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Microsoft Makes WPF Free To The Competition

Microsoft has done something shocking, even to me: They are making the Windows Presentation Foundation available to everybody else. WPF is one of the secret great things in Vista, making it possible to create incredible graphic experiences on websites with a lot less effort, and Microsoft is making it available as WPF/E (for Everywhere), a cross-platform browser plugin that you can download right now. That means it works in Windows on Internet Explorer and Firefox, and on Macs on Firefox and Safari, fulling covering almost everyone on the internet (save Linux and Opera users).

WPF supports vector-based graphics, animation, and video content in a way that is much more natural to the browser experience than Flash. It puts in your web browser things that look much more like desktop applications than like web pages.

So, why the hell are they doing this? A few reasons:

(1) - Development tools. They may be making the technology free to users who rely on the competition, but only Microsoft has the tools to create these experiences. Microsoft’s Expression Studio and suites are going to becoming must-have tools if WPF takes off.

(2) - Change of philosophy - Microsoft’s continued sales of Windows and Office, as well as support of the overall PC market, relies on good will among users. In the past, Microsoft used monopoly tactics to support Windows, creating proprietary technology, like WPF, that only worked on Windows and IE, and forced users to use Microsoft. Now, Microsoft realizes that WPF on a Mac does one thing: Make Microsoft look like an innovator and a friend to all computer users. WPF/E, if a success, will spread more good will than lock-in ever has, and that’s a huge benefit, including financially.

Sean Alexander saw what was going on, and made it a priority to get moved to the WPF/E team, so he’s got a lot to say, and will likely be your best source for news on this in the future.

Scoble also talks about a part of the Expression release, Expression Blend, which seems designed to compete with Adobe/Macromedia Flash. He explains why Microsoft did this, not to compete with Adobe, but because of Windows Vista. See, when developing Vista, the UI designers did their mockups in Flash, which had to be given to the dev team and completely rewritten in C++ code for Windows. The UI guys couldn’t touch the UI code, since it was in Flash, a completely different world, so Microsoft designed a tool letting them do UI while the software programmers worked on features. That is Blend.

Coding4Fun has a few WPF samples. Load them up on a system with the plugin installed and see why this is so amazing. Karsten Januszewski has one too. It’s amazing how good some of this stuff is. I want the Media Library example to use on my own site.

December 6th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | General, Applications, Windows, Internet Explorer, Apple, Firefox, Vista | 3 comments
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  1. Free of charge, anyway.

    No word of licenses, which is the most important part of “free”.

    Please update if you hear otherwise!


    Comment by DeWitt Clinton | 12/6/2006

  2. This seems very consistent with Microsoft’s (leaked) internal goal to create new protocols to slow down Linux adoption rates.


    After all, once the world is dependant on these technologies, it’s going to be used against Free and open operating systems. (”Use Linux? I thought that was incompatible with WPF/E?”)

    In this case, I have to say I consider this title to be very confusing, it sounds as though the licensing is opened up to their competitors, but instead it’s merely released to the market. And it appears I’m not the only one who thinks so.

    Some days, I’m glad to be subject to Dutch/European law, where software patents are invalid.

    Comment by Tim | 12/8/2006

  3. I totally forgot to warn you guys! IT HAS DRM!

    “With “WPF/E” they’ll be able to do it (starting with eval’ing progressive download support in the CTP and content protection is on the roadmap).”

    Keywords: *content protection*!

    Comment by Tim | 12/8/2006

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