Teaming together

Hardly a minute goes by without Microsoft launching yet another huge chunk of its development strategy. The most recent has been the final availability of the entire Team System suite, by means of which teams of developers, testers, management and so forth can work on huge projects in a fully managed way. The suite makes it possible to test code fragments, then load up the test frameworks into its store and create entirely new frameworks from them. The depth and breadth of its reporting facilities fairly boggles the mind. Want to find out how much of the code base is being used? How much has already been tested? It’s all there. A manic manager will have a field day with this stuff.

Teaming together

Microsoft has taken the opportunity to push its pricing strategy upwards too when you want to work with these new tools. First, you need to understand that if you’re working on a big Visual Studio installation, Microsoft has defined roles for you and you need to choose the one that fits you best. There are three Team System versions, for Software Testers, Software Developers and Software Architects. If you want them all, you’ll need the Team Suite, which gives you all roles. Now for the costs: starting at the top, the full Team Suite package is £7,341, with a renewal fee of £2,348. The tester, architect and developer versions are each £3,670, with a renewal fee of £1,543. On top of this, you’ll need a Team Foundation Server, which costs £1,878, with a call licence of £335. These aren’t insignificant prices, but you do get a huge amount for your money. Indeed, if you’re developing on the Windows platform, it could be argued that this is all you need.

For developers who don’t want the Team System stuff, there’s still the Visual Studio Professional Edition with an MSDN Premium Subscription for £1,677, renewing at £1,342, which gives you everything, including all the server-side code. If you want to spend less, and can manage without all the server applications like Exchange Server, MOM, SharePoint Portal Server and the rest, there’s a Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition with MSDN Professional subscription at £805, renewing at £536. For someone who’s concentrating entirely on client-side software development, that’s a good deal of technology to be working with, especially as you do get the Visual Studio Tools for Office which, as I’ve mentioned here before, represents a huge step forward in the way line-of-business applications based on Microsoft Office components can be built.

As for beta-release software tools, Microsoft still keeps popping them out. The latest to come along is the Interactive Designer in the Microsoft Expression family of tools, aimed at building UIs and visual surfaces. It contains three component tools, the first of which is named Graphic Designer and is aimed at the vector- and pixel-based image design arena. Then there’s Interactive Designer, which builds user interface components in the new XAML description language and can therefore be seen as the rich UI editor for the forthcoming Vista operating system. Finally, there’s the Web Designer tool, which focuses on building CSS-based web applications.

Almost without anyone noticing, Microsoft has gone by stealth from having very little in the way of application UI, graphics and web development tools to having a completely new suite. And even that’s not enough – even though the current version of Visual Basic has recently shipped in Visual Studio 2005, there’s already a new version of Visual Basic 9 out in beta, which includes all the capabilities of the forthcoming LINQ programming constructs that I covered here a few months back. Fancy using the Python programming language instead? Why not give the new IronPython 1 Beta 2 a whirl? That’s from Microsoft too – whoosh, there goes another minute, and Microsoft brings out yet another development tool! This current wave will have to quieten down a bit by the time Vista ships or else no-one will be able to keep up.

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