Microsoft Outlines the Future of Visual Studio

In New York yesterday, Microsoft representatives discussed the next two releases of Visual Studio .NET: the Whidbey release, due in late 2004 with Yukon (the next version of Microsoft SQL Server), and the Orcas release, part of the late 2005 Longhorn (the next version of Windows) wave of products that will include dramatic new Windows and Microsoft Office versions. Most of yesterday's discussion centered around the Whidbey release, but Microsoft noted that the Orcas release will take advantage of Longhorn features such as managed interfaces, an enhanced UI, new Trustworthy Computing and security models, a new application model, improved communication and collaboration, integrated data storage, and innovations in presentation and media. Whidbey and applications written with that product will run on the "landmark" Longhorn OS, Microsoft representatives said.
   "Microsoft's philosophy is to help developers achieve success with a comprehensive, integrated platform," Eric Rudder, senior vice president of Server and Tools, said. "As customers deploy successful projects with Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework today, our goal is to provide a road map for upcoming product innovations to help them plan their next winning strategy." To that end, Whidbey will be a minor upgrade--similar to Visual Studio .NET 2003--that builds on the development infrastructure Microsoft first pioneered in the original Visual Studio .NET release. Whidbey will include an Edit and Continue feature that Visual Basic (VB) veterans will remember from earlier VB releases; developers will be able to change live code during debugging and continue running the application without having to recompile. A new version of the Windows .NET Framework will also accompany Whidbey.
   Windows client development is another area that Microsoft will dramatically enhance in Whidbey. Thanks to a new set of "My" classes, developers will be able to more easily target resources such as installed keyboards, mice, networks, OSs, printers, the screen, and the registry. These classes are basically Microsoft .NET wrappers that provide a more consistent and simpler interface, the company says. New IntelliSense features also bring powerful Microsoft Word-like editing functionality to Whidbey; if a developer misspells a common coding construct, for example, the interface will make the appropriate spelling suggestion.
   Ari Bixhorn, the technical product manager for Visual Studio .NET, provided a short demonstration of Whidbey beta 1, which Microsoft released to a limited set of testers this week; Microsoft will hand out a public beta later this year and beta 2 in early 2004. Bixhorn demonstrated new features in the environment, such as a new window docking system, new drag-and-drop development features, and new Smart Tags that can, among other things, make it easier to attach data back ends such as SQL Server to code. Microsoft is also working to foster a sense of community with Visual Studio .NET; in the Whidbey release, developers will be able to use a new tool called Community Help from within the interface to query other developers for code snippets. Bixhorn said that the idea is to help developers write less code and take advantage of the range of prewritten code modules available around the world. Community Help basically ties into Microsoft's developer-oriented Usenet newsgroup system, he said.
   As has been the case with Longhorn and Yukon, Microsoft is exhorting developers who are interested in the next Visual Studio .NET releases to come to Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2003 in October. The company will use this suddenly crucial programmer-oriented show as a springboard for many upcoming technologies, including Longhorn, and developers who attend the show will receive a pre-beta 1 technology preview of Longhorn that they can use to begin working on Longhorn applications and services.

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