3 Reasons to be excited about Visual Studio 12 and Microsoft Build

3 Reasons to be excited about Visual Studio 12 and Microsoft Build

Two airline tickets to SeaTac. That’s what die-hard Microsoft developers are booking. The first is to the Visual Studio 2012 launch event, to be held Sept. 12 at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash. The second will be to the Microsoft Build conference, also at the Microsoft campus, from Oct. 30-Nov. 2.

Due to a date conflict, I’m unable to make the VS12 launch event. Fortunately, Microsoft will host a virtual launch, so I can watch the festivities from my office. Things worked out better for Build, and for that one, I’ll be onsite.

As with the debut Build 2011 last year in Anaheim, Microsoft is being extremely cagy about what will be covered in Build. It’s an easy bet that Build will focus on Windows 8, with a smattering of Windows Phone 8, Azure, Office 365 and other cloud-based services.

Indeed, Build continues along the same road as the company’s now-discontinued PDC (Professional Developer Conference) and MIX (Internet development) events by prepping developers on up-and-coming Microsoft technologies.

As you may know, Build registration sold out in an hour. That’s something in common you’ll find with Build, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, and Google I/O: All attract thousands of developers, all involve a lot of secrecy, and all sell out in picoseconds.

Let’s think about the Visual Studio 2012 launch, now only a few weeks away. If you aren’t a Microsoft developer, you’re probably thinking, “Who cares?” and you know, that’s a fair attitude. Visual Studio is a tool for building software for Microsoft’s platforms. If you don’t care about that ecosystem, or if you are aggressively cross-platform in your outlook, Visual Studio ain’t for you.

Say you are a Microsoft developer. Here are three killer reasons to be excited about Visual Studio 12 — and why you should migrate your team to it right away;:

1. You can build applications that use the Metro user interface style. You know, those colorful rectangular Live Tile things. Of course, Microsoft is moving away from the word “Metro,” and so we’re supposed to call the blocky things the Windows 8-style UI. The important thing, though, is that you use that UI style for native applications, Web applications, and even mobile apps — and those apps can be deployed onto older versions of Windows.

2. You can use the .NET Framework 4.5. The biggest improvement there is native support for HTML5. There are other improvements as well, such as better performance on multicore hardware, but from the developer perspective, it’s mainly about HTML5.

3. You can target ARM-based processors running WinRT. Windows 8 is the first mainstream version of Windows to run on non-x86 processors. Expect to see ultrabooks and tablets running WinRT entering the market at low price points. Use VS12 to create native ARM binaries for those devices.

One Visual Studio feature that I’m not as pleased about: The continuing division of the IDE into a number of different “editions,” like Ultimate, Premium, Test Professional, and so-on, with prices ranging from US$6,119 and down. In a perfect world, all developers would have access to the entire tool suite — and Microsoft would want everyone to have those tools.

Give Apple some kudos here: Its Xcode environment is free and available in full to every Mac user, because Apple understand that it’s in its own enlightened best interest to encourage more app development on Macintosh and iPhone.

I wish Microsoft was as far-sighted as Apple, and realized that instead of looking at more ways to exact cash from its most enthusiastic developers, it should lower prices and lower barriers. Microsoft should look at a rich developer ecosystem as a competitive advantage for the Windows server, desktop and phone platforms — not as a revenue stream for its tools division.

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