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Microsoft Releases LightSwitch Beta 2

The second pre-release version of Microsoft's wizard-based, rapid business application development tool adds cloud and extensibility features.

Microsoft today announced at its Developer Tools Partner Summit in Redmond that Beta 2 of the Visual Studio LightSwitch rapid business application development tool is available for immediate download. LightSwitch Beta 1 was announced at the Visual Studio Live! event in August 2010. Dave Mendlen, senior director of Developer Marketing at Microsoft said the final shipping version of LightSwitch will be released "later this year."

The new pre-release version of LightSwitch offers two significant new capabilities, Mendlen said.

"With Beta 2 we've introduced some new functionality. The first is we added Windows Azure publishing, which is now fully integrated. The second is extensibility. Anyone with a copy of Visual Studio Pro can, starting with LightSwitch Beta 2, build extensions for LightSwitch," Mendlen said.

LightSwitch Beta 2 also addresses an incompatibility between the earlier pre-release version of LightSwitch (Beta 1) and the recently released Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1 (SP1). Visual Studio developers who have upgraded to VS2010 SP1 must upgrade to LightSwitch Beta 2 to work with LightSwitch. Also, LightSwitch Beta 2 will not work with the RTM version of VS2010.

Extensions and Cloud
The new capabilities in LightSwitch Beta 2 draw the tool into line with Microsoft's broad cloud computing strategy. Windows Azure publishing will enable LightSwitch developers to easily deploy their applications to either the desktop or the cloud. Mendlen described the tool as offering "simple and fast" LOB application creation "for desktop and cloud."

LightSwitch Beta 2 support for extensions will certainly appeal to attendees at the Developer Tools Partner Summit, an invitation-only event for Microsoft ecosystem partners that build and market tools for the Microsoft development stack. Mendlen said LightSwitch extensions can include screens, business templates, data sources, business types and controls. He singled out a pair of working LightSwitch extensions as examples: An Infragistics custom shell extension that enables a Windows Phone 7 Metro-like, touch-enabled UI, and a ComponentOne pivot table control that offers Excel-like data manipulation.

Mendlen said the focus was to build a robust ecosystem of third-party providers around LightSwitch. "Don't go crazy trying to make a pivot table. Just go buy one and you'll have that functionality for you," he said, adding. "We have more extensibility points and more places to monetize than just the traditional control vendor model."

Visual Studio LightSwitch is aimed at business analysts and power users who today often create ad-hoc business logic in applications like FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Excel and Access. Based on Visual Studio, LightSwitch offers a visual, wizard-driven UI that allows business users to craft true, .NET-based applications with rich data bindings. Unlike ad-hoc development, the .NET code produced by LightSwitch can be seamlessly imported into Visual Studio for professional developers to inspect, edit and extend.

Also announced at the Developer Tools Partner Summit was a program that gives Visual Studio Ultimate Edition license holders free access to unlimited virtual users with Microsoft's load testing tool and agent. Ultimate Edition users will get a license key to generate unlimited users with the Visual Studio 2010 Load Test Feature Pack, without having to buy the Visual Studio Load Test Virtual User Pack 2010. The Load Test Virtual User Pack normally costs $4499 per pack supporting 1000 virtual users.

"I saw an estimate from one customer that this could be a million dollars in cost savings for them. It's massive," said Mendlen. "It's free and we're making it available to Ultimate customers forever. If you have Ultimate you get this value."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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