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Microsoft Loads Up .NET, Visual Studio

Microsoft this week introduced service packs to two vital developer products just months after their initial release, but the bevy of new features in the releases may make them seem more like broad enhancements than the usual collection of patches.

The company introduced .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which it has been beta testing since February, and Service Pack 1 for Visual Studio 2008. Both products are relatively new; the .NET Framework 3.5 shipped last November and Visual Studio 2008 came out in February.

Much of what's included out in the updates is new features and functionality, rather than the bug fixes and improvements traditionally associated with Microsoft software service packs.

For example, .NET SP1 adds a new concept called the .NET Framework Client Profile, which enables an application to be delivered with just what is needed to install and run the app, rather than the whole framework. This can reduce the size of installation files by 86.5 percent, according a Microsoft spokesperson.

Other major features in .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 include a 20 to 45 percent improvement in Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) applications and changes to the Windows Communication Foundation to change the way data and services are accessed. it also includes improvements in the ADO.NET services -- the software components used to access data sources like a database -- in support of the newly-released SQL Server 2008.

For Visual Studio 2008 SP1, Microsoft added full support for SQL Server 2008 and ADO.NET, improvements to WPF application designs and greater JavaScript and AJAX support.

"This was really big for a service pack," said Galen Murdock, president and CEO of software developer Veracity Solutions. "Calling it a service pack is not correct -- it's a feature pack."

The service pack for .NET add a lot of features that developers have wanted for a while, Murdock told InternetNews.com. "Bug fixes are only 10 percent of the goodness. The other 90 percent are new features we can leverage into our products. It's like Microsoft just rolled up a bunch of work in progress and said 'here you go world'."

Visual Studio 2008 already was very stable, but the upgrades are welcomed, Murdock added. In particular, he said he liked the JavaScript improvements, the updates to Silverlight development and an improved Extensible Application Markup Language editor.

The .NET Framework 3.5 service pack and Visual Studio 2008 service pack are both available for download from a number of Microsoft sources, such as TechNet and MSDN.