a secret that this year's PDC will mark the release of the Windows Azure Platform (aka Azure, aka Window Azure aka a few other terms that just serve to confuse me. I can never really keep all the moving parts of Microsoft's Azure/Live/etc. strategy in place.) As would be expected, there are about 20 talks on the platform as this year [2], ranging from general talks, SQL Azure, infrastructure and more. It seems that people that have been ignoring or avoiding the cloud (like me) may find it increasingly difficult in the future. There are a lot of situations where cloud apps make sense [3], but I see the increasing popularity of these cloud services being driven more by a need by Microsoft, Amazon, Google, etc. wanting to subsidize their own bandwidth and server costs than by customer demand.

Another interesting angle to search for are the "Distinguished Engineer talks". Obviously, if Microsoft wants to roll out the big guns on a subject, it's something either worth looking at, or at least being aware of. This being a developer conference, the two big DEs to watch for are Don Box and Anders Helsberg. Don is listed on three talks, mostly on "M", which is part of their "Oslo" initiative[4]. However, he's also on a panel I'd love to see, "Microsoft Perspectives on the Future of Programming". Curiously, Anders is missing from their list. I hope this will be fixed, as I love listening to him. His history of language design give his opinions a great deal of clout. Also, he's a good speaker. Instead, I recommend you take in the equally talented [5] Erik Meijer. His talk, "Rx: Reactive Extensions for .NET" strikes me as either an esoteric edge case, or something we'll all be doing in 10 years.

I have it on fairly good authority that xRM will be big. It's (yet another) tool you use to rapidly build business applications. However, it grows out of the combined years of development of these from Great Plains, Navision, and Dynamics.

Finally, the items in the "From the Labs" talks are intriguing. They might not ever see much of a light of day, but they might actually become part of .NET or Visual Studio in the future - Pex as one example of a tool that might make TDD more usable.

What talks are you looking forward to seeing (or downloading)?

[1] I did it last year, and now this year. Therefore it's a tradition.
[2] As I write this, there are 136 talks listed on the site.
[3] Highly 'spiky traffic' services like sales being #1 on that list.
[4] Which leads to one of the more common questions, "What is 'Oslo' again?" The short answer is that it is a set of technologies for modelling data and creating Domain Specific Languages (DSLs). As that seems unsatisfactory, you can think of 'Oslo' as being a text-based UML, combined with a parser generator.
[5] In my opinion, of course. I've spoken with Erik once or twice in the past. He is an amazing language designer, and creator of multiple compilers.

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