I blogged a note around a year or so ago, having looked at the free Microsoft download called Expression. It is a fine arts capable painting program, albeit with a slightly complicated interface. Microsoft bought the company a couple of years ago. This seems to have been pulled into the forefront of developments for Windows
Presentation Foundation (WPF). They have just shown some of the videos from the PDC which are talking about the Sparkle product, which they are touting as a designers way to create interfaces. It will the creation of multiple layers output with a timeline. Have a look at the webpage of Manuel, the designer in the team XAML is the open, extensible object-serialization format, which tries to match up to the internal .NET drawing classes. SVG with extensions.
Looks like they are lining up against Adobe, with the Expression program having turned into Sparkle which can take on After Effects. Nothing really competes with Flash, but there is a heavy bias for the XAML developments to take over SVG as the animation language of choice, but could it push swf files aside? I think it will take a year or two yet. There isn’t a plugin for IE yet, but it’s probably on the blocks. If Adobe have bought Macromedia, there will be some amazing products coming. Microsoft have these products to give themselves some ability to compete.
Someone compared WPF with Flex Presentation Server. Sparkle is like Flex Builder but it has added a timeline which Flex Builder doesn’t have. Acrylic is like Fireworks, Quartz is like Dreamweaver. Have a look at Tinic Uro’s blog for a view from a Flash architect. To me Sparkle is more similar to the Adobe line of Photoshop and After Effects, but the scripting in XAML may be what makes the difference.
As for WPF/E for Everywhere. Does it exist? Is it being used? Avalon will bring the first clean implementation of a document-view architechture. We must exploit this to make full use of the interface. Do we have to wait for Vista to run this. They say we should be able to run it under XP, SP2. I’d like to have a go at using the latest downloads. (Watch this space ) Microsoft need to keep things on the boil, while Flash 8 is out and being downloaded by the million. There’ll probably be over 200 million downloads of Flash 8 before Vista comes out! When – end of next year? or 2007? (xbox 360 is the exciting release in this house, coming soon! )
The video of the PDC plasma screen seemed to give the programmers such an excitement, but I’m not totally convinced. Ventuz could do the same now, it has more of the 3D primitives built in, and less programming to do. The 3d ripple effects in the video needed some (100 lines) C# code, so there’s no built-in benefit there. XAML will do the 2D transitions quite easily. Driving 40 screens seems impressive, but I think that they were all the same. The computer just had a video output. A video card with this facility is not out of the ordinary these days, we’ve used them in TV areas for previews for a number of years now. Maybe I missed the point somewhere. I enjoyed the channel9 video with Manuel. The interface options had ideas from tools on the Silicon Graphics SDK, Dylan on the Macintosh if anyone remembers, and After Effects layers and filter effects. Someone else quoted the Anark Studios site, which has a web plugin, but I think that ventuz is a better example. More 3d oriented. But I love how the development environment is becoming easier and easier. I’m almost convinced tho’ that Microsoft could bring so much more to the table if they help drive standards rather than moving along in parallel to gain some market advantage. They have some brilliant guys, eg John Gossman in the Sparkle team, with so much experience of the old ways, and such a vision for the new path. Some of the methodologies from people like SGI, Apple, Next etc must be pulled together with standards to give these new astounding tools. It is still an exciting time to be be involved.
Long may it continue.