It's a big announcement for Microsoft, at least according to the developer blogging world. There have been over 100 posts trumpheting the release of Visual Studio 2008 - Global Launch Wave part 1. Wow, guess some people were really excited when they logged onto their PCs this morning. Fear not loyal readers, we will join the crowd and fill you in on how Microsoft has enhanced its core development IDE to suit the new world.

Microsoft's Primary Investment Pillars

The improvements center on three primary investments (or pillars): * Rapid Application Development * Effective Team Collaboration * Breakthrough User Experience Microsoft claims customers can create connected applications that deliver high quality, rich user experiences and fast! (Hmmm, I though Visual Studio 2005 did that...) There are a number of technology areas focused on achieving these investment pillars:

Development of Smart Client Applications

VS 2008 has a new set of tools and classes that enable developers to integrate smart client functionality into web applications. It even has local data caching for when the user isn't connected to the network or internet (MS Synchronization Services for ADO.Net). In addition, improvements to mobile development technology includes: * MS SQL Server 2005 compact edition * the ability to leverage SOA (service oriented architecture) and WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) to build mobile applications that can work in partially connected environments (like when roaming occurs).

Creating MS Office Applications

A new toolset called Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) is integrated in the Professional Edition of VS 2008. Developers can customize the different office products like Excel, Powerpoint and Word to improve productivity and take advantage of the improvements in Office 2007. Improvements have been made to the SharePoint workflow tools and SharePoint WebParts. Developers can now create applications that use MS Office to create documents and data and SharePoint workflow to manage the collaboration requirements for that content.

Building Windows Vista Applications

Have application, want Vista look and feel? You got it now! There are over 8,000 APIs in Vista that developers can now use to to build Vista -like applications.

Productive Data Handling

Heard of LINQ (Language Integrated Query)? Another acronym to add to the cursed pile. It's an improvement to data access. It enables developers to create queries using languages they know best (like C# and VB) instead of having to learn the dreaded SQL or XPath languages (although I thought all developers knew SQL).

Developing Rich Internet Applications

Want a rich internet application? Microsoft has improved it's ASP.Net AJAX functionality. Also the new Expression Suite designers and tools are integrated into VS 2008 to help developers and designers take advantage of the Windows Live services in their solutions.

Overall development IDE improvements

They have taken VS 2005 and improved on it to include a number of new designers and improve some of the existing designers for building forms-based applications. There's a new version of the .Net Framework (although most of us were just getting use to 3.0!). And finally VS 2008 is continuing to leverage the Visual Studio Team System technology which helps development teams manage the entire application lifecycle (in terms of development).

Final thoughts

Lots of new stuff. Lots for developers to have to learn to use. Lots of questions for application and functional architects to add to their lists when they start their functional requirements and produce their designs. Do we need all this capability? I don't know - time will tell. But hopefully this overview has given you enough background to understand when your development team starts talking their crazy techie talk that even the best of us struggle to translate into human terms.