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Microsoft Announces Visual Studio LightSwitch

Today at VS Live Jason Zander, the General Manager of Microsoft Visual Studio, announced the public beta of Visual Studio LightSwitch on August 23. LightSwitch is a developer tool based on .NET that “will be the easiest way to build business applications for the desktop and the cloud,” according to Dave Mendlen, Senior Director, Developer Tools and Platform Marketing at Microsoft, “We think it’s as easy as flipping on a switch.” This tool, which enables nondevelopers to build applications, is yet another product from Microsoft in response to the burgeoning DYI movement in business. The tool consists of prebuilt application templates and tools that could be used to build applications without code.

Mendlen points out that the tool is also handy for developers who need to create common business applications quickly, “With LightSwitch it’s possible to dramatically decrease the time it takes to build a custom application because it handles the routine code and it lets the developer focus on the business logic that makes the developer’s application unique.” Developers can enhance the templates using C# or Visual Basic and can connect up SharePoint or Microsoft Office (Excel, Word) or any data source (such as SQL Server or Oracle databases). Mendlen notes that a cool new feature blurs the line between development and run mode. The developer can test the application and modify the user experience while the application is running.

Business users can create applications for internal use with LightSwitch instead of “going rogue” and using tools that a developer can’t scale. When the application becomes successful and it’s time for a professional developer to scale it out, this task is much easier for the developer to handle because LightSwitch uses the .NET Framework and Visual Studio under the covers. Forrester analyst Jeffery Hammond observes that, “Rogue apps happen—they always have and they always will. The question is, when a rogue app succeeds, how do you formalize its development? How does IT take it on board? I’m sure they’d rather take on an app that’s already .NET based and has existing VS assets than deal with a proprietary 4GL or a non-standard development environment. Once you recognize the inevitable, you can get on with making it a smoother process, and that’s what I think Microsoft’s done here.”

Mendlen pointed out that a unique feature of LightSwitch is that developers don’t need to think about where the application runs until it’s deployed. He says that “with a few clicks the application can run on the desktop, in the browser with Silverlight, or your application can target the cloud and be deployed through Windows Azure and use SQL Azure data.”

You will be able to download the Visual Studio LightSwitch beta starting August 23. Microsoft is looking for customer feedback so it can get prepare for the final version, which is due out sometime next year More information on Visual Studio LightSwitch is available at
Licensing information for this slimmed down Visual Studio product is not yet available.

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