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Attending Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2012 Release in Seattle

Today’s businesses are fighting for eyeballs — and the competition is beating them to a panoply of devices. Microsoft is pitching its Visual Studio 2012 development environment as the best way for businesses to re-engage those wandering eyes.
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At the release event morning keynote (also globally live-streamed) in Seattle, Soma Somasagar kicked off the day by highlighting users’ fast-changing needs for richer, more responsive apps and a streamlined agile lifecycle for development and deployment. Initially, my reaction to the emphasis on the word “modern” was that it seemed remedial, as if to remind everyone that Microsoft can be hip. But in a subsequent conversation with Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry, he explained that the “modern application lifecycle” is their replacement term for application lifecycle management (ALM) that reflects the new reality of fast iteration for demanding customers. The challenge is for businesses to rapidly build and deploy apps that delight customers as much as their social and entertainment screens do.

To that end, the metro style is looking very snazzy. The simple, unshadowed color tiles with reverse white sans-serif type and plenty of white space throughout the page looked downright elegant on the slides. And customer images made it clear that color schemes alone could change the mood from mod red-and-black to calming gray-greens. The demos of Team Foundation Service’s touch enabled web client were reminiscent of Basecamp. I loved the burn down chart in the upper right corner, and the social integration with pictures of stakeholders. A storyboard interface looked a lot like ThoughtWorks’ Mingle and other of that ilk. During a demo of the TFS feedback tool, however, I found myself missing the iOS little red notification circle I’ve grown used to in the corner of the tile. Instead, when a new bit of user feedback came in, the number in the tile simply incremented. Too subtle?

The tools for storyboarding in Power Point and collecting feedback were quite exciting. As giant as Visual Studio 2012 and TFS are, you really get a sense of cradle-to-grave integration. As for the IDE itself, there’s increased emphasis on productivity, especially for agile testing and prototyping. Impressive demos showed how new asynchronous properties could easy be swapped in, improving performance of web apps (when you call an asynchronous method in C#, it returns immediately with a token or task). Debugging was fast and furious, showing exactly which line of code on the server resulted in which error on the web client.

As Jason Zander explained, business-critical technology abounds in our daily lives, as deal with connected devices and continuous services. Before work you might hit an ATM, which has a cloud back-end and hardened, secure processes. At work, colleagues whip out tablets computers from various manufacturers. And on the home-bound train, you check your social networks and figure out what to do that night. According to Microsoft, the best, broadest tool for building for all these scenarios is Visual Studio 2012.

Disclosure: Travel expenses to attend the launch were paid by Microsoft.

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