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PDC 2005 Blog: Day 1 (Tuesday)

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5:58 am (PST). It's still dark in LA, but thanks to the wonders of time zones, I'm suddenly a morning person. There is a sudden sense of dread.

I forgot to mention that I ran into Raymond Chen last night. Great guy who, though he can't officially discuss it, is responsible for the excellent TweakUI tool.

I'm posting a few photo galleries to the SuperSite as I write this. That's right: I suddenly have direct access to the site (sort of). Life is, if not good, the better.

6:54 am. Maarten sent me some Office 12 screenshots. In general I'm getting a bit tired of Microsoft continually trying to outthink the user, but these look nice and simple. I hope it ends up that way.

Time to shower and head in. The SuperSite has been updated and it looks like everything is working correctly. The grind begins.

8:36 am. The keynote is finally getting ready to start. The crowds weren't as excitable as they were for PDC 2003, which is interesting, but Scoble tells us there are lots of good things coming that haven't leaked. He hasn't seen our Office 12 shots, of course. We'll see.

10:57 am.
I've shot about 90 minutes of video so far, but I need to recap what's happened. Gates started off with a bit of humor about the power failure yesterday and a cool video clip starring the weird kid from "Napoleon Dynamite," which was quite good. Then it was about 30-40 minutes of typical, boring Gates. And finally, the Vista demos began. Finally.

There isn't really anything new to say about Windows Vista. We already knew just about everything there is to know. We're getting build 5219, which looks great. Obviously, I'll be looking a lot more closely at this build as soon as possible.

They also showed off Office 12, which we won't be getting. It looks good. They've completely wiped out the old toolbar/menu metaphor and have replaced it with a new user interface that groups functionality into tabs and bands across the top of each application. Depending on what you're working on, the UI will change to present the ools you need. There are two aspects to this. First, it's providing you with only the most relevant tools, which is good. Second, it's exposing cool functionality that most Office users didn't even know was in there, which is great. My Office 12 screenshot gallery on the SuperSite will show some of this.

After Gates finished up, Jim Allchin came out to run through the platform features. Though little has changed in a general way since his 2003 presentation, many of the details have changed, and he did a good job of running through that stuff. They're getting into some coding demos, so it's time to hit the press room.

Much more soon. It's been a firehose as expected.

12:17 pm. Several Microsofties have congratulated me on my Vista product editions scoop from last weekend, which was nice. Well, actually, one called me a "SKU spilling loser," but it was delivered in humorous fashion. I think.

My keynote videos are being copied over to the computer now. Should take a while, and then I have to edit parts out for posting. I'll have at least a few available late today, I bet.

3:33 pm. OK, I need to get caught up. There is so much going on that my head is spinning. A few comments. OK, more than a few.

The Sidebar is not in the version of 5219 that we got. However, it is in the versions of 5219 we've seen around the show. Microsoft told me it will be included in the October version of the Windows Vista CTP (Community Technical Preview). This build is the September CTP. And yes, that means monthly builds from here on out. And yes, there will be monthly public builds starting with Beta 2. Amazing, I know. And this is Longhorn Server as well, not just Windows Vista.

My leak of the Windows Vista product editions apparently caused quite a stir at Microsoft. They weren't ready for that information to go public and were surprised I had it. I've now heard directly from over a dozen Microsoft people about this, and am sort of surprised it's a surprise. I was also told about some bizarre speculation/opinion/wishful thinking by some blogger that I essentially pulled this information out of my butt. That's hilarious. But I actually got this information from internal--and recent--Microsoft documentation that is real and up to date. There will be no more dedicated Tablet PC and Media Center Editions of Windows in the Vista time frame. That functionality is being rolled into other product editions. I'm sorry if you don't believe that, but I'm too busy to engage in fiction. Plans change, especially release dates, but I just deal with the facts, not speculation. And what I published over the weekend is real. It's been confirmed by many, many people from Microsoft at this show. Deal with it.

So I finally found a second to pick up "The Goods," which is over 30 GB of data stored on several DVDs. It's an incredible but ultimately disappointing collection of software, given what was promised. For example, the Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 versions we got are both older than what was expected--we got Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 and SQL Server 2005 June CTP and were expecting RC versions of both. More problematic, we didn't get a bootable DVD from which to install Windows Vista. Instead, we got a DVD with DVD images on it. Now, one of my laptops actually does have a DVD burner, and I did think ahead to bring blank DVDs. But they're in the hotel. And Virtual PC won't install off a DVD ISO; it only works with CD ISOs. Stupid. Anyway, I got it working in Virtual PC, but it took way too much time on a day in which, frankly, I have no free time. They should have thought this through. How many people at PDC have DVD burners with them?

Anyway, I'm installing it now.

Windows Vista build 5219 (aka CTP). Here's what's new. It has two new ways to switch between applications (and open windows). The first, which replaces the ALT+TAB functionality, is codenamed Flip. It provides live thumbnails of each running application as you move through the list and is quite nice. The second, codename Flip 3D, is more visual, and provides an angled, stacked representation of \each open window as you move through them, very much like Sun Project Looking Glass. Microsoft is talking up User Account Protection (UAP), which was optional in Beta 1 but is now on by default. Windows Super Fetch has been around for a while, but Jim Allchin did a neat demo that showed how much this can improve system performance, essentially by caching application data that is often needed. You can even plug any USB key into a Vista PC to improve the performance as Super Fetch will use that space as RAM. It appears to work and work well. Sideshow is the new name for auxiliary displays. Microsoft is also working to allow PDAs, cell phones, and other devices to interact with data in Sideshow. The company showed off People Near Me, a peer-to-peer technology that lets you share files with people on the same network (think wireless) and an application codenamed Meeting Space that provides a front-end to that. The 5219 taskbar features a live thumbnail preview: As you mouse over each button, a window pops-up, showing you the contents of the window that relates to that button. If the window is, say a media player with a running video, that video will run in the thumbnail as well. It's very cool. There's more, but I'm still collecting my notes. Obviously, I'll be reviewing this build later as well.

Office 12. Microsoft was very, very happy that the UI didn't leak until this week. It's a big, big difference over all previous Office versions. The cynical side of me wonders if this isn't more a response to than anything else. Since the free office productivity suites are catching up in both look and feel and features, Microsoft is simply changing the game. They can back up their new UI with research that proves it's simpler and more efficient, but I guess we'll see. One thing we don't have is working code, though I did get to play with live code here, and I was told some of the lab machines have live Office 12 code on them as well. The Office 12 beta will start "this fall," I was told.

There is a public beta available of Microsoft Max (codename only), an application out of Hillel Cooperman's new group at Microsoft, Project M. Max is pretty neat looking, and I had assumed that it would be Vista-only or even part of Vista. Thanks to everyone that wrote in about this.

I know I'm forgetting some stuff. There's so much going on. More as it occurs to me...

5:08 pm. Like so many Windows Vista technologies, the Gadgets technology Microsoft is creating for the newly returned Sidebar will be made available "downlevel" to legacy OSes such as Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2), according to Sean Alexander. He told me that Microsoft was doing this to ensure that more developers would embrace Gadgets, which makes a lot of sense. I hope to speak more with Sean about this soon.

As for the rest of today, I've got one more meeting and then dinner, and a press party on the roof of the Figueroa Hotel, which is an amazing place. Hopefully I'll get some pictures this time. In related news, my first video should be available soon as well.

Build 5219 is still installing (virtual machines are horribly slow). I'll post shots when it's done.

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