Windows Vista Programming Tools Now Available
Published: January 25, 2006
by Alex Woodie
Programmers who are looking to get a leg up on the new Windows Vista operating system due later this year may want to check out the new WinFX development tools Microsoft made available last week. While the tools haven't yet been released in their final form, Microsoft feels good enough about the latest beta versions to issue so-called "Go Live" licenses to those willing to take the risk, as well as to perform their own testing.
If Windows Vista does nothing else--and there isn't a whole lot in the new OS to get super excited over since the revolutionary WinFS file system was yanked from the effort--it will still have WinFX, which will mark a significant point in the on-going evolution of the Windows programming model. With WinFX, Microsoft is putting into the hands of Windows developers a new application programming interface (API) that's based on .NET Framework 2.0, and which is the first major shift in programming models since the introduction of the Win32 model a long time ago.
As the go-to .NET API for all future versions of Windows starting with Vista (although Microsoft has committed to back-cast WinFX to support Windows XP and Windows Server 2003), WinFX will enable programmers to take advantage of new Windows technologies. And as the first implementation of a "managed code" model, WinFX will help developers write significantly cleaner code in less time, according to Microsoft (see "Microsoft Plugs 'Managed Code' as WinFX Goes to Beta").
WinFX brings new controls for designing user interfaces through the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF, formerly codenamed "Avalon"), which was not included in last week's announcement. Three-dimensional interfaces and opaque windows are examples of WPF capabilities. The new programming model also provides new ways of using XML and Web services through the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF, formerly codenamed "Indigo"), which is now available with a Go Live license. Microsoft touts WCF's capability for creating "secure, reliable, interoperable connected systems." This is also a key technology in Microsoft's strategy for the development of new applications in a service oriented architecture (SOA).
The third and final--and lesser-known--component of WinFX is called Windows Workflow Foundation, which gets shortened to just WF-(Microsoft has enough legal troubles without throwing down on the World Wildlife Foundation, which fought professional wrestling for WWF). WF is designed to provide a more refined way of defining and working with business processes, such as those involved in processing transactions or taking orders. Microsoft expects WF, which will make extensive use of XAML (extensible application markup language), to be used in the creation of next-generation CRM applications, accounting packages, order-processing software, and call-center applications.
If last week's announcement of the new "Go Live" licenses is any indication, work on the WCF and WF components of WinFX is just about complete, and there probably won't be any more beta releases before WinFX is released to manufacturing. According to Ari Bixhorn, Microsoft's lead product manager for Web Services, Microsoft is issuing Go Live licenses to help users test new applications created using WinFX tooling in production environments.
"Early adopters of WinFX have been asking for the ability to test WinFX server-based technologies in a real-world production environment. Today's announcement enables them to do exactly that," Bixhorn said in an interview conducted by Microsoft and posted to its Web site last week (see "Q&A: Behind Windows Vista Lies a Robust Programming Model Called WinFX").
The Go Live licenses cover the WCF and WF components of the WinFX model, as well as the January community technology preview (CTP) release of WinFX that contains the latest WCF and WF writes. Apparently, the WPF piece isn't as far along as the other two. WPF, which will be most useful for creating new thick-client applications for Windows Vista, probably won't be used as much by developers writing Web-based server applications.
This isn't the first time Microsoft has decided to put beta code into limited release. The company also issued early Go Live licenses for SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 last spring, before the products were officially released to manufacturing in November.
For more information on the January WinFX CTP and to download the code, go to msdn.microsoft.com/winfx/getthebeta/golive/default.aspx.