Xamlon’s Quest: Bring Devs to XAML

A software tools maker is staking its future on helping developers prepare for streamlined coding for Web services as well as Avalon, the graphics display component in the works for Longhorn, Microsoft’s next version of Windows.

On Monday, Xamlon, a La Jolla, Calif.-based company, released
Xamlon 1.0, an application development package developers can use to begin
coding in XAML immediately. XAML lets developers separate user interface
code from application logic, so that they can change the user interface
without rewriting logic and event-handling code.

Longhorn, Microsoft’s next-generation operating
system, expected in
, will contain Avalon, an advanced graphics subsystem based on XAML,
a declarative, Web services-oriented XML-based markup language.

“XAML is to Avalon what HTML is to the Web,” said Xamlon founder and CEO
Paul Colton. Colton saw demonstrations of XAML at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference last fall. He said he decided not to wait for Longhorn and wants to provide software to let developers code in XAML as soon as possible.

“XAML is important because it brings together the best of two worlds,”
said Mike Sax, CEO of Sax Software, a maker of components for applications.
“One world is HTML, which works very well over the Internet and lets you
design very graphically rich pages that are appealing, engaging, and
intuitive. The other world is that of more traditional windows systems like
Java Swing, Windows, and Mac interfaces which give you lots of control and a
very high level of user interaction.”

Sax said XAML makes it very easy to integrate animation, panning and
zooming, and other interactive graphic elements. The protocol makes it
easier to send instructions for user actions from server to client, so
application can live partly on the server and partly on the client.

Peter O’Kelly, a senior analyst with IT research firm Burton Group,
expects some debate and division about the new development methods with XAML. But, he added, “it will make an entire class of devs more productive
than they were. It will let design-oriented people create part of the user
interface without having to get into Vulcan mind melds with the people
producing the functionality.”

Xamlon 1.0 is targeting developers building software in Microsoft’s
.NET Framework . The product contains a runtime engine and toolset that let
developers build XAML applications for current versions of Windows that will
port easily to future platforms.

“I didn’t see that it really required waiting for the new operating
system,” Colton said. “Let’s take that piece of XAML we shouldn’t have to wait
for and provide it as a tool for developers right now.”

Xamlon 1.0 includes a royalty-free XAML engine for the .NET framework
for all current versions of Windows and IE, Windows 98 and above, plus
converters for graphics files made with traditional drawing apps such as
Adobe Illustrator. Xamlon also will host online tutorials and community
features. “We want to be everything XAML,” Colton said.

XAML is Microsoft’s proprietary extension to the XML standard, and Colton
said that it’s not clear whether his company might face the need to license
Microsoft’s tech in the future.

Microsoft’s licensing plans for XAML remain vague, said O’Kelly. “This
will be interesting litmus test for Microsoft,” he said. “Will they put it
into open source? If Microsoft says, ‘This is important for developers, and
we’re putting heavy IP protection on it,’ a lot of developers will have
problems with it.”

Sax wasn’t sure how much of a future Xamlon has against upcoming developer toolsets. “Visual Studio will
probably eclipse Xamlon as a development tool for building XAML apps, and
now that Avalon will be available on older versions of Windows, the runtime
loses much of its appeal.”
He said Xamlon could help move XAML to other platforms, especially the Mono
, an open source application that lets Linux, UNIX and other
Mono-supported platform programmers create .NET apps.

“It’s not our goal to compete with Microsoft,” Colton said. He figures
the company has two years to sell development tools before Microsoft enables
XAML development in Visual Studio and Longhorn. He plans to continue to
advance the tools, then move the company’s offerings toward training and
support. “They’re giving us this great lead time to hone our tools,” he

O’Kelly said the faster developers start working with XAML, the better
for Microsoft. “The more people who can explore something and provide
feedback, the better it will be.”

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