Surf's Up for Microsoft's Next Software Wave
Microsoft announced milestones for several key technologies, including Windows Vista, 2007 Microsoft Office System, the .NET Framework 3.0, Visual Studio Extensions for .NET Framework 3.0, RTM of VSTO 2007, and more.
On November 7th, Microsoft announced several milestones in its long march toward delivering a host of upcoming Windows- and Office-related software packages and technologies. All told, Microsoft announced more than a half dozen products and services oriented around its twin suns, Windows and Office.
I spent a significant portion of November 7th discussing these announcements and how they will benefit developers with a wide range of PMs that Microsoft made available to discuss this wide range of announcements. You can read more about these briefings on my blog at http://ftponline.com/weblogger/forum.aspx?id=6.
Perhaps the most significant announcement is that Microsoft will make Windows Vista available to MSDN Premium subscribers as soon as Vista releases to manufacture (RTM). The exact date this will happen remains a tightly guarded secret at the time I write this, but Jay Roxe, Group Product Manager, Visual Studio at Microsoft, indicated that the amount of time until Vista RTMs could be measured "in weeks, rather than months or years."
Microsoft also announced the RTM of the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0. The newest version of Microsoft's .NET framework is also generally available on its Web site. Jay indicated that version 3 of the .NET Framework is a superset of Version 2, which means that existing .NET 2.0 applications should continue to function as they do now.
Look for an interview on FTPOnline in the near future where I discuss the strategic importance of ASP.NET AJAX with ASP.NET guru, Scott Guthrie. Also covered in this interview: Microsoft's future plans for the technology. On a side note, Scott spent a good portion of our talk extolling the virtues of NY Times newsreader, which is built on top of ASP.NET AJAX. You can find a link to download this application (still in beta at the time I write this) here: http://firstlook.nytimes.com/?category_name=times%20reader.
On the Office side of things, Microsoft announced the availability of the 2007 Microsoft Office System to MSDN Premium subscribers as soon as it RTMs. Coincidentally, the 2007 Microsoft Office System was released to manufacture the same day Microsoft made this announcement, so you should be able to acquire Microsoft's new Office suite right now if you have a current MSDN Premium software subscription.
Microsoft also announced the RTM of Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) for the 2007 Microsoft Office System. These tools build on previous iterations of VSTO to provide direct enhanced and direct access to Office functionality from within Visual Studio. Supported applications include Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, InfoPath, and Visio.
In addition to its Windows- and Office-related announcements, Microsoft also announced a release candidate of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition (pre-release name: SQL Server Anywhere), a subset of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 that is targeted at programmers of mobile devices. Carol Dullmeyer, Microsoft's Group Marketing Manager, Application Platform, stressed the security enhancements and the built-in synchronization provided by this tool. Said Carol: "We expect third-party ISVs providing solutions for mobile workers to find these features especially attractive." Like the Express version of SQL Server 2005, the Compact Edition is free to download, as well as distribute. Also a plus: You don't need to have any existing SQL licenses to download this product.
As ever, FTP will provide more information on each of these technologies as more information becomes available. You should also watch for upcoming features that explain how to take advantage of some of the more interesting new features in Windows Vista and Office 2007. In particular, we'll be running articles that explore how to exploit some of the new features in WPF to make the end-user experience more satisfying. It's been a (sometimes maddeningly) long wait for this wave of products to crest and approach the shore, but the wave is here now, and we look forward to the ride.
Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.