Sneak a Peek at Visual Studio's Future

Prashant Sridharan
Prashant Sridharan

The first keynote address at VSLive San Francisco 2007 gave attendees a sneak peek at what's in store for Visual Studio (VS) developers in the coming months.

Speaker Prashant Sridharan, senior product manager for Visual Studio, described timelines for "Orcas," the code name for the next VS product, and "Rosario," which will follow Orcas.

The underlying concept of Orcas reflects the increasing scope and complexity of VS projects. Orcas aims at helping a development team coordinate efforts. Rosario takes that phase to the next level by helping all of the development teams in an enterprise coordinate their efforts.

Sridharan illustrated team development enhancement by describing "one of my favorite features" in Orcas. This feature resembles Microsoft Word's ability to let you issue reviewer marks. In Orcas, you'll be able to show comments inside code, see who did what -- and why -- and share all of this with other developers. You can track progress inside VS, using a combination of client-side and server-side functionality provided by Visual Studio Team System (VSTS).

Sridharan said that Orcas reflects three main areas of VS evolution: 1) "Getting back to our roots"; 2) adding refactoring; and 3) making it easier to access data programmatically.

Orcas is due to go to beta in May of 2007, or thereabouts, and Sridharan's team hopes to ship the final product before year's end. Rosario should go beta before end of year -- meaning that both products are being developed in parallel.

Sridharan announced that one element of team development just fell into place on the morning of his keynote. Microsoft just acquired devBiz, maker of TeamPlain Web Access for VSTS, and immediately made the product available as a free download.

This product provides a Web interface for Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) and streamlines VSTS usage. It enables broader participation in the development life cycle. You can manage work items, shared documents, reports and source control repositories. It also allows for cross-platform access to TFS. Sridharan said that this product will be integrated into Orcas -- possibly in time for TechEd 2007 in June -- and lavished praise on the company, saying "devBiz did a phenomenal job with it."

Orcas' eventual successor, Rosario, is primarily a VSTS release, aimed at coordinating multiple teams in an organization, tactically integrating with Project Server and more. Rosario also aims at doing for software testers what has already been provided for software developers, including providing superior testing tools and QA. Sridharan observed that good tools are being provided today, especially for load testing. But it's "the tip of the iceberg," he said.

He added that new technology is being incorporated to help developers examine their code. When crashes occur, you'll be able to go backwards and forwards in time to see exactly what your code looked like at every step.

A demo showed off Orcas' functionality in the context of "Fabricant," an online women's clothing retailer. The demo used Windows Vista, Windows Office and Windows Exchange Server 2007. The system was programmed to notify the appropriate manager when a product's sales started getting more customer returns than normal. In such a circumstance, it might make sense to just drop the product, but the demo showed how the system could be coded to help you better assess the situation before drawing a conclusion. The product in question represented a large part of Fabricant's revenue, but it didn't coordinate with its other products (various types of women's wear).

A little coding in the demo took advantage of how Exchange Server 2007's functionality can be exposed as a Web service, invoking a method on the proxy to automate and inform communications about this business problem. A few lines of code adapted the workflow to make changes in the business needed to rectify the problem. The demo incorporated an Infragistics control as well, showing how third-party controls worked in the new environment. The demo also showed how you can create an ad hoc network outside traditional network boundaries.

The enhanced graphics capabilities of Windows Vista were exploited in the demo, particularly in the process of refining Fabricant's business processes and enhancing the user experience of its retail Web site. The site used a virtual model to show any combination of clothing with a bit of developer code and a few user mouse clicks.

The real advantage shown in the demo was how the improved graphics can be harnessed to enhance the customer experience far beyond that of simple eye candy -- both for developers and users.

About the Author

Lee Thé's first computer was a state-of-the-art unit with 48K RAM and a 1MHz processor. He has been writing and editing computer magazine articles since then, in between scuba diving trips. He's based in the San Francisco Bay Area.