Microsoft plans to synch tools revisions with key platform revs

When Microsoft's .NET initiatives began, it was Visual Studio (VS) and, soon thereafter, Visual Studio .NET that careered the architecture forward. The platforms to run the new .NET apps came later -- too much later for some developer groups.

With this and other issues foremost, Microsoft has let it be known that future versions of Visual Studio are to be more closely tied to new releases of the Microsoft platform mainstays -- SQL Server, Office and Windows Server. This is according to a product roadmap announced at the VSLive! Conference in New York last week.

"The theme is really now of doing more with less -- operating your infrastructure more efficiently, building better applications faster," said Eric Rudder, Microsoft's senior vice president, server and tools, while addressing the VSLive attendees. "And it's the two products, Visual Studio .NET and Windows Server 2003, that really come together to deliver on the vision of Web services."

The next version of VS, code-named Whidbey, will coincide with the next release of SQL Server, which is code-named Yukon. Many of the enhancements will be incremental in nature, providing productivity improvements such as richer editor prompts for syntax errors and wizards for connecting to data sources.

"With Whidbey and Yukon, we've heard loud and clear that it is a good thing to have the ability to take advantage of the latest features in platform offerings, whether it's Windows Server 2003, SQL Server Yukon or Microsoft Office System 2003," said Microsoft's Ari Bixhorn, lead product manager for Visual Studio .NET.

Other enhancements to the Microsoft tools suite are designed to make deployment of .NET-compliant applications simpler through the introduction of new controls, "no-touch" deployment of the .NET framework to client systems, support of 64-bit Itanium and AMD Opteron architectures, as well as features easing rollback to previous versions.

When Yukon is released, developers will be able to write stored procedures in any language that is Common Language Runtime (CLR)-compliant. Looking further out, the next version of Visual Studio, code-named Orcas, will support the new user interface features of Longhorn, the code name for the next version of Windows Server.

"The main idea of integration between Whidbey and Yukon is making a developer's life easier when building data-centric apps," said Bixhorn. "They write stored procedures in languages they already know. Today they have to use, for example, TSQL. With Whidbey, Visual Basic developers can write stored procedures using Visual Basic. C# developers can use C#."

Bixhorn said the upcoming version of Microsoft tools will improve upon present scalability of the company's source-code control software.

Additionally, Microsoft announced an expansion of its Visual Studio partnership program to three levels. Affiliate level will be available for free to small businesses and educational institutions seeking to develop publicly available components, much like the old third-party VBX controls. The next level up, Alliance, will provide co-marketing, replacing the .NET component builders program. Premier, the highest level of membership, will allow partners to embed the Visual Studio IDE for their own languages, without the need to bundle Microsoft's languages.

Microsoft will flush out more details of Whidbey and Orcas at its Professional Developers Conference in the fall. Bixhorn said developers would be able to get their hands on beta versions of Whidbey code around the time of that event.

With additional reporting by Jack Vaughan


For a description of Microsoft's Visual Studio roadmap, please go to

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About the Author

Tony Baer is principal with onStrategies, a New York-based consulting firm, and editor of Computer Finance, a monthly journal on IT economics. He can be reached via e-mail at


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