Tomorrows Still Under Development

Opinion: Visual Studio 2005 is exemplar, not arbiter, of tool trends.

Prepare to be overwhelmed by this weeks long-awaited launch of Microsofts Visual Studio 2005, whose final bits were frozen late last month -- perhaps before they should have been. Every tool maker that I regularly cover has been in touch with me over the last few weeks -- in some cases, during the last few hours -- to make sure that its new and updated products get their share of the reflected limelight of this well-hyped event.

With any release of a major Microsoft tool set, two questions are always worth asking: Whats in it for Microsoft, and whats in it for everyone else?

As eWEEKs Peter Galli observes in this weeks eWEEK Podcast, "Microsoft wouldnt be Microsoft" without some strategy for using a new technology to strengthen users ties to Microsofts platform: In the case of Visual Studio 2005, its clear that a prime beneficiary will be the concurrent new release of SQL Server, combining substantial new features with superior integration into the business logic development cycle.

Many crumbs will also fall from Microsofts table to enrich independent technology providers such as Identify Software Ltd., whose AppSight Black Box technology will be integrated into Microsofts Visual Studio Team System to let developers exchange fully instrumented snapshots of any problem situations and behaviors that they encounter. "The tester doesnt have to document the steps that were executed, the behavior that was observed: That takes 20 to 30 percent of the testers time," estimated Identify VP Lori Wizdo when we spoke last month about the companys plans in concert with the VS 05 launch. "We can cut problem resolution time by 10 to 15 percent for even the simplest problems, 70 to 90 percent for the more complex ones."

Also attendant on the Visual Studio 2005 launch will be Fortify Software Inc., whose Security Tester will integrate "white box" testing facilities under the Visual Studio environment.

It would be a mistake, though, to infer that Visual Studio 2005 is the new center of the development universe merely because it shines so brightly. The center of our real-world galaxy, after all, appears to be a black hole whose presence has to be inferred from its effects on its surroundings rather than directly observed. One could say the same about continuing developments in the Java development community, with this weeks JavaOne Tokyo event sure to see some important announcements surrounding Suns Java Studio Enterprise 8: the all-singing, all-dancing, even more fully UML-integrated successor to the Version 7 product that won this years eWEEK Excellence award for development environments.

Also taking place this week is Borlands Developer Conference, starting the day after Microsofts launch event – good timing, that -- in the same city of San Francisco. Ive commented in the past that Borland aspires to be the Switzerland of development tools, and I still think thats the companys goal in a world that will remain multiplatform as far into the future as it makes any sense to plan.

The real center of tomorrows developer universe is the availability of pervasive, high-speed connections to repurposeable data and to dynamically accessible processing power. Visual Studio 2005 will be an important vehicle for getting there, but it wont be the only one -- and the journey is not the destination, no matter how much any of the industrys enthusiastic cruise directors might try to convince you otherwise.

Tell me what observations you use to determine the true future center of things at


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