S. “Soma” Somasegar, the senior vice president of Microsoft’s Developer Division, blogged about the new initiative, which focuses on innovation in the developer ranks.
“Some innovations take a very long time to get just right before we know that they will truly cause a shift in software development,” Somasegar said. He added that the DevLabs site is “a portal where we can share not just some early thinking, but early bits, and let you play with them and help us determine the direction that these projects should eventually head. While many of these projects will come from teams within Developer Division, this is an outlet for all innovations coming from Microsoft focused on you, the developer.”
Somasegar said the DevLabs site is not intended to glean input from developers on projects Microsoft already is working on, but to look at “projects that aren’t as solid in exact deliverables yet. Some of these projects will turn into features in our existing shipping products, some we will open-source for the community, others we will decide to not pursue. You are the ones that can help us determine what best suits your needs.”
To that point there are at least four projects currently available on the DevLabs site. Somasegar lists three:
“Small Basic: Small Basic is a simplified programming language and environment to help teach programming to beginners. PEX: PEX (Program EXploration) is an intelligent assistant to the programmer. From a parameterized unit test, it automatically produces a traditional unit test suite with high code coverage. In addition, it suggests to the programmer how to fix the bugs. And Popfly: Microsoft Popfly is the fun, easy way to build and share mashups, gadgets, games, Web pages and applications.“
Another project on the DevLabs site is CHESS. According to the description of CHESS on the Microsoft Research site, CHESS is:
“An automated tool for finding errors in multithreaded software by systematic exploration of thread schedules. It finds errors, such as data-races, deadlocks, hangs and data-corruption induced access violations, that are extremely hard to find with current testing tools. Once CHESS locates an error, it provides a fully repeatable execution of the program leading to the error, thus greatly aiding the debugging process. In addition, CHESS provides a valuable and novel notion of test coverage suitable for multithreaded programs. CHESS can use existing concurrent test cases and is therefore easy to deploy. Both developers and testers should find CHESS useful.“
In a video about DevLabs, Somasegar said the site will “showcase early innovative ideas that relate to the developer audience. It’s a way to share and have a constructive two-way conversation” with the development community.
Also in the video, Don Box, a Microsoft distinguished engineer working on the company’s “Oslo” modeling strategy, said, “My job is to improve the state of the art for people to write software.” He said innovation comes both in “big bangs” and also smaller efforts. “Yet, one of the things I love about DevLabs is it gives us a much clearer and very efficient pipe to get bits … in an early state.”
Anders Hejlsberg, a Microsoft technical fellow, also appeared in the video. Hejlsberg said in a sense innovation is “what we do here day to day. But innovation is not only part of our job that’s fun; it’s also very hard.”
And, completing his blog post, Somasegar said:
“As we have new innovations to share with you, we will host them here. Sometimes there will be a few at once; sometimes it will be longer in between seeing new releases. I hope that you will keep coming back to see what is new and if there is an area we are looking into that interests you that you will give us feedback and input.“