Chris Anderson rose to fame as the architect of Avalon (now called WPF), Microsoft’s incredible new ultra-rich GUI development platform. Since wrapping up his full-time work with WPF several years ago, not much has been said about his new project.

The famous Don Box, COM Extraordinaire, put together one of the best services stacks out there in Indigo (now WCF). He joined Chris Anderson to work on… something.

The public line is that their effort is centered on one of Bill Gates’ passions: model-driven development (MDA). Surely this gave comfort to Microsoft’s competitors, as some awfully bright and well-funded folks have disappeared into the rat-hole of creating higher-level, domain-centric abstractions for developing software.

I don’t think that’s what they’ve been working on. Or at least, MDA is probably at best more a feature of an effort that is more appropriately described as an application framework for WPF. Perhaps close Microsoft watchers have known about this for a while, but its news to me.

Earlier today at MTS07, Chris Anderson had some strong words for what he considers WPF’s number one hole. Here’s my paraphrased transcription:

We’re kinda sucking in [the application framework] space. We’re pushing out samples, etc. You can see hints as to our direction, but we don’t even have an MFC-style system inside of WPF. We have a lot of work to do in this area. This is top of the mind and my #1 thing as to what is missing and is needed to make WPF a compelling app platform.

In the past, he’s acknowledged this weakness but in a much more subdued way. It seems to me that he’s dialing up the pain in order to increase the drama when the cure is revealed in a few short months.

Don seemed to confirm this when we said separately, “We’re basically working on XAML 2.0.” XAML of course is preferred way to express WPF user interfaces; why would MDA involve rev’ing the XAML grammar? Of course, Don and Chris have also talked a lot about extending XAML to do far more than express user interfaces; Chris openly talks about using XAML to replace C# in many non-GUI scenarios. Hmm…

If their project is a WPF application framework, it would make perfect sense: the app framework is a big gap when comparing WPF point-by-point against the Flex/Apollo stack. And the exciting bit is that Microsoft has an opportunity to innovate. Flex’s app framework clearly trumps Swing and WinForms, but certainly doesn’t take things to the “next level” (in terms of productivity features on top of a GUI toolkit). If this forthcoming WPF app framework does something innovative, we could be in for some truly interesting times.

I’ll be watching the blogosphere closely around the Mix ’07 timeframe to see what exactly Don and Chris unveil in Sin City…

One thought on “The Coming WPF Application Framework

  1. 100% correct, it is currently a huge gap in developing with WPF. Which is a fantastic platform.

    Can’t wait MFC/WPF, it’s about time.

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