VS Extension Targets Outlook + Services

Microsoft’s S+S blueprints bring Visual Studio into the picture.

Microsoft posted the first release in what the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant says will be a series of "blueprints" designed to help developers rapidly build Software plus Services (S+S) applications.

The S+S blueprint for developing Outlook 2007 add-ins was made available for download on CodePlex in November. Microsoft plans to offer blueprints for other office business applications, e-commerce, media/community and mobility. "If it gets a developer halfway home, it's much better than starting from scratch," says Jeffrey Hammond, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

Tools for Outlook
The Outlook + Services Blueprint download -- available as a single file or two files -- includes the S+S framework, source code, Outlook Plus Services add-in library, workflow and other guidance. The blueprint is designed to help developers expose data and integrate services into Outlook 2007. It requires Outlook 2007, SQL Server Express 2005 and Visual Studio 2005. (A Visual Studio 2008 extension is expected when the IDE is released to manufacturing.)

Within the S+S framework, developers open up an Outlook + Services Visual Studio project and learn how to extend the e-mail app based on the guidance provided in Overview, Workflow and Detail tabs (a step-by-step walk-through). Microsoft expects to distribute a "more sophisticated" developer example, dubbed "My eBay," which features eBay Web services, a custom ribbon interface and HTML from an eBay page, in short order.

The Software + Services Blueprints Manager, which is part of the download, is somewhat "unique" in that it allows you to access other blueprints or updates from within Visual Studio via an RSS feed, according to Michael Lehman, a Microsoft technical evangelist who's leading the S+S Blueprints project.

Spreading S+S
The Blueprints Manager and development patterns are the first Visual Studio tooling that support Microsoft's S+S strategy. Unlike Inc., Google Inc. and others that strongly advocate Software as a Service (SaaS), Microsoft's S+S approach remains rooted in client/server applications that can be extended or service-enabled.

Corporate developers will need to adjust their mindset from application development to service creation and application assembly, asserts Hammond.

"In the service-creation area, the focus shifts to buy versus build -- refactoring existing applications and service-enabling them -- and making decisions about service reach versus service reliability," he says. "On the assembly side, developers need to think about how to assemble services in a multi-channel environment, one that may use browsers, desktops and laptops, or mobile devices, as access points for their services."

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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