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Microsoft Outlines Visual Studio .Net Upgrade

The focus will be on developer productivity, scalability, and tie-ins to Yukon database.

Microsoft on Tuesday provided details on its development-tools road map, outlining some of the features to be delivered as part of the next release of Visual Studio .Net, due next year, and in a subsequent release. The company is also making it easier for small third-party developers to participate in its Visual Studio partners' program, with a goal of increasing the number of tools that work with its flagship development environment.

The next major release of Visual Studio .Net, code-named Whidbey, is scheduled to ship in the second half of next year. Areas of focus will include increased developer productivity, improved scalability, new "community" tools for enterprise development teams, and tie-ins to the next version of Microsoft's SQL Server database, known as Yukon. Microsoft plans a limited beta release of Whidbey in October, with a broader test version in the first half of next year.

Microsoft officials estimate 2.5 million developers use Visual Studio .Net, which was first released in February of last year as a platform, along with the .Net Framework of class libraries, for writing Web services. Whidbey "incorporates features that developers and IT managers have been asking for most," says Ari Bixhorn, a Visual Studio .Net product manager. Among them: improved debugging, more automated application deployment, an upgraded .Net Framework that supports 64-bit CPUs, and broader support for smartphones, Pocket PCs, and other mobile devices.

Prior to the Whidbey release, Microsoft will deliver new tools to help Visual Studio programmers write apps that work with its Office desktop suite. Office 2003 is due for general availability this fall. Following Whidbey, the company plans a version of Visual Studio .Net, dubbed Orcas, that's timed to coincide with the next release of the Windows operating system, called Longhorn. Orcas will support Longhorn's managed interfaces and new user interface, among other capabilities, according to Microsoft.

The vendor is expanding a program aimed at companies that build editors, debuggers, and others tools that work with Visual Studio. With an annual membership fee of $10,000, the previous program was too expensive for some companies, says Marie Huwe, general manager of developer and platform evangelism with Microsoft. The new program has been expanded to include a free membership for small development shops and schools and second-tier membership that includes joint marketing at an annual cost of $3,000. "We wanted to find a way to make our program scale to reach not just hundreds but thousands of partners," Huwe says.

Premier partners, which include Fujitsu and Intel, will be able to distribute Visual Studio .Net's integrated development environment with their own products.

IBM began supporting Visual Studio .Net on its DB2 database in May, and since then, Visual Studio .Net has quickly became a popular way of programming DB2, says Leon Katsnelson, IBM's manager of DB2 product management. While DB2 initially worked with Visual Studio .Net 2002, this week support is being expanded to the newer Visual Studio .Net 2003. "Programmer productivity is a big concern for our customers," Katsnelson says. "Applications have to go into production faster." He says the integration of Visual Studio .Net's interface and tools with DB2 leads to faster DB2 programming.

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