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by Bill Sheldon, firstname.lastname@example.org
Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is coming to a Microsoft download center near you! You can expect this service pack to debut next month. However, to the best of my knowledge, Microsoft hasn't announced the complete contents of SP1. In fact, there hasn't been much discussion of Visual Studio 2005 SP1 at all. So, I thought I would mention a couple of the items that SP1 will include.
The first item that I want to tell you about is the feature that actually triggered my search for more information about SP1. Back in May, Microsoft's ASP.NET team released a Visual Studio 2005 update that added a "new" ASP.NET project type: Web Application Projects. However, this project type isn't actually new in the sense that it's based on the Web Application model in the Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1, which Visual Studio .NET 2003 uses. The Web Application Project is a major departure from the Web Site Project type that ships with Visual Studio 2005. In a Web Application Project, a Web application is compiled as a single large executable. In a Web Site Project, a Web application consists of individual components are kept as separate components. This setup has a major advantage: You can easily update one component without needing to recompile and reship your entire Web application.
In some ways, the Web Application Project will make migrating from .NET 1.1 to .NET 2.0 easier. Plus, the underlying implementation of the Web Application Project is essentially the same as that in Visual Studio .NET 2003, so this implementation will feel familiar to developers. However, despite these benefits, I'm not certain that a throwback to Visual Studio .NET 2003's Web application behavior (i.e., having the entire code base compiled into one binary file) is really a step forward. Breaking items into separate components that you can independently update is a major maintenance advantage.
If you prefer having a Web application compiled into a single executable, you'll be glad to know that Visual Studio 2005 SP1 will automatically integrate the Web Application Project into your development environment. If you don't want to wait for SP1, you can download the update now at http://msdn.microsoft.com/asp.net/reference/infrastructure/wap/default.aspx. All the Visual Studio 2005 editions, except Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition, support the Web Application Project. For more information about the Web Application Project, check out Scott Guthrie's Web page at http://webproject.scottgu.com/Default.aspx.Scott runs the ASP.NET team in addition to several other .NET tools teams.
The second SP1 item that I want to tell you about is Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Everywhere Edition (SQL Server Everywhere). In the article "An Introduction to SQL Server 2005 Everywhere Edition Community Technology Preview" (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=920700), Microsoft describes this item. This article is also where Microsoft announced in a roundabout way that Visual Studio 2005 SP1 will ship in September.
SQL Server Everywhere is the rebranding of the intuitively named Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Mobile Edition (SQL Server Mobile). However, as the article notes, it's not just a rebranding; SQL Server Everywhere includes some new features. For starters, Microsoft removed the dependency on SQL Server 2005 or SQL Server 2005 Express Edition for desktop installations. More important, you'll be able to create a ClickOnce deployment package that includes a SQL Server Everywhere database. (For information about ClickOnce, see my column "Software Sector Is Seeing Another Paradigm Shift," http://www.sqlmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=93041&.)
The Microsoft article clearly notes that SQL Server Everywhere will be included in not only Visual Studio 2005 SP1 but also SQL Server 2005 SP2. Didn't know about SQL Server 2005 SP2? Join the club.
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by Bill Sheldon, email@example.com
Paradigm Shift Isn't About the Client Environment
Q: In your "Software Sector Is Seeing Another Paradigm Shift" column (http://www.sqlmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=93041&), you mention that you see a new era emerging. I don't see this happening unless users become less sophisticated or the industry forces PCs with less processing power and less functionality on the unwary consumer. The fact that companies find it cheaper to support and deliver their products online doesn't necessarily mean the mainstream of society is going to want to be harnessed to the Internet and led by application service providers (ASPs) or ISPs. I do see a shift in the computing paradigm to products that install and function equally well on all platforms as the convergence of hardware and software continue. I also expect that mainstream users are going to become more jaded with the Internet and less inclined to spend time on the Web looking for services, patches, and information, which I suspect will reduce the amount of clutter we habitually encounter when trying to use the Internet. Serious providers are going to find that seasoned users return to Web sites more for ease of use and reliability than for fluff. Serious providers will also find that all the flash being served actually reduces the number of seasoned users who browse on their Web sites. Your thoughts?
A: In part, I think you missed my point. I agree this paradigm shift isn't about the client environment. The desktop computer will be a permanent fixture in the foreseeable future. However, what I do see changing is the server environment. I see business executives becoming more jaded in regard to maintaining their own custom servers for such resources as corporate intranets and extranets. In other words, in the coming shift, fewer companies will try to maintain their own corporate data center. This shift will occur not only because of the cost of hardware and software licensing but also because of the challenges in keeping their private network secure and meeting legal requirements.
Instead, I see business executives shifting responsibility for maintaining those resources to third parties. This is where Office Live will succeed in drawing its customer base. In the big picture, centrally managed applications actually fit the same pattern that you see with MySpace.com. MySpace.com doesn't replace the desktop computer used by tens of thousands of people. However, it does provide a third party that hosts and secures a central server that these users can use. And MySpace.com isn't alone. Sites such as Blogs.MSDN.com, TypePad.com, and Blogger.com also provide a central hosted environment with a generic framework that allows minimal customization. The result is that customers can essentially rent space instead of attempting to create and maintain their own custom Web server and site. Customers can even skip the server and work with a hosting provider for a custom Web site.
To a certain extent, Microsoft makes it sound like Office Live is for consumers, but in all honesty, consumers aren't looking for the equivalent of hosted Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server. However, businesses have found SharePoint's sweet spot: a functional intranet/extranet appliance. Being able to have someone else maintain SharePoint Portal Server makes it that much more of an appliance, and paying the equivalent of about $3 per employee for that service is cheap. Let's face it--the environment costs less per employee than Internet service or, more important, a single IT staff member to maintain your own bought and paid for servers and software (which requires a new license every couple years). Therein lies the reason for the big shift.
In regard to what consumers want, I think it differs from what companies want. Consider that Microsoft recently started charging consumers to download a copy of the beta version of Office 2007. Don't believe me? Check out the Download 2007 Microsoft Office System Beta 2 Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/beta/download/en/default.mspx. According to this Web site, Microsoft is now in a "cost recovery" mode for future downloads. However, you can still take a free test drive, which doesn't require you to download or install any products. I can't imagine that it's cheaper to provide a server to run the test drive environment than to download beta copies, yet Microsoft is charging consumers to download beta software, warts and all. I think Microsoft would like to see consumers take on products like Office in a hosted environment, but I agree with you in that I don't think that it's a viable market. We might soon find out.
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