Expression Blend Versus Visual Studio
Expression Blend and Visual Studio are not really in competition with each other; instead, they are being developed to work with each other. Think of Blend being the intermediary between a designer-specific application like Expression Design or Adobe Illustrator and Visual Studio.
There is much rhetoric as to the potential for Blend being slowly merged into the Visual Studio environment. I would see this integration as a blow to the workflow that will exist between designers and developers if you start forcing designers to try and navigate the Visual Studio IDE. If you implement the role of a XAML architect, there is no need for a designer to ever worry about Visual Studio, and a developer needs only to concentrate on data structures and logic.
In the end, I believe Microsoft will see the value of the two products as they stand alone but in support of each other -- and as the only tools fit for the purpose of the XA's role. Only time will tell, but for now, using both products simultaneously is workable, although a little clunky.
Is the XA a New Role?
At the time of this writing, the XA role was an area very few people understood, even those at Microsoft. I did find a few people that understood and had come to this conclusion themselves. Two such people are Darren McCormick and Jon Harris of Microsoft, both User Experience Evangelists. Both could see a clear need for the role to be defined and promoted.
It's not really a new concept. Most large design agencies have, for quite some time now, implemented such a role with projects involving Flash, in which designers were not always competent in Action Scripting.
There are indeed pros and cons to both environments. As it stands, I, personally, could not spend any great length of time trying to design an application experience in Visual Studio. At the end of this book you will make your own decision on how you like it.
Visual Studio does not provide for some of the functionality that Blend provides, such as an easy to use storyboarding tool to create animations and define triggers. Blend also handles data binding elegantly, which is a very important area of most applications. One of the biggest pros for Blend is that it will always give you an accurate depiction of the XAML (and code to some degree) live in the design-time environment, something that Visual Studio (in WPF solutions) continues to struggle with.