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Gauging Response to Visual Studio LightSwitch

Developers at VSLive! respond to Microsoft's LightSwitch visual development tool.

A day after Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Visual Studio Jason Zander introduced the LightSwitch visual application development environment to the crowd at VSLive! in Redmond, Washington, opinions on the business-oriented tool are still evolving. During the announcement, Zander placed the value of LightSwitch squarely on the business end user.

"When you look at business applications, not all of them are written by us, the developers," Zander said Tuesday morning, noting that legions of business end users are spinning solutions in Access and SharePoint rather than waiting for corporate development to respond. "When I talk with people who are writing these types of applications, they say look, at some point it was easier for me to build it than just talk about it. We also know there are challenges when these applications start to grow up."

Sanjeev Jagtap of component-maker GrapeCity, said the LightSwitch announcement has been a source of buzz among conference attendees. He said the product is aimed squarely at in-house IT application developers who are struggling with varied tools like Office, Access and Visual Studio, and need to manage the complexity of working with multiple data sources and offline/online scenarios.

"Microsoft's motivation in bringing this product would be to help accelerate the adoption of the new generation of the stack -- that includes Azure, SharePoint, Office, etc. -- by taking away the typical developer's pain in learning and correctly aggregating these technologies. So this product could very well be a win-win for both sides in this scenario," Jagtap said.

Several developers expressed doubt that LightSwitch would appeal to business analysts. One development manager for a state government said her end users are knowledgeable about process, but lack an understanding of the data structures in the organization. Another senior application developer, Mary Kay Larson in the City of Tacoma Information Technology department, said LightSwitch could prove very helpful in raising the productivity of entry level developers.

Walter Kimrey, information technology manager for software development at Delta Community Credit Union, looks at LightSwitch as a fresh take on rapid application development.

"Similar to how VB enabled rapid development of simple Windows applications back in the day, LightSwitch enables rapid development of Silverlight applications, but with the added benefits of the power, flexibility and interoperability of the .NET framework behind it," Kimrey said. "It at least appears to provide a very good starting point. Within our organization, I can see us using LightSwitch to rapidly develop in-house administrative applications."

Gent Hito, chief executive officer for data connector provider RSSBus, said his company worked closely with Microsoft to craft custom Entity Framework data providers for LightSwitch. LightSwitch provides mechanisms for both WCF RIA Services and Entity Framework. "It's the much harder option," Hito said of Entity Framework, "it's a much harder beast to deal with and build. But it makes much more sense from an integration perspective for the customers."

Hito was very positive about LightSwitch, noting that the product matured significantly from earlier pre-release versions. "It's a cool idea. It's coming together as a product. We'll see how adoption goes," he said. "If they keep this one simple, they will be very successful. They've done a very good job of keeping their nose clean and giving people exactly what they need."

About the Author

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

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