Beta of Microsoft's Flash Rival Coming

Microsoft is preparing to release a Community Technology Preview of WPF/E, a subset of the Windows Presentation Foundation that utilizes cross-browser Web technologies and is designed to run on multiple operating systems and even mobile devices - with capabilities similar to Adobe's Flash.

WPF/E was introduced at PDC 2005 and further demoed at Microsoft's MIX '06 event in Las Vegas earlier this year. Specifically, WPF/E relies on XAML and JavaScript to build pages, and will also contain a small, cross platform subset of the CLR and .NET Framework runs C# or VB.NET code.

"Yes, we are bringing C# programming to the Mac," Microsoft developer Mike Harsh said last March.

But despite its appearances and claims that WPF/E will be Microsoft's "Flash killer," the company says the product was designed with a different purpose in mind: to use Microsoft technologies and software to build applications that not only run on the desktop, but also on the Web and cell phones.

"WPF/E came about not as a "me too" but as the result of candid conversations with Microsoft customers," explained developer Joe Stegman over the weekend. "So at the core, WPF/E is about something fundamentally different than a "me too" technology - it's about providing a continuum for developers/designers/CTOs across the full Microsoft developer/designer product offering."

Stegman adds that although WPF/E has been designed with a broad group of developers and usage scenarios in mind, it must be consistent with other Microsoft product offerings. "Obviously, this is not something the Flash Platform can or should be," he said.

Microsoft has kept quiet about WPF/E for most of the year, namely due to internal changes regarding branding and messaging about the product, which can be difficult to grasp conceptually. The Redmond company also needs to decide how to get developers onboard and actively using the new technology.

"Although we've been silent, we have been working non-stop since I presented at Mix 06 last year," Stegman added. "We've released several Microsoft internal versions of WPF/E and will be releasing an external Customer Technology Preview (CTP) soon."

Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley said she expects the 1.0 version of WPF/E to arrive mid to late next year.

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