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Microsoft Releases Two Visual Studio Service Packs

Microsoft released a Service Pack update and an SP beta for its Visual Studio 2005 IDE. The Visual Studio 2005 SP1, and the Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Update for Windows Vista beta both went live on Friday on Microsoft's Visual Studio Developer Center Web site.

VS2005 SP1 addresses some minor bugs, such as syntax-coloring glitches, and some major bugs, such as crashes triggered by specific scenarios, explains Jay Roxe, group product manager for Visual Studio. However, this announcement is about more than bug fixes. Microsoft has added 70 improvements for common development scenarios. Also, look for new processor support (e.g. Core Duo) for code generation and profiling. There are scale improvements in Team Foundation Server (TFS), as well as support for integrating TFS with Microsoft's new Excel 2007 and Project 2007. And there are new tools with full support for building applications that target SQL Server Compact Edition, which is a very lightweight database used in occasionally connected applications, or apps that require an easy-to-deploy DB.

The beta version of the VS2005 SP1 update for Vista addresses specific known issues associated with Visual Studio 2005 running on Windows Vista. But the actual service pack won't ship until after the consumer version of Vista ships in the first quarter of next year. Microsoft has posted a "Visual Studio 2005 on Windows Vista Issue" list on the MSDN website.

"Development software is not like your average consumer application or ISP app," Roxe tells ADT. "Visual Studio does things, like grab another process's memory and all sorts of common development tasks, which look to the user account control in Windows Vista like malware. Not very many things will try and grab another process's memory.

"I've been running Visual Studio on Vista without the fixes, and it still works pretty well," Roxe adds, "but we wanted to be very transparent with developers about everything."

Microsoft is playing up the community-input aspect of these service pack releases. Customers and partners heavily influenced both, the company says.

"In the developer division, we're trying to be very transparent with our customers about bugs, and we're asking for feedback, trying to make sure that we're really building the products our customers need," Roxe explains. "We've been very pleased with the results. For some of the teams within Visual Studio, 50 percent of the bugs they fixed were discovered and reported through the MSDN product feedback center."

Of course, Microsoft values partner and customer feedback, says industry analyst Neil Macehiter, but this is far from a community development process. "Microsoft actually has a developer community that is the envy of the industry, and one which other vendors have attempted to emulate: DeveloperWorks, SAP Developer Network, and others," Macehiter says. "But all vendors take customer feedback. The question is, who is prioritizing those requests? Who decides what is in and out? In this case, Microsoft does.

Even in the Java Community Process, and many of the most successful open source projects, large vendors dominate, Macehiter observes.

Yet the Redmond software giant has been dipping its very large toe into open-source waters. In June, Microsoft launched CodePlex, a collaborative software development portal. The company bills the site, which will host open-source and shared-source projects, as "a forum to bring together developers from around the world." Yankee analyst Laura DiDio called CodePlex "both an olive branch to the open-source world, and an acknowledgement of its growing influence."

"[Microsoft] correctly understands that the extended development community is critical to their ongoing success," says Forrester analyst Jeffery Hammond, "but there is one critical line they have not crossed. When developers find a defect that annoys them or makes them less productive, they cannot dig in, fix it, and contribute it back to the community. The right comparison... is probably Eclipse. Look at the difference in rate of change in IDE features and bug fixes between the two. Both organizations care about their communities, but Microsoft is doing less to harness the community brainpower, which means they have to shoulder more of the burden and cost of innovation. Inevitably things fall off the plate, things that the community could fix if they were part of the team."

The two service packs and more information are available now the MSDN website.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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