Desktop matters conference report ..

Tim Sneath ( my work boss)  emailed me asking how it went , and since I am typing if for my team I thought: "what the heck ... just publish it..."

I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at Desktop Matters last Friday .. It is the "hard-corest" Java conference I have ever attended (disclaimer, I have only attended 2 java conferences: JavaOne and OSCON) ...  The conference focuses on client java technologies,  a lot of people from Sun's Java2D and Swing team presented..  Also, some influentials building interesting java stuff..

Here are my thoughts:

On the conference:
it was awesome... A small group of Java influentials talking with the Java leaders (Hans Muller, Chet HaaseRichard Bair, etc.) .. there was nothing held back either direction.. The Sun team shared challenges and road-map... the community provided good feedback.. I had a blast and learned a lot ...   Read some of their reports here..
The event reminded me of what at Microsoft we call Software Design Reviews ( SDRs ) ... Some of you reading this post might have attended one of these ...  You know that it is hard to buy that kind of access, well on the Java client community you might have the answer in this conference..  
A nice touch different from the SDR was Ben Galbraith the organizer who kept it light .. making equal fun of every one there 

On Java SE and Swing: 
I was surprised and (as a technologist) happy to see progress on java and Swing ; their 'filthy rich' demos looked pretty good ; That said, I still think they are very far behind Microsoft (both Windows forms but specially WPF) in tooling, customization, richness, etc..  You can definitely do good stuff on Java, if you are willing to write a bit of code or hire experienced devs..  [yes, I of course acknowledge they do it for the cross-platform promise.. if you must go x-platform and can't go AJAX, I think that is one of the best choices out there]

On my presentation/message:
When I arrived, I had a deck with 40 slides covering the ins of WPF ( templates, styles, resources, etc.)  by the second day I had changed it  based on a private conversation with Hans Muller - I pitched him on XAML and he seemed overwhelmed with properties, triggers, styles, etc.. but he really got the "oh, makes better tools" idea..

So, in the end, I presented a simple (much slower-paced ):  

  1. Why is MS doing WPF..?    It is ALL about User Experience; I elaborated that UX is business value to the everyone.
    On day 1, the Java folks listed why write client software and the list was usability, richness, performance, leverage local resources, etc..   most of these are factors of user experience.. so it resonated..
    UX is also business value for the Dev/ISV/SI selling the solution... It provides differentiation opportunity, branding, pride of ownership, etc. 
  2. How is MS we improving UX with WPF?  

    1. Integration of all our UI Stacks ( Text, 2D, 3D, Video, etc.)
    2. Declaratively;  we invested in a declarative model to optimize toolability and fully incorporate the designer role into application development .. this is the silver bullet in the long-run; along with rich services to embrace the declarative modell...

  3. What are we doing on x-platform?
    (IMHO)  WPF/E is a huge step for Microsoft. Not because of what we are delivering in Version1, but because it is a commitment to innovate in client software that runs x-platform.    MS is best positioned [we have the framework, WPF, XAML, etc. to act quickly in that space, since we have a lot of the lessons learned - and the code 😉

I did two demos:

  1. The Healthcare demo I was short on time and wanted to keep it focused -- check for a post on that demo later today or tomorrow there is some good news there--..  I think this summarizes well WPF integration since it shows most UI stacks..  
  2. I spend 15 to 20 mins in Expression blend building stuff from scratch ;

    1. created the data templates for the healthcare demo ...  and
    2. created a 3D button with animation ( triggers on mouse over)  ...  the latter was mostly to make explain how we compare to Chet's animation engine for his book...

The feedback
I was very surprised on the 'kudos' ... Quite a few people came to me afterwards and shared kind thoughts...   I got a lot of "I get your experience message";  and "I love what WPF can do", "XAML seems very neat", etc..  

My best two take aways...   

  1. An interesting cross-platform combo in the interim? :
    While sitting there listening to their challenges, goals, etc. and after receiving the feedback on my presentation I was thinking...  what if "XAML was a standard" and the Java community embraced it to create UI? ....  They could keep their performant cross platform engine .. but use our tooling to create rich apps" .... does it sound crazy??   I think it is a good interim while MS gets a strong x-platform client out (if we ever do, I can't confirm nor deny, only hope )...   The type of apps these folks are writing requires rich development frameworks, rich programming languages, and powerful drawing engines...   I can't think of a good solution for that today if you include a good tooling/debug story.

  2. Some lower hanging, more realistic takeaway for Microsoft:
    I think we need to re-visit simple styles and create several "cool" versions of simple styles...   We have the designer tools.. but there will be teams out there that do not have designers.. We need to pony up for a few good design templates that developers can use to create "cool looking apps" with out a lot of designer support...  If MS provides  styled primitives then developers could put screens build on these simple styled controls...   For example,  I recently downloaded the "Roxio" client, nice gradients, stylish controls, yet nothing extreme (other than a few cool vector graphics that could have been images) ..   I think with "cool simple styles" this could be accomplish with out much design work...  


That is it ...  I hope the conference repeats next year ....  If it does,  I would recommend it if you are a Java client developer ...
I also hope I don't get fired for a post w/ the word java so much ... My first test to see how far I can take it ....

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