Microsoft Preps Platform, Visual Studio Upgrades

At the VSLive! 2003 developer conference in San Francisco this week, Microsoft will demonstrate the next two Visual Studio .NET versions, including Visual Studio .NET 2003 (code-named Everett), which will ship April 24 with Windows Server 2003. The next release of Visual Studio (VS), code-named Whidbey, will ship in early 2004 with the next SQL Server release (code-named Yukon). After that, the next VS release will ship with Longhorn, the next Windows release, in late 2004 or early 2005.

"Visual Studio .NET 2003 is a reassurance for customers," Dan Hay, lead product manager in Microsoft's Developer Division, told me recently. "The tools are improving, and we're listening to feedback. But \[the product isn't\] improving or changing dramatically. The Yukon release of Visual Studio is the next release, and it's a major, substantial release."

The Yukon SQL Server release will enable a variety of new technologies, products, and services at Microsoft, so it makes sense that the company is basing its next-generation development tools on this important platform. As a core database engine, Yukon will offer key programmability improvements, including integration with the Microsoft .NET runtime environment, the ability to use any .NET programming language--including Visual Basic .NET and Visual C# .NET--to code stored procedures, and a much simpler way for developers to create new user-defined data types.

But Yukon is much more than a database engine. Microsoft has been slowly working toward the promise of "information at your fingertips," a concept that Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates introduced almost a decade ago, and Yukon will finally provide the underlying technology to make the concept possible. First, Microsoft will integrate Yukon with Longhorn and create a new file system called Windows Future Storage (WinFS). "We've always had the vision of abstracting data away, and people just want to get to their data and work with it," said Tom Rizzo of the SQL Server team. "Windows is the way that they will interact with their data. So we're going to make the experience richer and more easily searchable. The data should find the user." Second, Microsoft will roll Yukon technology into a variety of products, most of which will probably rely on the new file system's underlying support. These products include Active Directory (AD), the post-Titanium Exchange Server release, and any other product that includes a data store of some type.

To take advantage of Yukon's gains, next year's VS release will include massive upgrades to the product's core Web services and data-acquisition capabilities, as well as improvements for mobile application development. Microsoft will also ship a Visual Studio .NET 2003-based development environment for Microsoft Office 11, which will replace the macro/scripting environment in earlier Office suites.

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