Visual Studio 2008 has shipped

Visual Studio 2008 has shipped

Summary: Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 were released yesterday.


Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 were released yesterday. As far as Microsoft development tool releases go, this one is particularly important, as it is the first version of Visual Studio that includes integrated support for .NET 3.0 technologies such as WPF (Windows Presentation Framework) and WF (Workflow Foundation). Though it was possible to add wysiwyg editors to Visual Studio 2005 using a set of CTP extensions (and it was always possible to write directly to the classes), these extensions had their flaws, and more to the point, most developers wouldn't have bothered.

Microsoft tends to drive adoption of its technologies through strong tools support. Visual Studio 2008 combined with other recent additions to the Microsoft design family (the Expression Designer family of producs) will drive adoption of .NET 3.0 throughout the Windows development ecosystem.

I am starting to feel like I am getting a bit behind the technology curve. The last time I felt this way, I took a several month sabbatical to pursue other interests, one of which was to learn all about Microsoft's new .NET Framework. .NET 3.0 represents a shift in the way applications are developed in Windows, and though I know a fair bit of it (I've used WCF, and I'm deep into WPF), there is so much to learn in .NET 3.0 that, with the addition of .NET 3.5 and some of the new AJAX-oriented ASP.NET technology (which I also intend to learn soon), I am starting to feel like I've been blithely constructing sandcastles as a tidal wave bears down on the shore.

Some might call this process the Microsoft "upgrade treadmill," but I think that misses a lot. .NET 3.0 isn't an example of forcing developers to move forward in order to stand still. It represents a real improvement in the way applications get developed.

Microsoft is, at heart, a platforms company, and as I've noted in the past, the list of recognizable programmer names at Microsoft is incredibly long. That shouldn't be surprising, as Microsoft from its earliest days has been a builder of development frameworks. From the BASIC compiler developed by Bill Gates in the company's early days (and used in early Apple computers) to the data access innovations included in .NET 3.5 with its new LINQ technology, Microsoft's motivating principle, as it were, has been to make it easier to write software.

That's a pretty important orientation, and clearly a marked difference from companies like Apple (who as I've noted, is moving in more platform directions these days). Technologies that kept you "closer to the metal," as it were, were manageable in the past. My mother was a programmer, and she tells stories of writing assembly language reports for Burroughs mainframes that, due to memory constraints, had to leave empty spaces in memory where the results of calculation were inserted.

Clearly, we had to move beyond such technologies, as if we didn't, the interactive digital medium that made the Internet possible and drove computing beyond its business beginnings into the hands of ordinary consumers would not have occurred. That's a principle that applies to assembly language as much as C++. Programming would simply be too complicated for human beings to do in the absence of modern development frameworks.

Development simplification made possible by managed runtimes is essential as the computer systems landscape increases in variety. Computing has moved far beyond centralized business systems, integrating with devices that run our cars, manage critical elements of a city's infrastructure, and fit into our pockets. That trend shows little sign of slowing down. The job of a platforms company is to find ways to unify that computing sprawl into a cohesive software whole, and that is the niche that Microsoft has historically placed itself. Even when they make end-user products, they design them with an eye towards programmability and extensibility.

Yanking self back to the original point: Visual Studio 2008 is a particularly important release for Windows developers. It will start the ball rolling towards widespread use of some of the newer technologies inaugurated with .NET 3.0, which means people who work in that ecosystem will need to spend a few more nights cracking the books.

I'm unlikely to write anything until next week on account of the Thanksgiving Holidays. So, in case my prediction holds true, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Topics: Software Development, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Microsoft, Software

John Carroll

About John Carroll

John Carroll has delivered his opinion on ZDNet since the last millennium. Since May 2008, he is no longer a Microsoft employee. He is currently working at a unified messaging-related startup.

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  • Slight-typo

    Microsoft tends to drive adoption of it's technology through strong-[b]arm[/b] tools support.

    Just ask Compaq about how MS treated them when they didn't give IE top billing...
    Robert Crocker
    • Step back

      ...and think about what Visual Studio does well. This is the problem so many anti-Microsoft people have. They so dislike Microsoft that they obsess over 10-year old tactics that have long been oulawed by most antitrust authorities. It causes them to be unable to respond to the things Microsoft does right.

      I hear Germany did some nasty things 50 years ago, too.
      John Carroll
      • 1957?

        What did they do? Win the Eurovision song contest?
        • 50-ish

          ...damn, developers can be some freaking literal.
          John Carroll
        • 50-ish (edited

          ...damn, developers can be [b]so[/b] freaking literal.

          Point is: let's stop looking backwards. Fine, keep an eye on Microsoft. Make sure they don't, say, start to lean on OEMs again (which they clearly did). But please don't use that as an excuse to turn your brain off and view everything Microsoft does as the result of pure Microsoft pressure. Even when they WERE doing things like that, they were also the first OS to unify everything around a common object technology named COM (just as a useful example, and CORBA never achieved the same kind of ubiquity elsewhere). Later, with IE, they were the first to make a componentized HTML renderer.

          Obviously, that was all directed at Robert, not you.
          John Carroll
          • Call is 60-ish...

            and we've got a deal.

      • Microsoft obsession...

        <i>"They so dislike Microsoft that they obsess over 10-year old tactics that have long been oulawed by most antitrust authorities."</i>

        <b>Of course we "obsess" over this, since Microsoft were found to have (illegally) used their monopoly as a leverage in the Browser market.

        But with their lobbying efforts and campaign contributions, they got George W Bush and a very docile DoJ they got away scot free (cause no one really think having to give the the user the right to remove the IE icon from the desktop was much of a punishment/remedy).

        When Microsoft is treated under the law the same way other theives, liars and defrauders, I'll stop jabbering about their wicked ways...
      • Step back to last week?

        The fact is that MS is STILL doing nasty brutish things whenever they get the chance and they're fighting tooth and nail to avoid having to do the right thing.

        As for Visual Studio, I just spent two days unborking a box that cratered during the VS 2007 Service Pack install. Long story short was too little space on the C-Drive for the install meant that the install failed but left enough debris around to keep it from successfully reinstalling after that was fixed. (dll protections and registry artifacts had to be purged).

        So tell me what has MS done right lately?
        Robert Crocker
        • If the right thing...

          ... is selling more product within the law, then Microsoft is doing the right thing. Seems more appropriate to complain that Microsoft continues to benefit from prior wrongs, rather than believe that the company has somehow evaded constraints from regulatory agencies. Governments and competitors hoping to benefit from government action are watching.
          Anton Philidor
          • Evaded or obviated?

            It could also be that Microsoft has found a way to operate within the law, and that's why past anti-trust settlements don't apply. A lot of people don't believe this is possible. A lot of people also seem to believe that every one of Microsoft's activities, even those unrelated to the areas where monopoly abuse was found, should be subject to the same oversight and regulation.

            It's important to remember that many feel that Microsoft "got away with it", and as a result feel cheated out of justice. Therefore, everything Microsoft does is tainted. If Microsoft is thriving, it must be doing something illegal (or at least unethical). Since Microsoft is "unpunished", even its legal acts are corrupt. Once a criminal, always a criminal.

            Carl Rapson
          • Once Microsoft, always Microsoft

            There are people who wish that Microsoft had not succeeded.
            There are people who wish that Microsoft did not continue to succeed.

            These people have to find a reason for their obvious and lasting disappointment, and so they take dishonesty as the primary reason and cannot say anything good about the software.

            There's some reason in the assertions; Microsoft has used bullying and illegal tactics while achieving what the company has accomplished. But perhaps that only makes more difficult the potential realization that the company can stay within the law and still sell software.

            So the beliefs you discuss are actually more emotions than analysis.
            Anton Philidor
  • More revisionist history

    "From the BASIC compiler developed by Bill Gates in the company?s early days (and
    used in early Apple computers) to the data access innovations included in .NET 3.5
    with its new LINQ technology, Microsoft?s motivating principle, as it were, has
    been to make it easier to write software."

    Paul Allen wrote Microsoft's BASIC interpreter (not compiler). Integer BASIC,
    written by Steve Wozniak, was used for the Apple I and Apple II.

    The only attributable software developed by Bill Gates himself is DONKEY.BAS.
    Rather embarrassing effort, even for the time.

    Why is it so necessary for MS supporters to continue to misrepresent their history?

    Oh, what evidence is their to support the claim "Microsoft?s motivating principle,
    as it were, has been to make it easier to write software"? Clearly from the
    deception very early on (e.g. pitching software they'd yet to acquire or develop)
    their motivating principle was the sell software.
    Richard Flude
    • were there, right?

      Integer Basic:

      Relevant excerpts:

      [i]The most frequently cited flaw of Integer BASIC was, as one might expect from the name, that its variables were all 16-bit integers and it was very difficult to write a program that could do calculations using floating point numbers, or even integers outside of the range -32768 to +32767. It was therefore very difficult to write financial or math programs.

      Apple Computer licensed a more full-featured (but also much slower) BASIC from Microsoft, introduced some tweaks, named it Applesoft BASIC, and included the second version of it in the ROMs of the Apple II Plus, which was released in 1979. Whilst written by Microsoft, Applesoft is not directly related to Microsoft BASIC, and the two behave quite differently. Integer BASIC was relegated to a file on the system floppy disk that Apple II Plus users could load into a RAM card for backward compatibility, if needed. Applesoft BASIC was included in the ROMs all Apple II models from the Apple II Plus forward, and eventually became the platform for far more programs.

      Fine...Microsoft's BASIC wasn't the first implementation used in Apple computers, and I never said that it was.

      As for the claim that Gates played no part, as I said, you were there...right?

      [i]Oh, what evidence is their to support the claim "Microsoft?s motivating principle, as it were, has been to make it easier to write software"?[/i]

      Yes, they certainly are oriented around selling software (here's a's worked), but as someone who has worked in both the Unix and Windows worlds, it's pretty clear who has put easy to use software platforms at the center of what they do. You have a hard time finding anyone with bad things to say about .NET. Microsoft development platforms are top notch, and the results show it.

      But hell will freeze over before you admit that.
      John Carroll
      • More revisions?

        "But hell will freeze over before you admit that [Microsoft development platforms
        are top notch]"

        For the enterprise I've long said there are two alternatives *nix/JEE and MS/.NET,
        and maintained solutions can be delivered in either (with no significant

        I've chosen *nix/JEE because it's scales, perform well and I've the option to deploy
        my designs to any hardware architecture and can do it for zero licensing fees (if
        the client wishes - increasingly of interest).

        I have no love for MS, but don't be confused into thinking this means I don't have
        detailed knowledge of the technology solutions they offer, or of IT history. In the
        enterprise space MS technologies, and the teams that support them, are
        everywhere and I have daily contact with such people.
        Richard Flude
        • And I've chosen the .NET platform

          [i]I've chosen *nix/JEE because it's scales, perform well and I've the option to deploy my designs to any hardware architecture and can do it for zero licensing fees (if
          the client wishes - increasingly of interest).[/i]

          And I've chosen the .NET platform because it scales, performs well, and though not free, makes me 1000 times more productive than the alternatives (with which I have years of experience). Licensing fees are only one component of costs.

          [i]I have no love for MS, but don't be confused into thinking this means I don't have detailed knowledge of the technology solutions they offer, or of IT history.[/i]

          Frankly, I know next to nothing about you, whereas you know stacks about me. I can't say that your posts have demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of .NET...but then again, your specialty isn't .NET (and mine isn't UNIX / Java anymore).
          John Carroll
          • Exaggeration?

            "1000 times more productive than the alternatives (with which I have years of

            1000 times more productive? MS paid for studies don't even show that;-)

            What specifically is more productive with VS tools compared with JEE. The only
            difference I see is often JEE provides competing technologies whereas MS the one
            solution. This can be both a curse and a blessing.

            "Licensing fees are only one component of costs."

            Agreed but what cost is cheaper with MS? Hardware isn't cheaper, scale option
            restricted to x86, security isn't better, patches every month, licenses not cheaper.

            The only thing MS points to is it's cheaper for a MSCE, however a *nix
            administrator can look after an order of magnitude more server or increasing we
            host our applications in the cloud.

            If you are indeed 1000 time more productive than me simply by using .NET I'd say
            MS is very lucky to have employed you. I'd expect you're making a bundle, you
            should be able to get t least 100 times my rate;-)
            Richard Flude
    • I was wrong

      "Paul Allen wrote Microsoft's BASIC interpreter (not compiler)"

      A copy of the 4K Altair BASIC source code found by Gates' old tutor Harry Lewis at
      Harvard supposedly credits the following in comments:


      Whilst I wouldn't consider theregister an authoritative source it is the only one
      Richard Flude
      • According to a Bill Gates quote

        He got at least some of his code from trash

        Gates: "No, the best way to prepare is to
        write programs, and to study
        great programs that other people have
        written. In my case, I went to the
        garbage cans at the Computer Science Center
        and I fished out listings of
        their operating system."

        I like this Winston Churchill quote, too.

        "Appeasement, said Winston Churchill,
        consists of being nice to a crocodile in the
        hope that he will eat you last. At the
        moment, the biggest crocodile in the world
        is Microsoft, and everybody is busy sucking
        up to it."
        -- John Naughton, the London Observer
        Ole Man
    • Gates and Disney

      Walt Disney was quietly retired from cartooning by his staff and by his own recognition of their greater talents. I think that Bill Gates was quietly retired from programming by his staff and by his own recognition of their greater talents.
      I suspect Ub Iwerks played the Paul Allen role.

      Walt Disney worked on stories, what happened in the cartoon. Bill Gates was and is interested in what happens on the computer.

      The point?

      You haven't insulted Bill Gates much to say that he was not an especially good programmer. Some people do better at higher level analysis.
      Anton Philidor
      • Bill Gates' expertise

        Was in commercializing the common property
        (public domain) of society and selling it
        back to the rightful owners for huge sums of

        Once society is conditioned to accept that
        (as in EULA), a perpetual revenue stream is

        Unless, and until, society awakens and
        shakes off the shackles and bonds.
        Ole Man