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Sometimes Microsoft can keep a secret

Microsoft proved at the Tech Ed keynote address on Monday that sometimes the company can keep a big project secret until fairly late in the game. The new Visual Studio 2005 Team System (let's just call it VS2K5TS, OK?) is obviously a substantial development effort, yet beyond vague hints nothing leaked before the keynote. Over the next several days you should expect all of the industry magazines and Web sites to come up with their take on this new product.

As for me, I want to get my hands on the bits before coming up with a final opinion, and that will take a while; although this month's Community Technical Preview build is on MSDN ready for download by subscribers, it's also 2.53GB of software and would take around a week to trickle over my slow rural connection. So rather than tell you what to think, I'm just going to use this column to locate a few initial landmarks.

If you haven't looked at what Microsoft has to say about the new software yet, MSDN has pulled together a page of resources to get you started. VS2K5TS, like Visual Studio, is actually broken up into a set of editions that together work across the software development lifecycle. Here's how MSDN describes the editions:

  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Architect Edition, visual designers that enable architects and lead developers to design service-oriented solutions that can be validated against their operational environments.
  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Developer Edition, advanced development tools that enable teams to incorporate quality, early, and often throughout the lifecycle.
  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Test Edition, advanced load testing tools that enable teams to verify the performance of applications prior to deployment.
  • Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation, server-based team collaboration tools that enable organizations to effortlessly manage and track the progress and health of projects.

With that set of descriptions, VS2K5TS sure looks like a reactive move rather than a proactive one: specifically, this looks like a reaction to IBM's acquisition of Rational in late 2002. That suggests it may have a price tag in line with Rational's tools, which will push it out of reach of some organizations. Of course, the new software is also in line with Microsoft's continuing push to get their software taken seriously in larger and larger organizations; having a good story for the life cycle is an important part of being used by serious developers. And there's certainly a good story being told here. In addition to what you see in the description of editions, the new product also includes the "Whitehorse" modeling framework (which is apparently an innovative alternative to UML), and the new "Hatteras" source code control system (based on SQL Server and apparently much more competitive than Visual SourceSafe, which almost no one takes seriously).

On first glance, it looks like VS2K5TS ought to be a threat to ISVs, since it incorporates so much functionality that most organizations are used to going outside of Microsoft for. And indeed, some companies and open source projects are likely to take a heavy blow when this software is released. One wonders, for example, whether the open-source NUnit unit-testing framework will survive having Microsoft ship a direct competitor. But one of the key selling points of the new system appears to be its extensibility; there's a whole white paper up on MSDN detailing the project's extensibility points.

Finally, there's one sentence in the FAQ that I find encouraging: "Microsoft already has plans to use Visual Studio 2005 Team System for product development." If they're really planning to seriously dogfood VS2K5TS to build cash cow products, we can expect them to drive it to a high quality standard very quickly. That can only benefit the rest of us.

In sum: right now I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this one. If nothing else, Microsoft has certainly created a nice buzz the first time they've talked publicly about this software.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.

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