Microsoft Officials Detail Visual Studio 2008 Rollout Plan

In announcing today that it will release to manufacturing Visual Studio 2008 this month, Microsoft is meeting the most optimistic forecasts for when the long anticipated upgrade to its flagship IDE would ship.

With its release, Microsoft's Visual Studio is finally catching up to the .NET platform -- somewhat -- offering tooling for .NET Framework 3.0 (available since Nov. 2006) and .NET Framework 3.5. Microsoft officials today spelled out its release plans for Visual Studio 2008 with Redmond Developer News.

Microsoft will 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 from Visual Studio Standard and Professional Editions to Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server and Team Suite modules to Visual Studio 2008 Express Editions. 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."

The new IDE adds or integrates tooling for the foundations in Windows Vista (.NET 3.0), Office 2007, ASP.NET AJAX; LINQ, which requires .NET 3.5, and the Web. Team Founder Server and VSTS also offer a host of new features including continuous integration, support for larger teams, and performance improvements. .NET 3.5 integrates ASP.NET AJAX, Language Integrated Query, and support for Web 2.0 protocols-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. "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 debuts in Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5; it allows developers to query relational, XML or .NET object data from within VB or C#.

"You'll see a lot of talks, and a lot of books and a lot of articles over the next couple of months," says Guthrie. "I think this is one of the things that people will dive into immediately when Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 ship, is taking advantage of the improved productivity of working with data."

The worldwide launch for Visual Studio 2008 is still scheduled for February 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," said Guthrie. "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, said Guthrie.

Microsoft is releasing a new beta of the ADO.NET Entity Framework and LINQ to Entity tooling which were dropped from Visual Studio 2008 shortly after the first beta was released. The Entity Framework is expected to ship early next year, and once that happens, it will be made available in the 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, it is expected next year, although Guthrie declined to comment on a release date.

As Visual Studio 2008 tooling RTMs 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 designer and project system support for it. Certainly we expect to seen 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 said.

With .NET 4.0 on the horizon, the multi-targeting features in Visual Studio 2008 -- it can be used with .NET 2.0, 3.0 or 3.5 -- are freeing Microsoft from tying 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," said Guthrie. "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. (However, unit testing is now available in VS2008 Professional -- in VS2005, it was only 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 2000 products. Earlier this month, the company announced VS2008 licensing support for "any" platform; VS2005 SDK licensing was limited to Microsoft platforms. The change was made based on 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 more than 200,000 downloads, reports Nandi.

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 is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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