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New Release 'Cadence' Begins with Visual Studio 2012 Update 2

Microsoft exec also says Visual Studio 2012 has been downloaded more than 4 million times since its release.

Microsoft's release of Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 (VS2012.2) in April included more than the usual bug fixes and performance updates. This release came with new capabilities for Agile teams, new access to Web-based testing tools, new features for Windows Store development, and new tools for developing and modernizing line-of-business (LOB) apps.

The inclusion of all this new functionality in a dot update of the venerable IDE marks the beginning of a new update "cadence," says S. Somasegar, VP of Microsoft's Developer Division.

"We wanted to get away from this old model where we deliver a version of Visual Studio today, and then you have to wait two years, three years, four years -- who knows how long you'd have to wait before we'd get you the next version," Somasegar (better known as "Soma") told a group of reporters gathered in San Francisco last week. "The way developers are working today, we knew we had to find a way to decrease the time frame from when we have an idea to when we can get that value to our customers."

The rhythm of the new VS release schedule may already be paying off: There have been more than 4 million downloads of Visual Studio 2012 since it was released back in September, Somasegar said. That's the fastest uptake of any version of VS in the history of the company, he said.

"Knowing that people are picking it up in a timely manner and starting to use it validates our theory that we need to be getting more things out to our customer base faster," he said.

Somasegar, who has been with Microsoft for more than two decades, said that the Developer Division he runs has been building what he called "real-time listening systems" that allow his group to get user feedback faster.

"If you had talked to me five or ten years ago," he said, "you would have heard me saying, Hey, we believe that we have the best platform. We believe that we have the best programming stack and fantastic developer tools. So why are you wasting your time elsewhere? But that view has changed for us. We still believe we have the best platform, stack, and tools, but we also know that developers make other choices for a lot of good reasons. And we want to figure out how to do a better job of meeting developers where they are."

As an example, he pointed to Microsoft's efforts to attract Web developers to the Windows platform through standards-based Web technologies.

"If you are a Web developer, we want you to play in the Windows platform," he said. "Sure, we love people who are writing .NET applications that run on Azure, but guess what? If for some reason you've picked up on Java or PHP or Node.js or what have you, we want you to be running on Azure as a first-class application stack."

The company reported last week that sales of Azure and related programs has surpassed $1 billion in annual revenue.

Somasegar also pointed to the work his company has done to promote TypeScript, the Microsoft-created, open-source superset of JavaScript.

"We expect to be seeing more JavaScript and HTML, not less," he said. "But there are limitations today in JavaScript that make it harder for people to get the level of scale and efficiency they might need. So how do we provide some additional support there? We said, hey, you start in JavaScript and end in JavaScript, but we are going to give you some of the more traditional object-oriented programming techniques, whether it's static typing or classes or whatever, in the form of TypeScript."

Agility is also figuring strongly in Microsoft's thinking about Visual Studio features and functionality, Somasegar explained, as is the evolving role of developers in the enterprise.

"The way people are thinking about building software is changing," he said. "It used to be that developers would think, let's just go build this thing, and when it comes to deployment and monitoring and what is happening with the end user, somebody else will worry about it—usually the operations guys. But more and more developers are starting to realize, hey, I have to think, not only about building my product, my service, or whatever it is I do, but I also need to think about how it is landing with my customers, how it is being used, what is working, and what is not working. And I need to be able to get that information in real time, and be able to act on it in a fast way."

Accepting -- and even embracing -- openness as a fact of developer life has also helped to shape Microsoft's current thinking about Visual Studio, Somasegar said. He cited the efforts of Microsoft's Open Technologies group, an independent subsidiary of the software giant focused on open source, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

"The way you could think about what we are doing with Visual Studio," he added, "is that we are focused on what's going on with the developer experience. We are thinking about both what the developer is doing and, more importantly, how the developer is wanting to do that. We are keeping that view, both in our platforms and our tools."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.


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