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Microsoft's PDC Looks To Be Big

During the last few months, with the prospect of significant news about the futures of Windows, Office, and online services, there's been a familiar refrain coming from Microsoft camps, both clearly and implied: wait until PDC.

During the last few months, with the prospect of significant news about the futures of Windows, Office, and online services, there's been a familiar refrain coming from Microsoft camps, both clearly and implied: wait until PDC.The Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft's semi-annual gala for all things Microsoft (and especially Microsoft developers), has become the traditional way for Microsoft to release the first details of major initiatives. The last two PDC's, in 2003 and 2005, became more catch-all than previous events, and this year (late October in Los Angeles) is shaping up to be no different.

The slate of sessions at this year's PDC includes a number of new and upcoming technologies, including: the future of .Net, the Live platform, including Live Mesh, Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8, the next versions of several of Microsoft's programming languages, including a new one called F#, modeling plans, an updated unified communications road map, several emerging database services, Visual Studio Team System code named Rosario, and Silverlight Mobile.

"Wait until PDC" was a familiar refrain at this year's MIX conference, which focused largely on Silverlight 2.0 while Microsoft chief software architect Ray Ozzie began dropping only the first hints of Microsoft's upcoming software plus services platform, Live Mesh. It, or a variation, was repeated by those working on both Internet Explorer and the Live platform, including Live platform services VP David Treadwell.

More recently, Microsoft demonstrated multitouch functionality in Windows 7 at a conference sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. But when one of the journalists moderating discussion of Microsoft and the multitouch features mentioned that Windows 7's taskbar looked different, the presenter said she wasn't supposed to talk about it yet. When might she? So far, four of the WPC sessions unveiled so far focus on Windows 7, which will represent the largest data dump on the upcoming operating system yet.

Last week, in an interview at Microsoft's annual partner conference, incoming Microsoft business division president Stephen Elop confirmed that the public would be hearing additional details of Office 14 in the coming months, though he wasn't specific. At the same conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer teased some Office 14 functionality -- including social networking -- that would take advantage of the Web in new ways. PDC would pose a good opportunity to unveil these features and how developers can take advantage of them.

A few release schedules look like they might even sync up with PDC later this year. Internet Explorer 8 is currently in beta 1, with a new beta expected soon. October would seem a good target for release. Live Mesh, meanwhile, seems like it should go into public beta around that time frame and see the release of an SDK, and it isn't too far of a stretch to expect a potential beta 1 of Windows 7 and Office 14 both. A few predictions about new technologies we haven't heard about: Microsoft's utility computing services could see their initial debuts in talks at PDC, as could .Net 4.0.

Whether it's prudent to put all your eggs in one basket is another discussion entirely.

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