Is Microsoft Expression the game changer?

Before I start this gushing, enthusiastic blog post, you need to know three things:

1) I’m an open source advocate

2) Though literate with the PC and Windows, my preferred platform is Mac OS X

3) I’ve been on a major hunt for next generation web technologies and enablers for the new adventure I’m on.

Knowing that major changes in the paradigm of tools to build richer web applications were underway by several companies, I keep my eyes and ears open and talk to lots of people in leadership positions and just in-the-know about what’s going on. Robert Scoble’s post today about the release of Sparkle (the code name for the now beta released Microsoft Expression) led me to the Expression site. There are videos, you can download a beta release, and read FAQ’s, specs and more.

I’ve thought long and hard about ways to build and deliver tons of web functionality with new methods and tools like AJAX, Laszlo (and OpenLaszlo) and lots of rumors about Adobe Apollo (the Flash-based rich internet application (RIA) development platform). There is either great open source software platforms like Drupal — or hosted Drupal offerings like Bryght — but the design of sites is pedestrian and the functionality offered good…but the bar is going to be raised pretty fast once Microsoft Expression is ready for prime time.

So on the one hand I’m beyond impressed and enthused about what Microsoft is delivering with these enabling tools. On the other, I’m excited about what will be built with these technologies and how it will take the Web up another notch. This will then replace much of what we do with desktop applications on our own computers and drive use to a place where we can access our digital life 24/7 from multiple platforms and device types.

Any caveats to my enthusiasm? Yep.

This is such a major leap forward that it is its own competitive advantage. Mischief isn’t necessary. If these enabling tools run only on PC’s, fine. If the Web applications they build are ANYTHING BUT 100% ADHERENT TO WEB STANDARDS it should be killed or crushed by users and coders alike. God forbid the applications run slightly better in Internet Explorer on a PC vs. Firefox or within a Mac or Linux OS…or a Windows Mobile driven device vs. a Linux powered one.

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4 Comments

  1. Boris Mann on February 6, 2006 at 2:10 am

    So…you think the design of Terminus 1525 (http://www.terminus1525.ca) or Zimmertwins (http://www.zimmertwins.com) is pedestrian? How about Netsquared (http://www.netsquared.org) or TWINF (http://www.theworldisnotflat.com)? I’ve always liked Michael Angeles (http://urlgreyhot.com), or maybe you like cooking (http://www.cooking-cup.de/2006/) better.

    Hope you find what you’re looking for!

    Cheers,

    — Boris



  2. Boris Mann on February 6, 2006 at 2:25 am

    Steve, just testing out coComment so that I can easily see any responses you might make.



  3. Steve Borsch on February 6, 2006 at 8:09 am

    Point taken on the sites you provided, although my post didn’t focus on design. It asked a question on Microsoft’s release of Expression and what it means.

    As an open source advocate, I’m actually concerned about the state-of-the-art in web application design & development taking another leap (i.e., RIA’s) while the open source CMS’es like Drupal are just coming in to their own.

    I’m fully aware that what was released with Expression is about 30-40% of what the final release will hold. There’s alot more to come. So having the rest of us (i.e., non-enterprise or big budget buyers) be able to deliver world-class, cutting edge functionality and great UI will be difficult *if* tools like Expression take a quantum leap forward — and that’s a wait-and-see.

    I’d seen three out of the six sites you sent. Agreed that they’re great design. A fair amount of heavy lifting and Drupal knowledge was necessary to deliver such good looking stuff, however.

    But the lion’s share of Drupal powered sites *are* pedestrian since the UI work isn’t easy for creatives. I’ve spent time at http://drupal.org/drupal-sites and http://www.drupalsites.net/ and you’ve got to admit that the majority of Drupal powered sites are using the standard templates with few tweaks, or have delivered “just OK” design. Tying design to functionality (brushstrokes to keystrokes) is Microsoft’s intent with Expression.

    That doesn’t take away from the Drupal engine. Doesn’t take away from the energy, effort and enthusiasm around updates and module development. Doesn’t deter me from using Drupal. Also doesn’t mean that the Drupal community won’t figure out how to help one another ratchet up the quality of design.

    But again, my post was more about the leap of the Expression toolset and not site design. This alpha release of Expression is developer focused and there is alot more to come.

    Not being fully aware of what Microsoft, Adobe (e.g., with Flex/Flash), and IBM (e.g., supporting Eclipse Foundation with both OpenLaszlo and Ajax) are doing is to not be prepared strategically.



  4. Doug on February 14, 2006 at 12:49 am

    This is a good piece on the ‘vision’ for Expression. Certainly a large suite of products aimed at creating the next generation of Windows and web apps.

    http://www.expressionstation.com is looking for contributors for tutorials etc. to help the new Expression users forge the way into this next generation.



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