TechEd 2006: Windows Live team unveils new SDK, demos 'mashups'

Boston (MA) - At an early morning session of TechEd 2006, representatives of the Windows Live development team showed off a new set of open developers' tools and SDKs available now from Microsoft's new Web developers' site, unveiled last Friday. Among the new features demonstrated today was the ability for a site developer to create a mashup - Microsoft's new food-derived metaphor for a site comprised mostly or entirely of composited Web services, such as aggregated news, blogs, and Windows Live gadgets.

The new site is itself a mashup, bringing in aggregated news from the MSDN blogs, services such as Virtual Earth, and galleries that show off client-side functionality using Atlas, Microsoft's asynchronous JavaScript language. One real-world example featured a real estate office in Seattle that uses mashup techniques to present a browsable satellite map of available properties. The site uses Virtual Earth to display overhead maps of houses, plus SDK tools for implementing pushpins that serve as interactive controls. A pushpin can bring up a tooltip showing a ground-level realtor photograph of a property that the mouse pointer hovers over.

Much of the code used by local developers to generate the realty site was gleaned from the Virtual Earth Interactive SDK site, and customized in a period of time that Windows Live product planner Ken Levy implied was measured merely in weeks.

Also demonstrated this morning is the ability for developers to create bots, or interactive verbal tools, that can communicate with the user by way of an IM tool - preferably MSN Messenger. One example showed how you can open up an MSN IM chat with the Yellow Pages to look up an address, and another made the data from Encarta accessible via an English-language query.

Windows Live general manager George Moore explained that one real-world purpose for a Messenger bot would be to act as a temporary customer service agent, at least until a live representative becomes available. In one demonstration, Moore and Levy invoked a Microsoft Customer Service site that let the user pop up a Messenger bot. In true customer service fashion, the bot asked the user what the problem appeared to be, and then responded to whatever the customer stated by saying it couldn't understand the question. One ironic application of this system is to enable a human being to serve as a "bot monitor," making certain bots are responding with useful excuses prior to the intervention of actual people.

Stay with TG Daily for more news and revelations from real people throughout the day from TechEd 2006 in Boston.