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Microsoft’s Blend: Why not Support Flash?

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Adobe’s John Dowdell has the best question (and best set of links) about Microsoft’s new “Blend:” why do it and not support Flash?

Because of what Blend lets Microsoft do: get Macromedia stuff out of the Windows development process.

Huh?

Remember all those “Longhorn rules” posts I made about four years ago? Do you know where they came from?

I do. And I’ll never forget the software development lesson that was harshly handed to me.

Microsofties (before I was an employee) showed me some prototypes of Vista. I didn’t know they were prototypes, though. Later, after becoming a Microsoft employee, I found out that all we really saw were Macromedia Director-based movies.

They looked so cool. Tom Koch, today, and I talked about that MVP meeting where we saw those prototypes and how good they made us feel (almost everything that we saw back then was totally changed in the final release).

This actually was NOT a good thing for Microsoft. Why? Because when you build up expectations and you aren’t able to meet them you look pretty silly.

But behind the scenes things were even worse.

Why? Because executives bought into the Flash and Mirrors song and dance too. They thought what they were seeing was possible.

The problem was, developers weren’t involved. Only people who studied interaction, design, and Macromedia Director.

Problem is, anything you create in Director has to be thrown out and rewritten in C++ (if you work on the Windows team).

That meant a whole bunch of time is wasted, plus it’s very possible that what you are dreaming of is simply not possible. It’s also possible that development teams, that don’t understand interaction design, will change your “experiences” and totally munge things up.

So, could Flash ever be “force fit” to be the UI of Windows? Not according to the engineers who’ve studied the problem.

They needed a system that could be used to design real pieces of Windows, if not the entire UI, and handed off to a developer, or team of developers, without having to have the developers touch the UI at all.

You can see this in my early Channel 9 videos with the Sparkle team (which became “Blend” today).

Blend is based on .NET 3.0, and goes beyond anything possible today in Flash or Adobe products – at least as it comes to the combined design and development team.

I saw how a designer built the original Longhorn clock and a developer coded the interactions behind it using Sparkle in a fraction of the time it would take using other approaches.

Does Microsoft care about cross-platform and all that other stuff? Yeah. But it’s only secondary to Microsoft’s need to make the Windows development process much smoother. The executives never want to go through another schedule slip like they did with Longhorn.

Blend will let the Windows team designers get rid of Macromedia stuff. At least that’s the hype.

How will we know the hype is real? Show me those Vienna prototypes and let me play with them! (Vienna is the code name for the next version of Windows).

UPDATE: TechMeme is all over Expression Blend.

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Robert Scoble is the founder of the Scobleizer blog. He works as PodTech.net’s Vice President of Media Development.

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