PDC is Not Just the Windows 7 Show

Microsoft’s Professional Developer Conference (PDC) kicks off next Monday in Los Angeles, and all of the attention and interest is on Windows 7, the successor to Microsoft’s ill-received Vista.

The thing is, this show is not the Windows Developer Conference. There’s more than just Windows 7 on the agenda, which will be discussed in just 21 of the 194 sessions. So what else will Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) talk about?

How about Windows Server 2008? Silverlight? .Net Framework 4.0? Microsoft’s software+services strategy? There’s plenty to cover, and Directions on Microsoft analyst Mike Cherry believes Windows 7 won’t be the dominant topic of discussion because Win7 is not a radical change from Vista.

“If Microsoft is making any significant changes, then they need to give developers some lead time to adopt those changes so they can run their applications,” he told InternetNews.com. “Windows 7 won’t have that many changes. Vista introduced a lot of change, and they can’t afford to have that kind of disruption twice in a row. ”

He said PDC is often used to cover big changes well in advance of their introduction. One of the first PDC shows was to highlight the introduction of the Win32 API, since developers up to that point had been writing 16-bit Windows apps on MS-DOS and the move to 32-bit was a radical change.

Likewise, Cherry expects that any changes discussed for Windows Server 2008 will be incremental and not get a lot of play at PDC. He expects software-as-a-service, or software-plus-services, as Microsoft likes to call it, to dominate.

“Microsoft will be trying to convince people that writing for Microsoft’s SaaS platform makes more sense than writing for Amazon’s or Google’s or anyone else’s,” said Cherry.

Martin Reynolds, vice president and research fellow with Gartner, also expects to see some SaaS-related news. “We know they are investing heavily in the infrastructure and technology to build cloud computing, obviously it’s time for people to start using it,” he told InternetNews.com.

Ahead of the cloud

Cloud computing requires a different kind of application development, so PDC is the show to give developers that guidance. “These applications don’t just happen. They need to be thought out, tested and deployed. So you need to be well ahead of the curve,” said Reynolds.

Cherry said Microsoft’s commitment will be clear after the conference is over. “You’ll know Microsoft is serious about SaaS or Internet delivery service when it’s equally available across all of the browsers and you don’t need a specific version of Internet Explorer to use it,” he said. “Signs like that will tell us how serious Microsoft is about the cloud being a service or just another delivery mechanism for Microsoft software.”

Next page: Watch for 64-bit support

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Reynolds thinks another element to watch is 64-bit support. Currently, Vista and XP are available in both 32-bit and 64-bit builds. While the difference in bit sizes is irrelevant except to advanced users, there is one difference everyone can relate to: memory capacity.

A 32-bit processor can only read 4GB of memory, and Windows XP doesn’t even see that much, it sees around 3.5GB even if you put 4GB in your computer. Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and AMD (NYSE: AMD) have been making 64-bit chips for some time, but 64-bit has been limited to the server side for the most part.

Reynolds noted that high-end desktops from PC vendors, particularly HP (NYSE: HPQ) have been coming with 64-bit Vista and 8GB of memory. While most 32-bit apps run just fine in a 64-bit system, some need to be ported.

“Most of the time, a 32-bit app runs fine in a 64-bit OS. Those that don’t need to be fixed. This is a good place for it,” said Reynolds. “Processor support for 64-bit is everywhere, we just need a few years for programmers to catch up. I think the message is 64-bits will be there when they need it.”

PDC kicks off Monday with the opening keynote from Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie. Ozzie speaks twice, both Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, he will be joined by Bob Muglia, senior vice president and general manager of Microsoft’s server and tools division. On Tuesday, he will be joined by Steve Sinofsky, who is heading up Windows 7 development.

InternetNews.com will have onsite coverage of PDC next week.

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