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Microsoft Delivers First Public Beta of 'Orcas' and .NET 3.5

Microsoft released Beta 1 of its upcoming IDE and interim framework today. This next version of Visual Studio, called "Orcas" for now, will offer developers as many as 200 new features, according to Microsoft.

Orcas is designed to provide a development environment for Microsoft's new and upcoming platform advances, such as those in the Windows Vista operating system, 2007 Office System, SQL Server 2005 and Windows "Longhorn" server. It also adds a wide breadth of tooling for everything from back-end data connectivity and unit testing to Web development and user interface (UI) design.

Beta 1 of Orcas will not offer tooling for Silverlight, the recently branded cross-browser plug-in technology, formerly known as Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere (WPF/E). However, the idea is not off the table, according to S. "Soma" Somasegar, Microsoft's corporate vice president, developer division.

"We are thinking about, 'Can we do Silverlight support or not?,' and we will be able to talk more about it in a few weeks," Somasegar said.

Microsoft's Chief Architect Ray Ozzie and General Manager of the Development Division Scott Guthrie are expected to discuss the development strategy for Silverlight at MIX '07, the company's conference for Web developers and designers, which begins April 30 in Las Vegas.

Some of the most anticipated functionality in Orcas is support for Language Integration Query (LINQ), which allows developers to query object, relational and XML data from within their programming languages. LINQ will initially support Visual Basic and C#. (Early adopters reported some issues with the LINQ functionality in the March CTP.)

Orcas also integrates the ADO.NET Entity Framework, which provides new APIs and tooling designed to support object/relational mapping.

"From a developer standpoint, [LINQ] is a slam dunk," commented Jeffrey Hammond, analyst at Forrester Research Inc., "because it makes data access, both structured and unstructured, very easy to put into your code."

How developers will adapt to LINQ, which requires .NET 3.5, is still an open question, however.

Orcas integrates AJAX tooling for the ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX server-side extensions and client-side libraries, which shipped in January. Visual Studio functionality includes JavaScript Intellisense and debugging. The .NET 3.5 Framework supports AJAX development in Windows Communication Foundation and ASP.NET 2.0, according to Microsoft.

UI developers and designers can finally utilize the Windows Presentation Foundation Designer (code-named "Cider) from within Visual Studio. They also can take advantage of additional support for the Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML), which is the markup language in Microsoft's Expression Studio portfolio.

The 2007 Office System, which is built on .NET 3.0, allows developers to work from a common platform. Orcas integrates Visual Studio Tools for Office and supports Visual Studio Tools for Applications, the embedded .NET programming environment released last month.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of Visual Studio "Orcas" is that it supports multi-targeting, allowing developers to use a single version of Visual Studio to program against multiple frameworks (.NET 2.0, .NET 3.0 and .NET 3.5).

"This is just so important for development organizations," said Hammond, "because otherwise you have to line your release schedules up with the release schedules of Windows."

It is also great for Microsoft going forward, he asserted.

"It really allows them to decouple Visual Studio from the Windows release train," Hammond said.

MSDN subscribers can download Orcas Beta 1 (Visual Studio Professional Edition, Visual Studio Team Suite and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server) here as installation media ISO images.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards (krichards@1105media.com) is the editor of RedDevNews.com and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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