Microsoft Corp. today announced significant product line enhancements along with pricing and availability of the Microsoft Expression Studio for creative professionals. The quality of user experience is emerging as a core requirement for differentiating products and services while optimizing customers’ brand loyalty. Expression Studio, a key component of Microsoft’s strategy for improving the user experience delivered by applications, provides designers with an end-to-end tools platform that boosts collaboration with developers in the delivery of next-generation user experiences for the Web, Windows Vista™ applications and beyond.
Expression Studio comprises Expression Web for creating standards-based Web sites; Expression Blend (formally Interactive Designer) for designing rich interactive experiences for Windows Expression Design (formally Graphic Designer) for the design of visual elements for Web and Windows experiences; and a new tool, Expression Media, which provides digital asset management and unifies team workflow across the suite. Expression Web is shipping today, and the full Expression Studio is planned for delivery in the second quarter of 2007.
Actually, Expression Web used to be Web Designer, and they were still using the “Designer” versions of the names on the Expression home page when I looked a few minutes ago. Then there were the original codenames of Quartz, Sparkle, and Acrylic respectively, but I digress.
Product enhancements unveiled today in Expression Blend and Expression Design include a new user interface crafted specifically for professional designers and based on extensive feedback following more than half a million downloads of Expression community technology previews (CTPs). Expression Blend Beta 1 and the Expression Design December 2006 CTP are available for download.
Expression Media, based on the iView MediaPro product acquired by Microsoft earlier this year, supports more than 100 media formats and provides offline access to visual catalogs, making it easier for creative professionals to manage and use their digital assets. Expression Media includes Expression Media Encoder, a complete solution for the preparation, encoding and deployment of rich video and audio for Web and Windows experiences. A first CTP of Expression Media is expected early in 2007.
The iView acquisition was mentioned here.
Also made available today is the first CTP of Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E). WPF/E is a cross-platform browser plug-in for delivering rich media, animation and video content based on the Emmy Award-winning Windows Media® technology, the industry’s most pervasive media platform for the Web, desktop and devices. Expression Media and Expression Design provide support for authoring content for the WPF/E CTP.
WPF/E has been described as a “Flash Killer,” but it has its work cut out for it combating Adobe’s ubiquitous product. As a whole, Expression Studio is a competitor to Adobe’s Creative Suite and similar Web designer tools. That categorization is apparently important to Microsoft since Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers won’t get Expression because it is not for developers, but designers.
Update: Mary Jo Foley has a lot more:
Microsoft is sending out mixed messages, in terms of its Web-design-tool strategy.
First, there’s the positioning. Redmond’s “we plan to complement, not compete with Adobe” rhetoric — which I’m doubtful anyone who knows Microsoft will buy for a second.
And then there’s the partitioning. Microsoft’s decision not to make available its new design products available via its traditional developer channels, like Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).