The company will focus on debugging and modeling for developers, including a feature that functions just like an airplane's black box.
Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 (click for larger image)
Microsoft began a staged reveal of its next generation of developer tools this week, announcing Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4.0 and new features of Visual Studio for collaborative development, modeling, and debugging.
One of the main goals with the next generation of Microsoft's development platform will be to "democratize application life cycle management" by making it easier for developers, database pros, architects, and testers to work together in Visual Studio Team System 2010, code-named "Rosario," Dave Mendlen, the company's director of marketing for developer tools, said in an interview. Likely two of the biggest feature sets in Visual Studio 2010 will be modeling and testing.
Developers often neglect regular testing when they are writing code because it's time consuming or difficult to figure out which unit tests to run, Mendlen said. A new tool in Visual Studio 2010 will, as the developers write code, automatically show what unit tests developers should run to validate that code. Another tool will show the developer a new level of detailed information on any bugs in the code after tests fail.
In Visual Studio 2010, Microsoft also will introduce a feature it likens to an airplane's black box. While running a test of an application, a "black box" records the state of the machine and the application. That way, a tester can look at a debug log running alongside a video replay of the application that was under test and dive into all layers of the computing stack to see where a bug might have occurred.
"When a bug is found, we have a screen shot and we have this black box we can hand off to the developer," Mendlen said.
Visual Studio Team System 2010 will include some pieces of Microsoft's "Oslo" modeling strategy, as first demonstrated at Microsoft's TechEd conference earlier this year. The Architecture Explorer will allow architects and developers to build, customize, and see an architectural diagram of an application and enforce architectural consistency on builds of a piece of software. The software will support the Object Management Group's Unified Modeling Language and domain-specific languages.
Other new features in Visual Studio Team System 2010 will include streamlined installation and configuration processes, new features to encourage agile development techniques like including an Excel workbook that can hook up to the back-end Team Foundation Server repository, and better build management.
There's no set date for release for Visual Studio 2010 or even a beta schedule, though the final release won't necessarily come as late as the name implies. Microsoft will be folding together two formerly separate products, Visual Studio Team Edition for Software Developers and Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals, and any customer who has either of those will get the other product for free with a Microsoft Developer Network subscription when the new version comes around.
Microsoft intends to roll out its development plans in five stages. After talking about application life cycle management, the next phase will be about improvements in the .NET Framework, especially in Windows Workflow and Windows Communication Foundation, which are two critical pieces of Microsoft's service-oriented architecture strategy. After that, developers should expect more details about Visual Studio 2010 itself, how companies can build better departmental apps with the next generation of Microsoft development software, and how the .NET Framework and Visual Studio will "enable emerging trends" in software development.
The staged rollout flies in the face of a recent trend in Microsoft's developer division, that of extensive transparency into future products. Unlike other groups like Windows, the developer division actively blogs about future products, with tiny bits of new information constantly leaking out for those who seek it. However, Mendlen says, this strategy has proved a bit overwhelming for some developers.
"Instead of gradually opening a fire hose of news, with this release we'll focus on individual themes," he said. "While transparency is a good thing in many circumstances, the perception [among developers] was that they were getting bombarded with information sort of constantly."