In the world of Microsoft products, conventional wisdom has been to pass on the first version of the product, which could be bug-ridden and unreliable, and wait for the product to mature. By version 3.0, the analysts would say, the product should be fully functional and safe. Such advice originated in the DOS and Windows 3.0 time period—back when Microsoft needed several tries to get its products right. Microsoft, however, adapted to this mind-set by skipping low version numbers for its products and jumping right to version 6.0. Do you remember ever seeing Visual Studio 1.0 to 5.0?

However, Microsoft's development methodologies and product quality have dramatically improved since those days. All of Microsoft's major products now undergo extensive beta-testing cycles with large numbers of users. Typically, Microsoft products have three beta releases, followed by one or two release candidates (RCs) before the final product ships. Microsoft usually freezes a product's feature set as early as the second beta release. The company followed this process for both SQL Server 7.0 and 2000. And Microsoft has also taken great pains with Visual Studio .NET, launching its first beta release at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in July 2000. Microsoft released beta 2 at TechEd in May 2001, and RC1 followed at the October 2001 PDC.

Such due diligence in testing paid big dividends for SQL Server 2000 and 7.0, which were rock solid at initial release. And I expect Visual Studio .NET to also exhibit high quality out of the gate. I've been using Visual Studio .NET since beta 2. And although I had a few problems with beta 2, they were resolved before the RC hit at PDC. Since then, I've found the product to be very robust.

Not only is Visual Studio .NET a quality product, but Microsoft has oriented the feature set of this latest release of Visual Studio more toward the enterprise. The Visual Studio .NET Enterprise Architect Edition raises the bar on team-building functionality, enabling a lead project architect to have central control over a group of developers. The lead project architect can also use this edition to create project templates and set up rules and policies that apply to the Visual Studio .NET Enterprise Developer or Professional editions that the development team uses. In the software-development tools arena, the Enterprise Developer Edition includes Unified Modeling Language (UML) tools that let developers map out component designs and generate initial code. Visual Studio .NET's new Server Explorer provides many core database-management and database-access tools that previously were available only through Enterprise Manager. And the new Application Center Test (ACT) tool included with the Enterprise Architect and Enterprise Developer editions lets you create script-based load testing for your ASP.NET and Web Services applications.

Microsoft and a legion of beta testers have put Visual Studio .NET through its paces for more than a year. The development platform is solid and reliable and delivers more enterprise- and database-oriented features than ever before. Although your enterprise might or might not be ready to adopt .NET, Visual Studio .NET is ready for your enterprise.