Microsoft Reaches Out to Development Enthusiasts

Reaching out to the several million nonprofessional developers who probably felt snubbed by the past two Visual Studio .NET releases, Microsoft revealed this week that it will ship simpler, lightweight versions of Visual Studio 2005 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 next year. These easy-to-use products let nonprofessionals build dynamic Web sites and Windows applications. Beta versions of the so-called Express products are available for download now. Microsoft says that the final versions of the products, along with the more professional versions of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005, will be available by mid-2005.
  
Microsoft says that it developed the products for high school students, small businesses, and other nonprofessional developers, a market that encompasses more than 18 million people--or about three times the size of the crowd that develops software for a living. However, the products, which include SQL Server Express Edition (a replacement for the confusingly named Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine--MSDE), Visual Web Developer Express Edition, Visual Basic Express Edition, and Visual C# Express Edition, won't be huge revenue generators. Instead, Microsoft will distribute SQL Server Express Edition for free, and the company is expected to offer the Visual Studio Express tools for less than $50 each.
  
"This is really about broadening the base," Microsoft Senior Vice President Eric Rudder said. "We're trying to make the Microsoft commercial ecosystem bigger. These low-cost, approachable products will help hobbyists and students learn new skills in a simple and enjoyable way."
  
In addition to the new tools, Microsoft also announced partnerships with major booksellers and e-commerce sites, such as Amazon, eBay, O'Reilly, and PayPal. The e-commerce partners will supply starter kits for use with the Visual Studio Express products. The booksellers will offer content, samples, and other resources.
  
Microsoft issued Visual Studio 2005 Beta 1 this week. All the Express products and the full Visual Studio 2005 product are available for download from the Microsoft Web sites listed below.

Visual Studio 2005 Beta 1

SQL Server 2005 Express Edition Technical Preview 

Visual Studio 2005 Express Beta Products

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