A Chat with Microsoft’s Brian Goldfarb

by Peter Galli on March 26, 2010 10:40am

Brian Goldfarb, the Director of Product Management for Developer Platforms at Microsoft, recently participated at both MIX10 in Las Vegas and the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) in San Francisco. I thought it would be interesting to get his thoughts about both events.

Peter Galli: Your passion for both open source communities and the open source approach to making software is something you discussed while speaking on "The Web is the Platform" panel at the recent OSBC. Can you elaborate not only on your passion, but also on how you've seen changes in Microsoft's overall approach to open source?

Brian Goldfarb: Microsoft's change in how it approaches open source began pretty significantly about seven years ago when I joined the company. One of my primary focuses was on helping bring a strong shift in the way Microsoft thinks about, participates in, and works with open source communities.

Today, this takes the shape of open source projects, code contributions, financial contributions, and other ways with a strong focus on being compatible with existing open source communities. From my team alone, we've made a number of investments in open source in the last year: These include contributions to the jQuery JavaScript Library, the Silverlight Media Framework (SMF), the Silverlight Analytics Framework (SAF), the Silverlight Control Toolkit, the AJAX Control Toolkit, and Project Orchard

In addition to projects and code, we also worked closely with open source application communities like DotNetNuke, Drupal, WordPress and others via our work on the Windows Web App Gallery. Microsoft is delivering advertising to help increase the size of the ecosystem for these applications on Windows Server and IIS.  This is great because it drives more opportunities for the ecosystems around these applications to service customers and monetize and it helps drive increased use of Windows - this effort has driven over 1.5-million application installations!

Peter Galli: Just how committed is Microsoft to Open Source?

Brian Goldfarb: Open Source is one of many business models that surround the creation of software. At Microsoft, while not always clear in the past, we are completely committed to open source as one way to address the needs of our customers, while advancing both the broader ecosystem of partners and developers and our business.

Peter Galli: You were just at MIX10. Tell me about some of the news there.

Brian Goldfarb: Well, Silverlight now brings a common infrastructure for plugins across a variety of devices. As a company we also announced an increasing commitment to HTML5 with IE9, implementing standards in a consistent way. Silverlight and HTML5 are complementary and symbiotic technologies serving distinct needs.  At Microsoft, we are committed to playing a major role with both and delivering the experiences consumers increasingly demand.

HTML5 is a great iteration on the already popular AJAX technologies in market (we even created the X in Ajax J) and Microosft has great investments in tools (Visual Studio, Expression Web) and platforms (ASP.NET) to build HTMl5 sites.  Silverlight pushes the envelope on what is possible, going beyond HTMl5 to enable scenarios not covered by standards in a consistent way across different devices.  Also, we announced Microsoft is dedicating developers to actively contribute to the jQuery JavaScript Library and be active participants in the broader jQuery community.

Peter Galli: So how is Silverlight moving the Web forward?

Brian Goldfarb: Silverlight is focused on driving the bleeding edge of what is possible on the Web.  We help enable companies to best design, develop, and deliver the engaging interactive experiences that their customers demand.  With a single runtime, we span both the web, the desktop, and mobile devices making it easy for developers to write once and optimize the best user experience on each form factor. 

We also focus on enabling a wide variety of applications -the highest-quality media experiences in 1080P HD,  to business applications and enable them to run both in and out of the browser, on or offline - with a single runtime installation.  Silverlight is helping drive new innovation for what can be accomplished through Web delivered content, whether it's IIS Smooth Streaming for Media, Pivot for data visualization and exploration, Deep Zoom for super-high resolution imagery and more.

Peter Galli: So, are there now two different groups of developers, mobile developers and Web developers?

Brian Goldfarb: No, as we announced at MIX this week, for Silverlight, there is no difference. More than 500,000 Silverlight developers are now mobile developers.

Peter Galli:  With the proliferation of the Web and mobile devices, people are swimming in data. We are all suffering from data overload. Is data now the business model?

Brian Goldfarb:  Not really - it's more of a trend to enable business opportunities - a trend more about enhancing consumer experiences, where the data is pervasive, and where you can connect to it from anywhere. With the growing availability of Web data you can easily create new richer front ends to existing websites (for instance the Microsoft Silverlight 4 Beta Client for Facebook, or the work being enabled by the Microsoft SDK for Facebook Platform) and it opens up a new world of possibilities to businesses to change the way we interact with data that already exists. We've done a lot of work with our partners around all this that puts a pretty face on data consumption.

OData is an example of how we are making it easier to share and consume data. With OData we are extending simple standards (AtomPub) to make it easier to build services that can be consumed by any front end.

Peter Galli:  As we move towards a reality where the Web is the platform, the need for large scale enterprise frameworks is diminished. How do you reconcile that with the existing large frameworks?

Brian Goldfarb: Well, I think you have to have both. There needs to be room for comprehensive frameworks like Java as well as for agile frameworks. You have to do both, because you're serving very different customers.

When we talk to enterprise IT, they tell us to ship slower, while the OS community wants us to ship faster.  We're able to deliver on both of these seemingly conflicting demands with steady releases of the .NET Framework and agile releases of software like Silverlight and ASP.NET MVC. We've done a ton of work to make Windows and IIS a great resource for running PHP apps. We're investing in Drupal, Word Press with the Windows App Gallery, and we're driving business to open source apps, creating energy and usage in these communities.

This benefits everybody and grows the pie for everyone. For example, we recently open sourced ASP.NET MVC 2, and Miguel de Icaza has it up and running on Mono already.

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