Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer skipped the monkey dance at this morning’s Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC), but he did have a few bits of news to share.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has been losing market share for the last few years, but the company has high hopes for the next release, IE9. The main highlight is better support for HTML5, an emerging standard for creating interactive apps (the kind of things currently done with Flash).
IE head Dean Hachamovich explained “with full hardware acceleration, HTML5 runs like an app.” He also showed a bunch of demos to prove his point, and announced a new platform preview release you can download and install if you’re interested in trying it out yourself. (You’ll need Windows Vista or 7–XP isn’t supported.) Based on past release schedules, the final version should come out some time next spring.
Ballmer also talked about Windows Phone 7, and drew cheers when he announced that all paid PDC attendees would receive a free handset to try out themselves. The company showed off a number of Phone 7 apps, including one from Amazon.com, which just introduced its iPad shopping app earlier this week.
Microsoft also improved its cloud position by adding some long-promised features to Windows Azure application hosting service.
The improvements make it easier for developers who’ve already built applications on Windows Server to move them over to Azure. In essence, Azure will let developers simply create virtual machines and port their apps over, rather than having to build them specially for Azure. Amazon Web Services has offered a similar capability for more than a year now, so this fills a big gap that should make Azure more competitive. (Details are available in this Word document.)
Azure isn’t going to have much impact on Microsoft’s earnings in the next year, but eventually could grow into a billion-dollar business along the lines of its Visual Studio developer tools.
Although there was no monkey dance, Ballmer did offer a couple “blah blah blah”s, his shorthand way of dismissing criticisms that he thinks aren’t valid.
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