It's going to be a busy month or two for Microsoft, as the business launch of Windows Vista and Office 2007 is set for November 30 and there are a number of complementary initiatives that will see the light of day soon. One is the Expression suite of web design tools. Expression Web is part of the suite and is a standards based Web Design tool, which will replace Microsoft's staple WYSIWYG webpage editor Frontpage.
Expression Web is for building web pages, but there is another tool in the Expression product suite called Expression Interactive Designer; which is the designer environment for things like WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation, from which the New York Times Reader was developed) and WPF/E (a cross browser solution).
As part of the upcoming launch, I spoke to Leon Brown (responsible for the Expression Tools Suite business throughout the Asia Pacific Region) and Ray Stephenson (a Regional Manager) from Microsoft. Both are on their way to New Zealand next week to promote Expression and other things - interested kiwis should check out this page for the schedule.
Currently in beta, Expression Web is a tool designed to complement the release of IE7 and Windows Vista, as well as existing internet-enabled software such as Media Center and XBOX 360. Although it will essentially replace Frontpage over time, Leon and Ray told me that Expression Web is a complete re-write and is designed to be a true professional-level web design product.
Probably the defining feature of Expression Web is that it enables standards based design - so rather than dealing with proprietary Frontpage extensions, designers will be able to more easily design standards-compliant websites. Also it handles CSS and XML much better than Frontpage. Further details on the product are here.
Also Leon and Ray told me that Expression Web will reduce the working gap between designers (visual people) and developers (coders). Technologies such as Ajax in the web 2.0 era have intertwined the two disciplines in any case, so Microsoft hopes to make that easier with this new product.
Expression Web will compete with existing web design tools such as Adobe's Dreamweaver and GoLive. In fact, Leon Brown used to work at Adobe as a Senior Product Manager. So perhaps reflecting Adobe's relative dominance in the web design tools market, Microsoft is squarely aiming at taking back some of that mind share and business from Adobe.
There's more news coming soon about the Expression suite of tools, but in the meantime Microsoft platform designers should check out this page for the transition process from Frontpage to Expression Web. Frontpage itself will be discontinued in late 2006.