What a week for the design community, in which Quark provides details of the upcoming XPress 7 and Macromedia releases Studio 8. But if that wasn't enough, then Microsoft drops the bombshell at its Professional Developer Conference, with the announcement of the three apps in its Expression series. Speculation had been mounting about what MS was up to with its Sparkle app, tritely dubbed a "Flash-killer" by the media, and Acrylic, its intriguing vector/bitmap image editing and creation app that's been available as a free "technology preview" for some time now.
Turns out that MS was doing what it does best—creating operating systems and then incenting its developer community to create a tidal wave of products for them. The operating system in this case is of course the long-awaited Windows Vista, which will sport significantly more powerful graphical capabilities. Rather than wait for third-party products to arrive that let developers exploit its capabilities, MS wisely created its own suite of tools to speed the process.
Along the way it made sure that all the platform and services technologies that are near and dear to its heart were intricately interwoven into the apps—for example, XML, ASP.NET and good old Visual Studio are all well represented. And there are some newcomers, such as Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML), which connects user interface behaviour to XML. So with snazzy new tools they keep their existing designer base happy and tied to Microsoft tools and technologies. And if they can use the tools to attract new designers and developers, and thereby convert them to the MS way, so much the better.
The three members of the Expression family are the wittily named Graphic Designer, Interactive Designer and Web Designer. Their Windows emphasis and focus on the creation of interactive Web site and application interfaces means they're not for everybody, but they do make perfect sense for Microsoft. And I'm personally pleased with the arrival of a serious alternative to the Adobe approach. Worth checking out.
Final thought: Wouldn't this approach also make sense for Apple? Perhaps they could snap up Adobe's GoLive, which is now on death watch status, and go from there?