Microsoft starts Beta 1 rollout of new LightSwitch dev tool

Microsoft is making the first beta of its LightSwitch development tool available to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers today, according to an August 19 Microsoft blog post.

Microsoft is making the first beta of its LightSwitch development tool available to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers today, according to an August 19 Microsoft blog post.

Microsoft plans to make the LightSwitch beta available to the public on Monday, August 23, officials said earlier this month.

Microsoft is positioning LightSwitch, codenamed "KittyHawk," as a way to build business applications for the desktop, the Web and the cloud. It’s a tool that relies on pre-built templates to make building applications easier for non-professional programmers. Microsoft officials have said LightSwitch is designed to bring the Fox/Access style of programming to .Net.

The LightSwitch Beta 1 documentation is available now on MSDN. The introduction to the documents makes it clear that while LightSwitch is meant to simplify development, it isn't for non-programmers:

"The process of creating an application by using LightSwitch resembles other development tools. Connect to data, create a form and bind the data to the controls, add some validation based on business logic, and then test and deploy. The difference with LightSwitch is that each one of those steps is simplified."

Many professional programmers have made their misgivings about LightSwitch public, claiming that non-professionals could end up creating a bunch of half-baked .Net apps using LightSwitch. Microsoft officials have countered those objections by saying LightSwitch applications can be handed off to professional developers to carry forward if/when needed.

LightSwitch allows users to connect their applications to Excel, SharePoint or Azure services. Applications built with LightSwitch can run anywhere Silverlight can — in a variety of browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox), on Windows PCs or on Windows Azure. Microsoft is planning to add support for Microsoft Access to LightSwitch possibly by the time Beta 2 rolls around. Support for mobile phones won’t be available in version 1 of the product, Microsoft officials have said.

Microsoft officials have said LightSwitch will be a 2011 product.

(Note: I'm finding a number of the links on the MSDN blogs aren't working and are redirecting users to log in. The pointer in the MSDN availability blog post to which I pointed at the start isn't working. I have a question in to Microsoft about TechNet and BizSpark availability of the first LightSwitch beta. I'll update when I hear more.)

Update: Only MSDN subscribers are getting the Beta 1 LightSwitch bits this week. TechNet, BizSpark and other users all have to wait until August 23, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed.

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