Microsoft Officials Detail VS08 Rollout Plan

Microsoft's announcement yesterday that Visual Studio 2008 will be available this month in release-to-manufacturing (RTM) form signals the most optimistic forecast for delivery of the flagship integrated development environment (IDE). Company officials disclosed additional release details about the new IDE.

Visual Studio is finally catching up to the .NET platform -- somewhat. It will offer tooling for .NET Framework 3.0 (available since Nov. 2006) and .NET Framework 3.5.

Microsoft plans to post the RTM versions of Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 on MSDN for download by subscribers later this month.

The Visual Studio 2008 release will include the entire range of tools. Visual Studio Standard and Professional Editions will be available. The team versions will also be released, such as Visual Studio Team System 2008 (VSTS), Team Foundation Server and Team Suite modules. Visual Studio 2008 Express Edition will be released too. Visual Studio 2008 tooling is expected to be available off-the-shelf early next year.

"We've always actually been driving towards a November ship date," said Scott Guthrie, general manager of Microsoft's Development Division. "That's actually been in the schedule for at least nine or 10 months."

Team Founder Server and VSTS will offer a host of new features, including continuous integration, support for larger teams and performance improvements.

The new IDE adds or integrates tooling for Windows Vista (.NET 3.0), Office 2007 and ASP.NET AJAX. It also supports Language Integrated Query (LINQ), which requires .NET 3.5. The use of the .NET 3.5 Framework integrates ASP.NET AJAX and LINQ, and it adds support for protocols important to Web 2.0, such as WS*, REST, RSS and ATOM APIs.

"The whole idea of Web 2.0 is broader than just composing users interfaces; it is more about composing application functionality," said Dino Chiesa, director of .NET platform in the Connected Systems division at Microsoft. "[It's] things like making the Web programmable and building apps that exploit that programmability -- and that is how we are evolving .NET 3.5 to exploit that type of capability."

Language Integrated Query also has its debut in Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5; it allows developers to query relational, XML or .NET object data from within VB or C#.

"I think this is one of the things that people will dive into immediately when Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 ship," Guthrie said, "[it's] taking advantage of the improved productivity of working with data."

The worldwide launch for Visual Studio 2008 is scheduled for Feb. 27, 2008, along with Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

"We're planning a VS2008 kind of patch upgrade so that when the final SQL Server 2008 does ship, we'll make sure that everything fully works with it. Because it is still under development, there are some features there that aren't finalized," Guthrie said. "If you use the SQL Server 2005 feature set, obviously that all works."

Up-To-Date Extensions
The final release of VS2008 will be followed in the same week by updates to several VS extensions, Guthrie added.

Microsoft is releasing a new beta of the ADO.NET Entity Framework and LINQ to Entity tooling that were dropped from Visual Studio 2008 shortly after the first beta was released. The Entity Framework is expected to ship early next year. Once that happens, it will be made available in service packs for VS2008 and .NET 3.5.

The company is also shipping a VS2008 update to the Silverlight tools for beta 2 add-in.

"The update that we ship this month will just have the same features," explained Guthrie. "And then you'll see the next major update of the Silverlight tooling support add all the new runtime tooling support, data binding, layout management, styling templates -- a bunch of exciting features."

That tooling will be in beta until Silverlight 1.1 is released. Silverlight 1.1 is expected next year, although Guthrie declined to comment on a release date.

As Visual Studio 2008 tooling enters the RTM stage and becomes broadly available, some observers expect to see more development activity related to .NET 3.0 and emerging technologies.

"WPF and Silverlight overall really haven't taken off," said Mark Driver, vice president of research at Gartner. "I see a lot of early interest and I see a lot of experimenting going on. But until we see VS08 come out with solid tooling, we are not going to see WPF take off with significant volumes."

Guthrie defends Microsoft's progress.

"WPF is now six or seven months old," Guthrie said. "VS2008 is the first version that has support for WPF tooling in it. It will ship [with] designer and project system support for it. Certainly, we expect to see even more uptake once that happens."

Microsoft is seeing a lot of uptake with global ISVs and people building "rich" lines of business apps, he added.

The .NET 4.0 Framework is on the horizon. However, the multi-targeting features in Visual Studio 2008, which will support .NET 2.0, 3.0 or 3.5, will free Microsoft from having to tie the framework to the tooling.

"From an adoption standpoint, we are trying to be very cognizant of our customers' desires not to have to keep upgrading their tools every year and have a more regular cadence there," Guthrie said. "But, at the same time, we can ship features that people want, but have developers know that they have the safety mechanisms to upgrade when they want to, as opposed to when the new tool set comes out."

Visual Studio 2008 licensing will basically follow the same structure as VS2005. Licensing and the SKUs are the same, with only "cosmetic" changes. One exception is that unit testing will be available in VS2008 Professional. In VS2005, unit testing was only available in the VSTS Test Edition.

"We've made some small tweaks, but we've found that the majority of customers have gotten used to it," said John Case, head of Developer Tools marketing at Microsoft. "And that the sequencing from Standard to Professional to Team System is something that now people understand."

License Changes
Microsoft has also announced some changes to licensing for the Visual Studio Industry Partner program, which has more than 200 partners that offer close to 2,000 products.

Earlier this month, the company announced VS2008 licensing support for "any" platform. It's a change from VS2005 SDK licensing, which was limited to Microsoft platforms. The change was made in response to partner requests, according to Shawn Nandi, group product manager, Developer Partner Marketing at Microsoft.

The company will also introduce a new shared-source licensing program to premier partners that will give them access to VS2008 SDK source code for debugging and fine tuning their VS extensions.

The Visual Studio 2008 SDK is expected to be available shortly after the VS2008 IDE ships. The VS SDK that shipped in the spring has undergone more than 200,000 downloads, Nandi said.

Independent software vendors may also want to check out the company's new sync framework, available in CTP this month. The tooling helps VS developers provide offline and peer-to-peer data synchronization in their apps.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards ([email protected]) is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.