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Microsoft's Jay Schmelzer Kicks off Visual Studio Live! Chicago

Developers need to support a diverse array of devices and understand the vital role of services in enabling rich application experiences. That was the message from Jay Schmelzer, Microsoft's director of program management for Visual Studio, during his opening keynote address at the Visual Studio Live! Chicago 2013 conference this morning, as he explored the two trends and how they directly play off each other.

"It turns out hardware devices really aren't that interesting without great software on them," Schmelzer told the audience. "It also turns out that great software is a lot easier to build when you have compelling hardware to target and capabilities in that hardware that you can target and leverage as part of your application." 

He emphasized that services allow developers to efficiently create rich experiences that are shared across form factors, and noted that developers face a number of choices as they address both existing client/server and emerging service-centric applications. Developers, Schmelzer said, "are going to need a multi-device strategy." And they have three choices to get there:

  • A "completely native experience" built on the native framework for each targeted device.
  • A browser-based approach that leverages HTML and JavaScript to run on as many different browser devices as possible.
  • A hybrid approach Schmelzer called the "player model" that wraps HTML content within a native app shell.

Schmelzer then dove into a demo of the Visual Studio LightSwitch simplified application development tool, which he called "the best kept secret we have inside of Visual Studio." LightSwitch, Schmelzer noted, now supports HTML apps, enabling developers to use mature, .NET Framework-based tools and infrastructure to create broadly compatible HTML apps.

Schmelzer said LightSwitch solves a serious issue for business developers, who often find themselves pulled off the critical task of enabling custom business logic, which is why organizations write custom apps in the first place.

"The value is in the unique business rules. But all of our time as app developers is usually spent in the stuff that doesn't provide unique value. Getting the data into and out of the database, getting a service put up in front of it, designing the UI. So it's all of that time we put in, and then very little left for actually creating custom rules," he said. "We wanted to create an experience that flips that on its head."

Schmelzer showed off the template-driven app creation process in LightSwitch, showing how the app UI can be quickly tuned to adapt to desktop, tablet and phone screen form factors. He also walked through the point-and-click data handling and binding capabilities of LightSwitch.

Shifting gears, Schmelzer explained the Apps for Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013 application model, which features a completely different approach from previous versions of the products. The new model turns the approach "inside out," he said, relieving developers of the need to contend with deep and rich object models that don't map to other aspects of managed development.

"Now instead of having your extensions or your components plug into the process of Office or the process of SharePoint, we've opened up the Office products and SharePoint, and exposed the rich set of services they offer to developers to consume, and we've exposed them via standard rest-based APIs," Schmelzer said.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 05/14/2013

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