I was recently asked to provide my humble opinion on the future of WPF , literally how it should it be charted going forward. This is my utopian vision for WPF going forward.
I am going to answer that question as if I had received the the Wonka Golden Ticket and was able to go to Microsoft and ultimately become a sort of Scott Gu of Microsoft and direct the future of WPF, here is what I would order the Umpa Lumpas to do. To be clear, I only use the term Umpa Lumpa to mean a hard diligent worker at Microsoft and not any short and blue person or a
minion doing one’s evil bidding; heck a combination of both but better paid.
Before one can come to grips with my future utopia vision of what WPF would be, one would have to look into the past to see what Xaml technologies has provided the the Line Of Business (LOB) developer. For that is what I am, a Line of Business developer who gets paid to create business applications to the highest bidder. My ego is inflated enough to think that my services actually go to a “highest bidder” , but let us not touch that fourth wall of my reality ok?
Where Have You Been Xaml?
Currently a LOB developer is basically in charge of bringing data and all related business rules to the corporate environs. Historically that vehicle has been Xaml used in WPF, Silverlight and just recently Windows 8 tablet. All of them use subtle flavors of Xaml to achieve that work. Xaml is great because through the use of MVVM and a kick ass way of leveraging a graphical based solution to displaying that data, it has provided the developer with a rich toolset bar none in the industry. Let me repeat that, bar none people.
What is my anecdotal evidence?
I was tasked with bringing such a graphical solution to a cable industry partner. To anyone who is not aware of the cable industry, it is, now, a few providers spread out over the country, if not the world, and they are frankly a Java shop. The Oracle flag flies over their realm and very few if any .Net projects are done within the differing companies.
With that backdrop in mind, Java, the small company I ended up working for was seeking to bring tools to the major cable vendors. One of the tools needed a graphical front end to allow for a back and forth way of editing business related data for their end clients. There was no Java, still isn’t, technology which could fill that gap, only a Xaml solution in the form of the Silverlight tool provided the best working solution and they took it.
Take out the Silverlight of the last story and keep in mind Xaml and WPF. For what they needed was a way to bring a rich client experience to the end user and there was a viable Xaml based solution available to them.
Xaml As a Means and Not an End
If only businesses could understand that WPF in a managed language is the best use of large scale applications and providing a rich, yes rich, client experience to the end user, it would go a long way.
WPF’s Achille’s Heal AND HOW THE CLOUD COULD RESCUE IT
Very few businesses want to install, and update applications to the end user. Period end of story.
That is why Silverlight to both the developer and businesses was so appealing. Not that it would work cross browser or anything else, just that it provided a vehicle to supplant IT and go around having to install applications on locked up corporate PCs.
From the cloud came a solution to avoid the IT department and it was, and still is, the best way to bring data and more critically the viewing of said data to the corporate person.
That leads me here, to my goal of WPFs future. If I could provide the corporate end user with a way to bring a rich graphical experience without having to install it, that would be my goal.
How would I achieve it?
As a LOB experience, I don’t care that this it would not be available outside IE; because my target audience is required to to have IE for this business purpose. In as much as we provide a PC, not a Mac to the corporate user, we provide a specific browser.
If I could provide the best of WPF, in a better browser experience (not Silverlight) that is what I would be the task the Umpa Lumpas would create.
The reality is that someone like a Scott Gu would have to champion such a project at Microsoft. This person would have to sell the idea of a managed GUI environment (similar to C# being managed and not C++) to the browser based LOB customer as a WPF Future solution.
But I truly believe it would be a game changer in the business world…just that I don’t have the golden ticket and my voice is just one out here on the Western Front of the internet at this time.