Microsoft debuts entry-level Visual Studio version

It's a little hard to remember, but Microsoft was not always the near-indomitable tools force it is today. Visual Studio had a long row to hoe before it became the leading developer tool. As it has added enterprise attributes, it has become more expensive and more difficult to learn.

The company has tried several ways to get its tools into the hands of students, with modest success. This week, Microsoft redoubled its efforts to spread its tools at the low end with the announcement of a set of Microsoft Express product lines for Visual Studio and SQL Server. The company also announced Beta 1 of Visual Studio 2005 for evaluation. These and other announcements were made at TechEd Europe, held in Amsterdam.

The goal is to better target hobbyists, enthusiasts and students, said John Montgomery, director of marketing with Microsoft's developer division. Visual Basic, C#, J# and C++ are supported in a lightweight suite that makes available core programming tools. The tools will be downloadable and pricing, not yet established at press time, will be "in the tens of dollars," said Montgomery. The tool set, he said, has a small (30 Mbyte) footprint.

Also part of the Express family is Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition for building dynamic Web sites and Web services.

"We put the professional developer community at about 6 million worldwide. The non-professional developer community is estimated at about 18 million. It's a pretty large segment, and it's very price-sensitive. It is also sensitive to easily getting products, usually via download from a Web site," noted Montgomery.

Such "non-professional" developers, suggests Montgomery, want to learn new languages, develop new skills or just get their homework done. Clearly, Microsoft wants its software to be a choice even at this level of software development -- a level that is replete with free tools and "way-cool" scripting solutions.

Also of note from the Amsterdam conference: Microsoft has unveiled "Metropolis," a guidepost of sorts for developers interested in Service-Oriented Architectures (SOAs) using the Microsoft platform.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.