About a month ago I visited Microsoft's Web Developers Summit to come and talk with many other people from the PHP Community on how to get closer together and make the PHP experience better on Windows and with other Microsoft products. Although I was quite skeptical about the whole event and was slightly worried about it having only marketing and brainwashing sessions I set off just after php|works to Redmond (or actually Bellevue).
The first day started with Sam Ramji introducing the event, and Microsoft's strategy and "dedication" towards Open Source and open standards. Of course as part of this, OOXML was mentioned which caused some small discussion about the standardization process of it. Also mentioned was the grant to the Apache foundation as well as that Microsoft (or at least parts of it) now see that being open about things could mean growth in revenue. Some of the feedback that he got included making sure that it's actually easier for Unixy people to remotely maintain a Windows server — for example by providing the set of Unix tools from the /bin directory as well as providing built-in SSH support.
The OOXML thing got a follow up later in the day, where a member of the Office team tried to debunk the myths that the OOXML standard process was all messed up. Instead however, we were more interested in seeing how we could get a C-library to deal with office documents. Unfortunately we didn't really go into that specific topic.
Lauren Cooney introduced the Microsoft Web Platform and installer that can install a whole web stack. At the moment PHP isn't part of this yet but it will come soon. One of the things we discussed here was which extensions should be bundled. To which the obvious answer should be: "at least everything that PHP has enabled by default". Besides the installer, they're also working on a Web application installer with which also PHP applications that can be installed. This could also be something that we would like to see eZ Publish in for example.
IIS now also features a "mod_rewrite" extension that can also import Apache mod_rewrite rules from .htaccess files. It would also be nice if php_value settings could be imported and applied as well through this extension, just like the mod_rewrite rules.
The SQL Server team was demoing the new SQL-server driver for PHP. However, they got sort of grilled about not listening to what the users want. At the moment, there are the following "irritating" issues: There is no PDO driver, UTF-8 is not supported and it only works on Windows. The first two are definitely deal-breakers for us if we'd want to support MS SQL Server properly in our software. We discussed those issues later and it seems mostly a resource issue. Let's hope they can prioritize those points soon.
There were many other talks, but they didn't qualify for writing notes about. What I found most interesting were the interactions with the developers, and the least interesting where the attendee show cases. I think it was very worthwhile to see what kind of direction Microsoft is going, especially the parts where they want to be part of the community. There's still quite a road to go, especially because of legal issues, but they're at least on the road. Contact has been made :)