The Net’s talking-shops are quivering, positively throbbing, as they try to synthesize the flood of technology bulletins—mostly Longhorn stuff—coming out of the Microsoft PDC. Jon Udell assembles the evidence and finds that it points more or less where Joe Hewitt says it points. Could be, but I propose we reason by allegory. Let’s step through Alice’s mirror into an alternate universe and see if we can learn anything about this one from what we find there.

First off, megathanks to Jon Udell for digging up the references. Second, for convenience, as they say in contracts and standards, let’s call our alternate universe “Arcadia.”

Arcadian HTML · Avalon proves that Microsoft has done some strong deep thinking about how to tie code to markup. At the Arcadian PDC, Microsoft announced that for Longhorn they were throwing out the past-its-sell-by-date Trident HTML rendering engine in favor of a new one which was going to be ruthlessly XHTML-conformant and come with this really intelligent way of mapping back and forth between markup constructs and modern O-O code. Of course their implemententation came with bindings for C# and the CLR, but the mechanism was plenty general enough to support any modern programming idiom (but Microsoft/C# could expect to win some big ones due to being first out of the gate).

Arcadian CSS · The Avalon stylesheeting magic has reinvented a lot of CSS semantics, and done it with <markup class="XML"/> rather than { flavor: CSS; }, which at one time I would have thought was a good idea but in the light of RelaxNG and CSS itself I’m not so sure.

But in Arcadia, Redmond just finished announcing that along with their hot new rendering engine they were shipping a totally kick-ass implementation of CSS 1, 2, and 3, with facilities for tying code to styles just as slick as, and carefully integrated with, that son-of-Trident rendering engine.

Arcadian SVG · Judging from the vector graphics in Avalon, Microsoft has learned a lot from SVG—no surprise since their VML was one of the primary inputs and they were at the table for the whole process. In Arcadia, the big news is that they have taken all those lessons and hammered out an SVG implementation that is going to leave Adobe and Corel and friends in the dust. Furthermore, they’ve tied it smoothly into the whole Office suite, so you can pull live graphs out of Excel and pull them into Web pages and animate them with Javascript. Plus of course they’ve hooked up that cool new code-integration machinery.

Arcadian Schema Languages · In Arcadia, the idea of inventing a whole new schema language to describe filesystem structures was pretty quickly thrown on the trash-heap. Instead, they helped push RelaxNG over the ISO goal-line, getting a few of their big requirements into the mix in the progress, and threw the company behind it; W3C XML Schema lives on only in its widely-accepted set of primitive datatypes.

Anyone can see that RelaxNG plus XML Schema datatypes has pretty well everything you need to describe on-disk information structures. And then Microsoft shipped a smart RelaxNG-driven authoring environment for that Avalon XHTML + SVG + CSS + Code brew, instantly setting the standard for upstream information creation and giving Office a new lease on life.

Arcadian Web · The clever thing about the Arcadian Longhorn technologies is that they don’t struggle against the Web or try to convince people to go back to compiled desktop apps; after all, in the years 1994-2000 the end-users and CIOs of the world spoke with one voice, saying “Enough of this compiled desktop-app crap, run everything but content creation through the browser.”

Of course in Arcadia, all this super-hot and super-standardized technology slots happily right into IE 7, making Office (for a while) the only authoring environment that matters.

This is What Would Happen If · Microsoft believed they could take the world on, on a level playing field, and win. Based on what we’ve seen so far, I think they maybe could.

Redmond vs. the Web · Some commentators have suggested that the Avalon stuff is an attempt to convince the world to give up all this wide-open Web stuff and go back to compiled desktop apps based on proprietary Microsoft technologies. What a silly, silly, silly idea. Surely nobody, in Redmond or anywhere else, believes in this for a moment?


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
November 01, 2003
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