World of Warcraft, meet Visual Studio

Microsoft executive shows World of Warcraft running in Visual Studio.

A top official from Microsoft's developer division showcased an array of new development technologies this week, including a demo of the game World of Warcraft running within the company's Visual Studio integrated development environment.

Scott Guthrie, general manager of the developer division, gave a wide-ranging keynote at Microsoft's DevConnections conference at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas.

But he seemed to especially capture the audience's attention with the WarCraft demo, which coincided with Microsoft's announcement that it would let partners use Visual Studio and its accompanying software development kit to target platforms besides its own.

WarCraft, a popular online role-playing game, uses a programming language called LUA. The Microsoft presentation showed a developer using the familiar Visual Studio environment to code in LUA and create some extensions for the game.

"Not only does Visual Studio give you line-of-business productivity, but you can also triple-kill your opponents," Guthrie joked after an onscreen character coldly dealt death to a trio of hapless game characters.

The WarCraft add-on will be hosted as an open-source project on CodePlex, Guthrie said.

Mostly, however, Guthrie's keynote centered on Microsoft's multiyear, multiple product road map for application development.

A major focal point of that is Visual Studio 2008, which will be available this month. The company is attempting to jump-start adoption of the product by offering developers the ability to target multiple versions of the .NET Framework, the programming model underlying Microsoft's technologies.

The company is shipping version 3.5 of the framework this month, but many users may still be working on projects based on versions 3.0 or 2.0. Visual Studio 2008 can be used to target all three releases. "We think it's probably one of the most important features we've added," Guthrie said.

Guthrie and other spokesmen gave attendees a run through of additional new features in the 2008 release, including its tools for targeting Office applications. These used to be a separate purchase but are now built into the core IDE (integrated development environment).

He also discussed Silverlight, Microsoft's browser plug-in for rich Internet applications. The company released the 1.0 version of the plug-in in September, but that installment, which utilizes a JavaScript programming model, is meant primarily for working with media content. The 1.1 version, now in alpha, holds far more potential for developers because it delivers a subset of the .NET framework, meaning coders can develop applications for multiple browsers using any .NET language and with familiar tools.

Brian Goldfarb, group product manager, UX platform and tools strategy, acknowledged in an interview that to date Microsoft's efforts around Silverlight have largely centered on consumer-oriented projects.

But he expects that to change as the technology matures in coming months and said evidence will surface at Microsoft's MIX conference in March. "The MIX show will be focused on the next generation of applications that Silverlight will provide," he said. "What you're looking at MIX next year is really a combination of [consumer-oriented uses] and more line-of-business applications."

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