Q&A: Visual Studio 2005 Refresh Helps Developers Take Full Advantage of Windows Vista

REDMOND, Wash., Mar. 6, 2007 – With today’s availability of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 (SP1) Update for Windows Vista, developers building applications on Microsoft’s new operating system platform can expect to enjoy an improved user experience which builds on the enhancements Microsoft provided with the release of Visual Studio 2005 SP1 in December.

From a developer perspective, Microsoft designed Windows Vista as a platform for building secure, reliable and connected applications using both managed and native code. Windows Vista enables developers and designers to build rich, engaging user experiences that help heighten customer satisfaction while reducing support costs and application complexity. 

“Soma” Somasegar. Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Developer Division

For insight into what today’s announcement means for developers, PressPass turned to S. “Soma” Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft. PressPass also asked Somasegar to share his views on Visual Studio 2005 in general.

PressPass: Can you begin by explaining what the release of Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 Update for Windows Vista means for developers?

Somasegar: As developers have seen by now, Visual Studio 2005 — especially with Service Pack 1 — runs well on Windows Vista. If you look at Windows Vista from a developer perspective, there are a lot of new and exciting features. For example, the .NET Framework 3.0 (including Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Windows Workflow and Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows CardSpace) is all new functionality targeted at developers building modern, connected applications. We’ve already seen a number of partners release applications that are targeted at the .NET Framework 3.0. In addition, we have made significant enhancements to native Win32 APIs in Windows Vista. Overall, we’ve added about 7,000 new APIs in Windows Vista. Regardless of their background, developers will find plenty of things that help them successfully develop applications on Windows Vista.

With this update to Visual Studio, our goal was to ensure developers have the best possible experience on Windows Vista, and that the features developers are using in Visual Studio work as expected. We fixed a number of significant issues around debugging and profiling, and around creating ASP.NET applications for IIS on the developer machine. We also wanted to improve the feedback that Visual Studio gives to developers when an error occurs on Windows Vista. I personally encourage developers to download the Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Update for Windows Vista from MSDN [Microsoft Developer Network] and experience it firsthand.

PressPass: Windows Vista has been generating a great deal of discussion; what do you see as its specific impact on development organizations?

Somasegar: Windows Vista provides a number of great opportunities that developers have not necessarily seen before. We divide these into three buckets: clear, connected and confident. Clear means developers can take advantage of the advances in the Windows user interface. When I interact directly with customers, they say they’re impressed with the user experiences that they can build on Windows Vista, using technologies like WPF and DirectX 10. This is a great opportunity for them to build very modern and cool-looking user interfaces. However, it’s not just about looking cool. We have seen that applications that provide great user experiences are more readily adopted by users and because of that, those users develop more of a personal connection with that application. This helps software developers build a more loyal user base.

We see Windows Vista as the best way of building connected systems – to connect users with each other and their data in new and exciting ways. Technologies like Windows Communication Foundation and Windows Workflow enable people to build these kinds of connected applications. We also see Windows Vista as a great way for users to connect with each other. For example, there are built-in features like peer-to-peer support with People Near Me, which allows developers to build applications that enable seamless collaboration. Finally, we’ve seen a lot of developer interest in search technology. Having search functionality integrated in the operating system goes a long way toward making information more readily available and easier to find, and will change the type of user interfaces that developers build.

We also took developer concerns to heart, and have built the most secure and reliable version of Windows ever. Windows Vista was built from the ground up with secure development in mind. It has new features like User Account Control, which prompts end users when an application performs an action that requires administrative privileges. From a developer’s point of view, it not only helps prevent malware from gaining control of a user’s PC but also gives users more direct control over how their PCs are being used. Windows Vista also includes security features like BitLocker, a feature that secures data on the hard drive so that even if the hard drive is stolen, you don’t need to worry about corporate secrets being taken from it.

The fact that all this is built into Windows Vista means that developers can leverage the security and reliability features and functionality that Vista provides as they develop their applications. This enables developers to spend more time writing business logic and focusing on the business value of their application.

PressPass: While we’re on the topic of security, how do the tools in Visual Studio 2005 help developers create more secure applications in Windows Vista?

Somasegar: When Microsoft created the Trustworthy Computing initiative, we made it a tenet of our development to not only make our products secure but to help developers make their products secure as well. Our Security Development Lifecycle is something that we talk to developers about and was a core part of developing Windows Vista.

We have put a great deal of effort into helping developers build more secure applications using Visual Studio 2005. For example, we’ve made enhancements that enable easier deployment of applications through ClickOnce. Using the ClickOnce feature, a developer can write applications that can be deployed without requiring administrative permission on the machine, which means that the surface area of attack is reduced. We have also put a lot of work into making sure that we help developers address some of the most common potential security problems in a C++ application. We did that by adding compiler options that support better bounds checking and better verification. These tools have been tested as a part of our internal development processes and I’m happy that they’re now available to a broader group of developers. All of these tools and more are available to developers writing applications on Windows Vista.

PressPass: What sorts of solutions are being built on Windows Vista and how can developers get a look at some of them?

Somasegar: I’ve actually been blogging about this quite a bit recently. Windows Vista gives developers a whole new canvas for creating cutting-edge applications, and we are already seeing a lot of exciting third-party solutions coming to life, including ultra-realistic 3-D programs, novel mini-applications called “gadgets,” engaging high-definition, animated programs and Web sites, and innovative applications from new-media, retail and education companies. Yahoo! has already created a WPF-enabled messenger client and the PASS consortium – made up by companies including IPCommerce, PayPal and Chase Payment Tech – are using the secure functionality of Vista to assist with on-line commerce. Developers who want to see other examples of what people are building should take a look at some of my or visit the showcase at SeeWindowsVista.com.

Meanwhile, people looking for information on how to build applications can go to the Microsoft Developer Center for Windows Vista, which is found at http://msdn.microsoft.com/vista. We also have a series of worldwide events scheduled in conjunction with the launch of Windows Vista. I encourage developers to follow the links at our MSDN site and find an event in their area that gives them the opportunity to interact with Microsoft representatives and third-party speakers. These are people with extensive experience working on Windows Vista with Visual Studio 2005 who can give developers a firsthand sense of what’s possible.

PressPass: Visual Studio 2005 has been available for a little longer than a year. What sort of response have you seen so far?

Somasegar: We have seen strong adoption of Visual Studio 2005 across all the product families. For example, the Express editions of Visual Studio, which were new with Visual Studio 2005, have had over 10 million downloads. Developers are adopting Visual Studio 2005 to get access to the improved features for Windows, Office, Web and Mobile development that I described earlier and to start building applications that use the .NET Framework 3.0.

We have also had more than 620,000 developers participate in the Windows Vista and Office 2007 experience program, which was designed to ensure we received feedback from our developer community as we built the next generation of our Office and Windows platform. This program really helped drive custom application development on Vista. 

PressPass: Wasn’t Visual Studio Team System introduced at the same time as Visual Studio 2005?

Somasegar: Yes, we launched the two together. Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) enables development teams to collaborate to deliver higher quality and more secure applications.  We are seeing more and more companies want to adopt integrated application lifecycle management tools like VSTS. For example, when the Continental Airlines development team completely revamped the company’s main Web site Continental.com, VSTS provided the collaboration, testing and debugging capabilities the team needed to ensure a successful development process. 

PressPass: What other steps do you see Microsoft taking to meet the needs of developers, not only with regard to Visual Studio but also in general?

Somasegar: Anyone who has observed Microsoft in the last couple of years can see that we’ve become more transparent in telling developers what to expect in the next version of our software and asking them to give us feedback. In fact, many of the features in Visual Studio 2005 SP1 originated with reports submitted to our MSDN Product Feedback Center, a site that we set up specifically for customers to log their feedback and have it sent directly to the various product development teams. I continue to be thankful for the developer community involvement. Their feedback is critical to ensure that we are building the right products to meet their needs.

I also see Microsoft really engaging with developers in ways that we have never been able to achieve before, and not just in the Developer Division but across the company. We are seeing a tremendous amount of activity on Microsoft’s blogs, on the developer forums and at the developer centers. This type of interaction is very valuable, not only in helping to determine how we improve Visual Studio but also for products like Windows, Office and even some of our Live initiatives.

We’re also very committed to making sure the Visual Studio product family provides solutions for developers of all levels. For example, the Visual Studio Express Editions are designed for novice or hobbyist developers and can be downloaded for free. These editions make it easy for people to get introduced to programming or to build Web sites, or to just have a positive experience as they get started with Visual Studio 2005. Our product line extends all the way up through VSTS. As I mentioned earlier, VSTS provides enhanced application lifecycle management capabilities for testers, developers, architects and database professionals, enabling enterprises to work together in a more connected fashion on large-scale development projects.

Finally, it’s important to point out just how many new tools we’ve delivered in the past year extend the power of Visual Studio 2005 even more. For example, we recently introduced ASP.NET AJAX, a free framework for creating more interactive and highly-personalized Web experiences that work across all of the most popular browsers. Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the 2007 Microsoft Office System – also known as VSTO 2005 SE – is another great example. VSTO 2005 SE enables developers to build applications on Office 2007, providing end users with applications that have a familiar UI. VSTO is already a fully supported download available at no charge to any developer who has Visual Studio 2005 Professional and it will be even more broadly available to developers in the next release of Visual Studio since it will be included with Visual Studio Professional. The other one I’ll mention is Visual Studio 2005 Team Edition for Database Professionals, which brings the benefits of VSTS and lifecycle development to database professionals. All of these are excellent examples of how we keep delivering more and more value to the developer community.

PressPass: Can you tell us what’s next for Visual Studio?

Somasegar: We are hard at work on the next version of Visual Studio, code-named “Orcas.” We just released a new “Orcas” Community Technology Preview (CTP) on Feb. 28, and we will be doing more CTP and beta releases over the coming months. I look forward to hearing feedback from developers to help make sure we are building the product that best meets their needs.

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