Microsoft says it will ship Visual Studio 2008 this month

Company also starts testing new tool for adding collaboration, offline support to apps

Microsoft has committed to releasing Visual Studio 2008 and its .Net Framework 3.5 technology by the end of this month.

Soma Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft's developer division, made the announcement at the company's TechEd Developers 2007 conference in Barcelona, Spain. He also announced a Community Technology Preview (CTP) release of a new tool that developers will be able to use to enable collaboration and offline capabilities for any applications.

Although the Web has changed what users expect in terms of interaction with desktop and Internet applications, companies have been challenged to build "richer, more connected applications and services" that could help them boost productivity and increase revenue, Somasegar said in a statement. He added that Visual Studio 2008 and .Net Framework 3.5 will let developers use their existing skills to build more "compelling" applications for end users.

Visual Studio 2008 is focused on enabling developers to create what Microsoft calls "smart client" applications that offer the same kind of rich user experiences that are prevalent on the Web. The new tool set can be used to develop applications for Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Office 2007 and the Web, the software vendor said.

Sync Framework, the upcoming tool that was released in a CTP version for beta-testing, is designed to extend the synchronization support built into Visual Studio 2008 to include offline and peer-to-peer collaboration. Microsoft said that Sync Framework provides a platform for taking Web services and databases offline and that it supports peer-to-peer synchronization of all types of files, using any protocols, data types and data stores.

Microsoft also unveiled a new release of Popfly Explorer, a combination tool set and social network that was designed to enable nontechnical users to build and share mashups, gadgets, Web pages and applications. The Popfly software was built with Microsoft's Flash-like Silverlight rich media tool. The update adds new tools intended to make it easier for Web developers and other users to add Silverlight-based gadgets built in Popfly to their Web pages and to publish HTML pages directly to Popfly.

Finally, Microsoft announced changes to the licensing terms for its Visual Studio business partners. The company said it will no longer limit partners to building technology on top of Visual Studio for Windows and other Microsoft systems only. The licensing changes will become effective with the release of Visual Studio 2008 and its accompanying software development kit.

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