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Visual Studio 2008: The Ride to the Top

Lately, when it comes to discussing .NET and other key platform innovations at Microsoft, I've taken to using a building analogy. For over a year, Microsoft has been rolling out one fantastic, new platform technology after the next, but has failed to produce mature tooling to support it. It's as if Redmond had built a shining skyscraper that towers over the existing skyline, and never installed the elevators.

You want to enjoy the sweeping views? You had to walk the steps. Or, in the case of .NET 3.0, you had to hand-write the XAML code.

Well, with the release last week of Visual Studio 2008, the express elevators are finally installed and working. And as Steve Dadoly, vice president of engineering at component-maker Infragistics, told me, it's been quite a ride. Dadoly's team, you see, has been working with WPF and XAML for years, in an effort to get WPF-enabled components to market ahead of the VS08 launch. It's been a struggle.

"It was painful," Dadoly laughed. "There were a lot of different CTPs and betas and alphas we got from Microsoft in the beginning. A lot of my engineers had to relearn how to make controls because the approach is different. We did a lot of hand-coding with XAML."

But Dadoly couldn't say enough about the impact VS08 is having on his organization: "Most of the pain I spoke of is now gone because of Visual Studio 2008. The Designer is now good. [Expression] Blend brings a whole new angle to it. There is less hand-coding."

Dadoly praised the tooling for LINQ, AJAX and the team-oriented features in the Team Foundation Server product. But he was effusive about the way VS08 has transformed the way design teams work with developers at Infragistics.

"I think in the past someone would create a wire frame or screenshot of what the application should look like, and then the developer would try to approximate it," Dadoly recounted. "It was more of a waterfall process. Now things are more agile. We don't have a development team and a design team. We just have a WPF team, and they work together."

There's a word of warning in all this, though. Dadoly said dev shops face both a technical and a management challenge, as they look to take advantage of WPF, XAML and related technologies under VS08. From the interaction of various project teams to the new approaches mandated by XAML code, it's clear an adjustment process is ahead.

Do you plan to deploy VS08 and dive into the advanced features provided by WPF, XAML and LINQ? Let us know how you think VS08 might change your approach to development. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/28/2007

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