confirmed it’s on track to release Visual Studio 2005 in November, backing itself up with the release of a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the development tool on Monday.
Microsoft released the beta 2 version of the software in April, as well as .NET Framework 2.0 beta 2, and the April Community Technology Preview (CTP) of SQL Server 2005.
Microsoft sees CTPs as a snapshot of the product at a given time. It releases CTPs in between beta versions as a way of giving customers a peek at the product, even though it’s not ready for use, said Prashant Sridharan, lead product manager for the Visual Studio product line.
“With CTPs, we figured any frustration a minority of customers might find would be greatly mitigated by the large number of customers who would install the preview and give us feedback,” he said. “We see benefits in transparency and letting our customers know at any given moment where we stand with the product.”
The CTP process benefits Microsoft, not only by calling attention to bugs, but also by illuminating which features are most important.
“Some features have gotten better, and then, they’ve gotten worse,” Sridharan added. “When a feature does regress we hear about it and know it’s an important feature.”
Now, close to the November ship date, Microsoft must convince its most engaged developers that the product is good enough to ship.
As Visual Studio client development manager Shawn Burke put it on his own blog, the challenge Microsoft’s Visual Studio team faces is: “How do I ship quality software that will do the right thing for my users and still close it down and get it out the door with known issues? You could literally keep at it forever if you kept fixing all the bugs.”
Sridharan said criticism of the product’s readiness was based on the beta 2 release. “Between the beta and release to manufacturing, the whole process is about fixing bugs and improving quality,” he said.
Sridharan said that the product has had more internal usage than any other developer tool in Microsoft’s history. In fact, most of Visual Studio Team System 2005 was built using Team System and the .NET Framework.
On the MSDN Product Feedback Blog, product manager Marie Hagman wrote about “bug triage,” the process of deciding which bugs to fix and which to ignore.
“At this point in the development cycle you may see a higher number of issues resolved as ‘Postponed,'” she wrote, pointing out that any change to the code base risks creating a new bug. “Visual Studio 2005 and .NET Framework 2.0 will be releasing soon and teams are working hard to stabilize the code base to deliver the highest quality product as soon as possible,” she wrote.
Microsoft aims to transition Visual Studio .NET users to the new Visual Studio 2005 line. It includes Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition and Visual Studio Team System, a roles-based product line intended for enterprise developers working in teams greater than five people. Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition is aimed at Visual Basic 6 users, while Five Express Editions are targeted at novices.
Microsoft will issue a Visual Studio 2005 release candidate (RC) in September. The release candidate will be made available to MSDN subscribers, early adopters and alpha customers, as well as attendees of its Professional Developers.
The company said it’s also on track to delivering Team Foundation Server in the first quarter of 2006. The beta 3 version will be released along with Visual Studio 2005 RC1. It will include a Go Live license and technical support for Premier customers, so that they can begin trying out the tools.
Sridharan said that most early-adopter customers are in the process of signing off on the product.