Forrester Research, Inc. recently released a five page report titled: Why Windows Presentation Foundation Will Dominate Thick Client Development. In their executive summary, authors Carl Zetie and John R. Rymer state (my boldfacing):
Microsoft has unveiled a powerful weapon that will allow it to consolidate its control of the desktop by offering tools across development tasks and roles with high levels of integration. This innovation goes by the opaque acronym of XAML (eXtensible Application Markup Language), but don’t be fooled: The possibilities inherent in this technology will make it extremely important for enterprise developers, their tools, and their processes. This, in turn, will dramatically influence the attractiveness of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). And yet, XAML has been largely overlooked in the evaluation of the broader impact of Windows Vista and WPF.
It is a short, but prescient report. Of particular interest to me (being in the Developer & Platform Evangelism group) is the statement about the “toolability” of XAML:
XAML is readily “toolable.” One of the characteristics of XML descriptions in general is that it can be relatively easy to build visual and other editors for them, and XAML is no exception. The result: XAML-aware tools will appear not just for programmers but also for graphic designers and other roles that must collaborate with programmers.
In addition to our own XAML tools (Expression Interactive Designer a.k.a. “Sparkle”, “Cider“, and Expression Graphic Designer a.k.a. “Arcylic”), we’ve already seen early tools from MOBIFORM, Electric Rain, my own Adobe Illustrator to XAML export plug-in, a Maya export plug-in by Thomas Goddard, and an on-line 3ds Max to XAML conversion tool by Andrej Benedik. I’m aware of a few more that are in development, and I’ve received queries from others who are considering writing their own tools. Based on my work with WPF early adopters, it’s clear to me that we have significantly eased (some would say “enabled”) the workflow between professional graphic designers and application developers, and tools like these are only the tip of the iceberg.
I’d also like to point out Larry O’Brien’s recent column in SD Times titled: Getting over the XAML Hump. WPF is indeed a change from the way applications and user interfaces have traditionally been implemented. Larry relates some of his pain in understanding the new object model and capabilities of the technology. Despite his challenges, I’m encouraged by his closing sentence:
Learning WinFX ought to be the New Year’s resolution of anyone who wants to stay employed writing Windows applications.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.