RealTime IT News

'Express' Route For Windows Coding Hobbyists

Looking to capture more mindshare among hobbyists and students, Microsoft said it is expanding its product line to better target developers who enjoy tinkering with code but don't get paid to do so.

The company also unveiled software development collaborations with e-commerce giants eBay, PayPal and Amazon.com at TechEd Europe in Amsterdam Tuesday.

Officials for the software maker said the new "Express" editions were created as lightweight tools so programmers can build Web sites and applications based on the company's Windows platform.

John Montgomery, director of marketing for Microsoft's Developer division, said they were written for "non-professional" programmers, which, according to research by the company, outnumber professional programmers three to one worldwide, from 18 million to six million. Most of those developers base their development on Windows, he said.

The low-cost, small-scale versions are geared to help Microsoft, which competes fiercely with a multitude of Java software providers, including IBM , BEA Systems and Sun Microsystems , for placement in the software creation market.

Montgomery said Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition is a lightweight tool for building Web sites, blogs and Web services. It includes a built-in development Web server and publishing and debugging tools. The product joins Express editions for the company's four major programming languages.

Those iterations include Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition, a programming tool that helps beginners learn how to build Windows applications, and Visual C# 2005 Express Edition, Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition and Visual J# 2005 Express Edition.

"What we're aiming to do is address some of the concerns of that segment, which are that they want something lightweight, inexpensive and easy to get up to speed with," Montgomery told internetnews.com. "We have reduced the size of the tools from hundreds of megabytes down to about 30 megabytes."

The product line, available by the end of the week, will include tutorials and starter kits targeted to help the first-time programmer or enthusiast spend a weekend building a Web site, learn a Web service or new programming language. Montgomery said specific pricing for the new Express editions was not yet available, but would number in the "tens of dollars."

To bolster attractiveness for the casual programmer, Microsoft is also getting support from leading e-commerce companies, eBay , PayPal and Amazon.com , all of whom are building sample applications designed for use with Visual Studio Express. With the sample apps, developers can build custom applications around the Web services that those sites expose, Montgomery said.

Meanwhile, a new iteration of the company's database software, SQL Server Express Edition, is free, according to Tom Rizzo, director of product marketing for SQL Server at Microsoft. Available later this week, it's also for more commercial-minded programmers.

A limited version of SQL Server, SQL Server Express Edition, helps developers offers a redistributable database to help functionality included in the SQL Server 2005 database engine, such as stored procedures, views, triggers, cursors, Common Language Runtime (CLR) support and XML support.

Developers can use SQL Server Express Edition with Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition to build and deploy Web applications. The Express version also provides an embedded database that enables independent software vendors (ISVs) to embed a lightweight database into applications.

This product picks up where the Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE), a sort of limited version of SQL Server for smaller workgroups, leaves off. While it is offered for free, there are limitations: Rizzo told internetnews.comSQL Server Express Edition only works with one CPU, one gigabyte of memory and a database size limit of 4 gigabytes.

Microsoft is also expected to release the first beta of its Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 products, as well as a low-cost edition of Visual Studio, but company officials would not confirm this.