So we reach the end of the first day of Mix07 London, what are my thoughts? Well the conference, as conference go, is well organized and I can have no complaint over the quality of the sessions or presenters.
Has it changed how I think about Silverlight? Well I have realised that 1.0 is a very different product to 1.1. Have no doubt this conference is about SilverLight 1.1, and that the 1.1 Alpha release is missing a lot of functionality at present. As a shipping product 1.1 look a long way off, at least a year (which is forever it seems in the world of Web 2.0).
As usual with this type of event the most interesting stuff tends to be in the session you don't expect. As a developer I had focused on Scott Guthrie's sessions, which were good, but fundamentally a walk through SilverLight API. So after lunch I fancied a change so went to the design track session ZAP!, WHAM!, KAPOW! - Killer digital reading experience in the 21st century. This was about producing a digital comic and gave some nice detail on the pain points in WPF/XAML application development. The main tips were to get the data binding right and to create sensible reusable components, this might sound a bit obvious as a .NET developer but this was the design track!
However one of the speakers, Robby Ingebretsen, talked about the way WPF had allowed left and right brain people (coders and designers, is that the right way round?) to work together to create killer applications. However I do worry that tools and APIs are good but you also need people who can singularly bridge this gap i.e. coders who have a design eye, or designers who can cut code. The history of CSS/HTML web design has shown that this is a rare type of person. I think this is going to be the new resourcing pinch point for projects.
It was interesting that in this design track session a quick show of hands had the audience about 1/3 designers 2/3 coders What does this say about interest in WPF/SilverLight area of the design side of this industry? Oh and by the way nearly all the attendees were white and male like most technical conferences I have attended. I had expected a more design orientated conference to have different gender mix. As an industry we do not seem to be reaching out to more diverse pool of employees.
So will SIlverLight 'reboot the web' as Robert Scoble said. It will change it certainly, mashup applications look to the way forward with custom clients making 'appropriate' use of web service based data. This also helps to address the key concern, accessibility, where single back-end system can have many clients built to target different user groups requirements such as visually impaired users requiring screen reader functionality. One single client does not have to meet the need of all clients. Hopefully SilverLight and other Web 2.0 technologies make the creation of multiple clients potentially affordable. We have yet to see if it will be socially acceptable.
However will we see rich applications written in SilverLight running inside browsers? I was at a Macromedia launch event some years ago for some version of Flash and they were then hailing the imminent arrival of rich browser based applications with partial post back, it all looked great, but this has not been how Flash has tended to be used. I think the difference now is we have a more mature SOA model behind the scenes and SIlverLight can leverage the power of .NET. These could be the key factors that move SilverLight from a tool to providing some design punch on web page to being the core of the application functionality.