A Look into the Future of Visual Studio

NEW YORK — Aiming to give developers a better view into what to expect
from the future of its development tools, Microsoft
Tuesday used the VSLive! Conference here to lay out the road map for future
versions of Visual Studio .NET and the Microsoft .NET Framework.

“We want to be more transparent in our road map,” Eric Rudder, senior vice
president of Server and Tools at Microsoft, told the assembled Visual
Studio developers during his keynote.


Rudder said transparency in the company’s plans will help customers better
plan future investments.

“Microsoft’s philosophy is to help developers achieve success with a
comprehensive, integrated platform,” Rudder said. “As customers deploy
successful projects with Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework today,
our goal is to provide a road map for upcoming product innovations to help
them plan their next winning strategy.”

The next version of Visual Studio .NET, slated to debut with ‘Yukon’ (the
forthcoming version of SQL Server), is currently code-named ‘Whidbey.’
Rudder said the aim of Whidbey is to set a new standard for developer
productivity, while providing enterprise-grade scalability and performance.
He also noted that the Whidbey versions of Visual Studio .NET and the .NET
Framework will support the latest Web services specifications through Web
Services Enhancements (WSE) for Microsoft .NET.

Key new features slated for Whidbey include:

  • Enhanced debugging, no-touch deployment, and the return of the ‘Edit
    and Continue’ feature, all geared to enhancing developer productivity

  • Improvements to the .NET Framework that will allow existing .NET
    Framework 1.1 customers to take advantage of support for 64-bit CPUs,
    advances in security and administration, and improvements in performance
    and scalability, without source code changes

  • Enhanced Windows client application development capabilities that give
    developers new data and user interface controls and take advantage of
    deployment enhancements to make installation and versioning of applications
    simpler

  • Improvements to ASP.NET that include new controls for data access and
    visual appearance intended to reduce code in common scenarios by up to 70
    percent; Microsoft claimed this will ‘significantly’ improve Web site
    performance while also providing for more robust and secure Web services

  • Extension of mobile application development for the .NET Compact
    Framework that will allow for the creation of applications that run on the
    latest devices, including Smartphones, Windows CE .NET 4.2-based devices,
    and the newest versions of the Pocket PC.

Microsoft said it also plans to “expand upon the unique strengths” of the
four programming languages — Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual C# and
Visual J# — delivered with Whidbey (the .NET Framework supports more than
20 languages).

The company said the Whidbey release of Visual Basic will reduce coding
associated with common programming tasks by more than 50 percent, with new
runtime objects and methods providing direct access to the most frequently
used functionality within the .NET Framework. Also, Microsoft said code
editor enhancements will automatically author common programming tasks,
allowing developers to “fill in the blanks.”

The Visual Basic code editor also gets an overhaul, giving it functionality
similar to the spelling and grammar check in Microsoft Word. The code
editor will be able to suggest corrections for common syntax errors, and
the compiler will warn developers of semantically incorrect code that could
cause runtime errors. Other new features include simplified data source
design from within the development environment; the reintroduction of ‘Edit
and Continue,’ allowing developers to modify and test source code without
stopping and restarting a debugging session; and language enhancements with
support for operator overloading, unsigned data types, inline XML-based
code documentation, and partial types.

Microsoft is also making broad changes to Visual C++ in Whidbey, including
changes to the compiler, development environment, language and core
libraries. Visual C++ Whidbey is also intended to allow developers to build
native C++ applications for mobile devices directly within the Visual
Studio Whidbey IDE.

Microsoft plans to add features from research and industry languages to C#
in Whidbey, providing C# developers with “code-focused RAD” which will aid
in creating business frameworks and reusable object-oriented components.
New language features will include generics, iterators, anonymous methods
and partial types.

Visual J# is also slated for new features, including Browser Controls and
other enhancements that, for instance, will make J# a full CLS Extender.


Microsoft is also looking beyond Whidbey to the version of Visual Studio
.NET that will accompany the next major platform update to the Windows
operating system (codenamed Longhorn). Slated for 2005, Visual Studio .NET
‘Orcas’ will support the managed interfaces, enhanced user interface
features, and other new capabilities of Longhorn. Microsoft said these
include the Longhorn trustworthy computing and security model, new
application model, improved communication and collaboration, integrated
data storage, and innovations in presentation and media.

The software titan also introduced the newest iteration of its Visual
Studio partner program, now known as the Visual Studio Industry Partner
(VSIP) program. The expanded partner program introduces a tiered system of
Affiliate, Alliance and Premier partners.

The Affiliate level is free and geared to small ISVs, shareware developers
and academics. Affiliate members get free access to the VSIP software
development kit (SDK), other related technologies, a click-through license
agreement, royalty-free distribution for partner integrated products, free
newsgroup technical support, and an online catalog listing when the partner
has a commercially available .NET-related product.

The Alliance level is available for an annual fee of $3,000, and layers on
a one-year MSDN Universal Subscription, access to the program logo, and
additional co-marketing activities. This level is tuned for ISVs and
smaller systems integrators (SIs), Rudder said.

The Premier level has a $10,000 annual membership fee, and adds eligibility
for a Visual Studio .NET redistribution license, eligibility to distribute
the new Visual Studio Premier Partner edition, and targeted marketing
activities. This level is aimed at global enterprise ISVs and large SIs.

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