MSDN users to get early access to Visual Studio 2005 tools

Subscribers to MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) will get early access to the general availability releases of the Visual Studio 2005 developer toolset and SQL Server 2005 database.

MSDN subscribers can get the products in mid-to-late October, ahead of the Nov. 7 general release date. The company plans no further beta releases of the full products, though some developers have asked for a third beta for the Visual Studio 2005 platform.

A Release Candidate for Visual Studio 2005, however, will be available around Sept. 12, which is when Microsoft holds the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles. While a beta is not a final version, the Release Candidate moves the process in that direction.

"It is a build that is the candidate for being released. That means it will be of significantly higher quality," said Prashant Sridharan, group product manager in Microsoft's Developer Division. "It's something that will certainly be higher quality than beta but there might be a few bugs here and there that we need to fix."

"The product is feature-complete," Sridharan said.

Formerly code-named "Whidbey," Visual Studio 2005 features improvements in performance and coding. It also introduces Application Lifecycle Management via the Team System version of the product. SQL Server 2005, which had been codenamed "Yukon," offers boosts in areas such as business intelligence, asynchronous queuing, and XML support.

Microsoft on Nov. 7 also will release a third beta of Team Foundation Server. This server software provides for developer collaboration and change management as part of Team System. The third beta has been planned all along, according to Sridharan. Team Foundation Server will be available in final, general release in first quarter 2006.

We're going to spend a lot more time performing stress and performance tests, Sridharan said. The third beta will include a Go-Live license for implementing it in deployment scenarios as well as product support.

"Servers have a lot of different kinds of stress and performance and security and reliability things that you want o take care of," Sridharan said.

While many customers have initially been unfamiliar with Team System, they have warmed up to it, said Chris Menegay, a consultant at Notion Solutions, a Microsoft systems integrator in Dallas. "Once they hear about it and they see a demo of it, they're actually pretty excited."

Earlier this month, developers opened up a suggestion file on the online MSDN Product Feedback Center seeking support for a third beta of the full Visual Studio 2005 toolset. They cited bugs and performance issues. But Sridharan pointed out that the beta is just that -- a beta.

"It doesn't surprise me that people are finding bugs in the beta," he said.

The second beta cycle for Visual Studio 2005 began in April and ends with the upcoming general release. "That's several months of time where we get the product to shipping quality," Sridharan said.

He acknowledged there have been a lot of bugs in the product but could not cite any specific issues. The 2005 release of Visual Studio has offered more opportunities for early user input via the feedback center.

"The difference [between the 2005 release and previous versions] is there's a forum for people to say things like that, so it's easy to blow that stuff out of proportion," Sridharan said.

Menegay deferred to Microsoft on the issue of whether to release a third beta of Visual Studio 2005. The product set has been subject to several delays in recent years. "Microsoft in my opinion has the best guess on whether it's stable enough," Menegay said.

A final build of SQL Server 2005, which is akin to a Release Candidate, also is planned for release around the time of the PDC.

Another prerelease designation for Microsoft products is the Community Technology Preview. Such previews are released more frequently than betas. Sridharan said he was unaware of anymore planned for SQL Server and Visual Studio 2005 between now and the PDC. None will be offered between the PDC and final release, he said.

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