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REDMOND, Wash.— Within the next few days, Microsoft will release key development technology to help developers build applications across a variety of platforms, including the Web, desktops, servers and mobile devices.

In an interview with eWEEK at the Microsoft campus here July 25, S. “Soma” Somasegar, corporate vice president of the developer division, said Microsoft was about to release Visual Studio 2008 beta 2, the .Net Framework 3.5 beta 2, and Silverlight 1.0 RC (release candidate), “and we’re going to make available a Visual Studio add-in so you can use Visual Studio to target Silverlight 1.0, the RC version.”

“All of these things are coming out and we’re putting on the very, very final touches,” Somasegar said. “We’re going to provide Go Live licenses both for Silverlight 1.0 RC as well as for Visual Studio 2008 and the .Net Framework 3.5 betas, so that as you as a customer or developer or early adopter want to take a bet on any of these technologies and be able to build and deliver experiences and applications in a production environment. You can do that with these products and we will work with you on that.”

To read about Microsoft’s introduction of Visual Studio 2008, click here.

Microsoft’s Go Live licenses mean the company will support customers who use the early versions of the Microsoft technology to build and deploy projects into production.

“The story is the same in the sense that we want to have a consistent programming experience,” Somasegar said. “We want to have a consistent toolset that can target multiple environments, so that you as a developer can learn one programming model, and learn one set of tools, and then you should be able to use your knowledge and skill set and be able to go back and forth and create client applications, Web applications, applications on the cloud, or for the device. But no matter what you are doing, you can reuse your skills a great deal.”

Microsoft is pushing the mantra of “same people, same programming model, and same toolset,” he said.

In addition, beta 2 of Orcas—also known as Visual Studio 2008—is fully feature complete, unlike the first beta, he said.

“We feel really good about where we are, the functionality that we’ve built and the scenarios that we’re enabling. And the quality is pretty good, but we want to get it out to our customers and listen to the feedback so we can work on the fit and finish.”

Somasegar said Microsoft will ship Visual Studio 2008 and the .Net Framework 3.5 by the end of this year. The company is also on track to ship Silverlight 1.0 later this year.

“Soon after Visual Studio 2008, we want to be able to deliver the add-in so that people can target Silverlight,” he said.

Next Page: Microsoft has made progress in how it develops its products.

Using the Visual Studio 2008, a developer will be able to target an AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) application using ASP.NET AJAX extensions, or to deliver rich media experiences with Silverlight, or deliver applications or customizations that run on top of Office using Visual Studio Tools for Office, or target Windows Vista for rich client application development, Somasegar said.

“And if you’re using the latest and greatest .Net technology, you’re able to have designers in the box to be able deliver applications,” he said.

On the server side, Microsoft offers Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), all the technologies that came out in the .Net 3.0 Vista timeframe.

“Orcas is turning out to be more compelling release than any other release we have done so far, with the kinds of advances we are doing both on the tools side and on the .Net Framework side,” Somasegar said. “The kinds of innovations we are making are probably as exciting, if not more exciting, than when we came out with the .Net Framework 1.0. That was probably the biggest evolution of the platform with the first version.”

To read about how Microsoft’s .Net Framework has shifted its product perspective, click here.

Moreover, Microsoft is providing an environment to support multi-targeting “so that you as the developer can say, ‘I’m going to use one toolset and be able to build applications that target multiple versions of the runtime—such as the .Net Framework 2.0, 3.0, 3.5.’ So from a compatibility perspective, we feel like it’s going to be a good experience for people who want to move from Visual Studio 2005 to Visual Studio 2008 and take advantage of the latest platform features.”

The aspects that are now feature-complete in Visual Studio 2008 beta 2 include the Language Integrated Query support, the Cider visual designer for WPF, and tooling support for Office 2007.

“At this point in time, what you see with beta 2 is pretty much what you’re going to see with the final version,” Somasegar said.

Moreover, Microsoft made progress in how it built its product this time around, he said.

“It’s primarily starting with engineering improvements that we made in terms of what methodologies that we use, what kinds of tools we used and how we go about doing things,” Somasegar said. “And incorporating feedback is a part of that.”

The process is still a journey, he said, but Microsoft has made five big steps toward its goal. “I used to talk about being code-complete, but to me, a better way to look at where we are in a project is to say we’re feature complete,” Somasegar said. “We started working on this philosophy with Orcas and that has worked very, very well for us.”

Indeed, Microsoft now works with what the company calls feature crews.

“For each of the features, we have picked a feature team that includes a handful of developers, a handful of testers and a couple of program managers,” Somasegar said. “So it could be a team of six to 10 to 15 people, and that team operates as one unit and they own the responsibility of that particular feature, and they are done when the feature is complete.”

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