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Microsoft Oslo: a tool, a language, a repository

A couple of Microsofties are talking up the Oslo launch at the forthcoming PDC. “Oslo” is what Microsoft sees as the next generation of software development – I think.

Don Box and Douglas Purdy have just posted their own definitions. They should know, they’re working on it.

Box says:

With Oslo, we’re doing two things:

1. We’re making it easier for people to write things down in ways that make sense for the domain they are working in – the common term for this in the wild is modeling.

2. We’re making the things people wrote down accessible to platform components during program execution.

Purdy:

we have boiled down Oslo to three very simple things:

  • A tool that helps people define and interact with models in a rich and visual manner
  • A language that helps people create and use textual domain-specific languages and data models
  • A relational repository that makes models available to both tools and platform components

There will be a CTP for us all to try at PDC.

The last time the industry tried this I believe it was called UML 2.0; it excited a lot of theoreticians but made little impact on real-world application development. I’m sceptical about Oslo too; but let’s acknowledge at least that the goal is a worthy one.

Having said that, what do you think about this remark from Purdy:

For me personally, Oslo is the first step in my vision “to make everyone a programmer (even if they don’t know it)”.

I’m sorry, that “everyone a programmer” line brings to mind spaghetti-macros in Excel or some of those unmaintainable Access and Visual Basic applications which you still see sometimes if you hang around small businesses.

Still, there is a costly divide in development, which is to do with the fact that A is an expert is some particular field, B is a programmer; and somehow A’s expertise has to be expressed in B’s code. I think this is about bridging that gap.

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