Microsoft Adds More Appeal to Development Tools

David Tan
This week Microsoft released the latest and greatest of its application development platforms, including the .NET Framework 4.0, Silverlight 4, and of course Visual Studio 2010, the development environment that brings it all together.

There are some very exciting innovations in this series of releases. First, the .NET Framework, which is essentially the library of code that applications call on to run, has been completely optimized. This is the first major update to the Framework since 2007, and it appears Microsoft has spent the time trying to improve performance and compatibility. The new runtime is 80 percent smaller than the old, according to Microsoft, and will run all applications built for the previous framework without a hitch. This is a nice departure from previous releases which often broke older applications and slowed down as the runtime continued to get more and more bloated. It's a good sign that Microsoft has really started to embrace what's important to users-namely performance and compatibility.

As for the other releases, there are some exciting enhancements. Silverlight has been called Microsoft's Flash killer, and in what can only be seen as another blow to Adobe (following the lack of support on the iPad), it is starting to deliver on that promise. First, with the release of Silverlight 4, developers will finally be able to build applications that can run outside the browser. This opens up a world of new possibilities for application design. Additionally, Microsoft announced that both Linux and the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 operating system will be supported platforms. Again, Microsoft is clearly trying to broaden the reach and depth of ways developers can leverage Silverlight moving forward.

The final piece of the puzzle is the suite of development tools knows as Visual Studio 2010. What's most exciting is that Microsoft has taken all its recent releases and announcements and built support for them right into the platform. Developers can use Visual Studio 2010 to build new Silverlight applications, Azure cloud applications, and Windows 7 mobile applications, in addition to traditional and Web applications. 

Having a single toolset to use for developing on every platform will make application development far more powerful for the army of Microsoft software engineers worldwide. At the same time, the user interface has been given a complete makeover. Of course the now famous ribbon bar is included-as it is with every new Microsoft application. True multi-monitor support is a nice addition, allowing programmers to finally work the way everyone else does.

Time will tell if Microsoft has hit the mark with this new slew of releases. Early reports are promising, but it comes down to acceptance and adoption. Improving the performance and usability of the tools and libraries and making it easier for developers to cater to any and all platforms will go a long way to increasing that.

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