Take That, Apple!

Microsoft PDC

Microsoft is not a company known for generating enthusiasm the way that, say, Apple does. But despite an on-stage demo that left some observers yawning, Windows 7’s big debut is making waves across the Web — and generating actual excitement about the company.

“Hey, this looks pretty good!” a write-up on Technologizer said.

“I’m really excited about Windows 7 as a whole,” wrote the Windows Now blog.

“Windows 7 is Windows Vista done right,” said Paul Thurrott on his Windows Supersite.

There was plenty of buzz at the show as well, among third-party developer firms in their showcase booths, and among attendees of the show. Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) was giving out lots of “I’m a PC” stickers, and people were sporting them on everything from laptop bags to their laptops.

“Everything here shows they are listening to users, and users are seeing other things here that shows Microsoft is listening in other areas,” said Michael Swindell, vice president of product management and strategy for Embarcadero Technologies, the firm that sells Borland’s old compilers.

As if attendees weren’t getting enough pre-release code, Embarcadero was giving out its own for Delphi Prism, a port of the old Delphi objects for .NET Framework developers. It will be out in 2009.

“Things are looking great for developers,” said Odi Kosmatos, vice president of research and development at Xceed, a maker of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) components. “One of my developers said he’s falling in love with Microsoft again.”

Responsiveness is certainly helping Microsoft out in a big way. There were numerous informal discussions held on the floor, slightly away from the booths. The biggest draw was Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the .NET Developer division. He answered questions mostly related to .NET development and went way over his allotted time.

Earlier, during a second-day keynote, Guthrie had announced that the next version of Visual Studio would be built on WPF, making it the first Microsoft product to use that library. For Dan Rigsby, lead software engineer of Interactive Intelligence, it was about time Microsoft itself embraced a technology it was trying to push on developers.

“They pushed WPF for a couple of years now but it never took off. That’s because they never used it,” he told InternetNews.com. “Now that Visual Studio will have WPF, that’s huge. They haven’t had apps to showcase WPF before. Developers use Visual Studio daily. If they see what they can do with it every day, they will be enticed to use it as well.”

The overall sentiment among attendees was that Microsoft was admitting its mistakes — particularly Vista’s shortcomings — without dwelling on them. Instead, it focused on learning from its earlier stumbles and moving forward with Windows 7, .NET Framework 4.0 and Visual Studio 2010, and with new technologies like Azure.

Embarcadero’s Swindell was appreciative of that honesty.

“The most important thing is we’re not seeing Microsoft try to wave a bright, shiny object to distract us from Vista,” he said. “They are addressing its problems.”

For Xceed’s Kosmatos, Azure was the big surprise. “We had been wondering what Microsoft would do for cloud computing. Azure seems like the most serious attempt at cloud computing I’ve seen,” he said.

But at least one attendee, Lou Dejardin, a principal architect for Dow Jones, never really lost faith.

“I’ve always been confident in Microsoft,” he said. “The changes they have made shows they are adapting.”

PDC finished up today, but Microsoft will be back in the Los Angeles Convention Center starting next week on Wednesday, Nov. 5 with the start of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC).

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