Microsoft will open its second annual conference aimed at Web developers, Mix07, on Monday in Las Vegas, an event billed as a "72-hour conversation" about Microsoft's profusion of new technologies and tools for a market it had long neglected.
Last year's debut Mix included an apology from Bill Gates for the years-long development rot that plagued Internet Explorer before last year's major IE 7 overhaul. Throughout the first half of the decade, Microsoft showed little interest in serving Web developers. Its browser languished, and its FrontPage Web development software was much derided in the industry.
But Microsoft had a Web epiphany, and last year began aggressively going public with plans to update its offerings and chase after a slice of a market dominated by Adobe (thanks, in part, to its Macromedia acquisition).
Last year's Mix show previewed the flood of new products Microsoft is now in the midst of rolling out, including its Expression line of Web design and development tools and its forthcoming Silverlight multimedia platform, a future Adobe Flash rival. Orcas, the code-named next iteration of Microsoft's Visual Studio tools, will include features aimed at linking Web developers with their application-development colleagues.
"After a five- or six-year hiatus of not really innovating on the browser, [Mix06] was really a breakthrough event for us," said Tim O'Brien, Microsoft's director of platform strategy.
Developers are bullish on the new offerings. "Silverlight looks great and Expression does as well," said Stephen Forte, CTO of analytics solutions developer Corzen in New York City. "We'll see how it all stacks up against Adobe. I think Microsoft is starting to get it right and can make a dent in Adobe's market share."
Silverlight will be a cross-platform milestone for Microsoft: Executives say it will equally support both Mac OS X and Windows, running in Internet Explorer 6 and 7, Firefox 1.5 and 2.0, and Safari. Formerly known by the code named WPF/E (Windows Presentation Framework/Everywhere), Silverlight shares an XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) presentation layer with the WPF graphical subsystem that underpins Vista.
As befits a show with a "Web 2.0"-style focus, Mix07 will be blogged, Twittered, Flickred, tagged and Web cast. Microsoft organizers are planning extensive running coverage on their VisitMix.com Web site.
PAULA ROONEY contributed to this story.