Visual Studio .Net 1.1 Beta Pleases Developers

While the beta of Microsoft Corp.'s Visual Studio .Net Version 1.1 development platform is receiving generally positive reviews, there is concern among developers regarding the software's backward compatibility and footprint.

While the beta of Microsoft Corp.s Visual Studio .Net Version 1.1 development platform is receiving generally positive reviews, there is concern among developers regarding the softwares backward compatibility and footprint.

Version 1.1 of the platform, code-named Everett, synchronizes the VS .Net development environment and .Net Framework with the next version of the operating system, .Net 2003.

According to developers, however, the Everett beta forces them to run two versions of VS .Net—Everett and the current Version 1.0—if they want to use older applications.

"I have Everett running side by side with [Visual Basic] .Net," said Stephen Forte, chief technology officer and co-founder of Corzen Inc., in New York. "My only complaint is that I wish Everett could just work in VS .Net 1.0 mode so I dont need both installed."

According to Microsoft officials, in Redmond, Wash., the side-by-side feature is intentional. Officials said that the feature allows users to run both the 1.0 and 1.1 versions of the framework alongside each other, and the framework will check which version applications should run against.

Developers also are concerned with the limited 1.5MB memory of a new Everett feature, the .Net CF (Compact Framework), an environment for Windows CE that, with Microsofts Smart Device Extensions, enables developers to write applications for desktop PCs, handhelds and the Web, including Web services.

"Most devices we are writing for have 64MB of memory," said Steve Lasker, director of research and development at Immedient Corp., in Denver. To make the .Net CF that small, Microsoft trimmed a lot of functionality, Lasker said.

One key functionality that Lasker suspects was trimmed is the ability to support typed data sets on .Net CF, which Lasker said would enable him to develop business objects that run across mobile devices, desktops and the Web.

Still, Lasker said that .Net CF is still a solid technology.

"I believe the .Net team made it too small because they trimmed out too much functionality to meet the 1.5MB footprint," he said. "Yet, while there are things they didnt include, they didnt preclude us from having a solid enterprise solution."

"Developers go through a bit of a shock when they come from PCs with 1-to-2GHz processors, 20GB hard drives and 128MB of RAM, and they go to handhelds, where suddenly memory and speed are extremely important again," said Mike Sax, a developer and CEO of Sax Software Corp., in Eugene, Ore.

Microsoft officials said that working on the .Net CF will take some getting used to for desktop developers.

To be sure, early developers of Everett are pleased with the software.

Corzens Forte, whose company tracks financial market conditions for clients, said he has been building scouting and other applications for National Football League teams that use .Net CF, SQL Server and Windows CE, with replication back to SQL Server.

"My experience with it is that it is very baked and polished," said Forte. "I would deploy today on the beta bits."

While Everett will not be released until early next year, Microsoft officials said the final version will in large part resemble the beta.

"I dont think well be making any more substantive changes to the platform between now and the time it is released, except maybe some performance enhancements," said John Hipsher, a Microsoft spokesman.

A key enhancement will be a new developer control, DataGrid, that will be added to .Net CF before Everett is released. DataGrid will enable users to sort columns based on certain sort expressions.

Everett will be followed by the next full version of VS .Net, code-named Whidbey, which is due in late 2003.