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Microsoft lifts Visual Studio usage restrictions

Non-Windows platforms ahoy

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TechEd, Barcelona Microsoft partners are now free to extend Visual Studio to target non-Microsoft platforms according to Microsoft's developer division corporate vice president S. Somasegar.

"We never had any licence restriction on the product itself," he told El Reg. "Individual developers have done whatever they wanted to do. We had a restriction on the Visual Studio SDK, which is what we give to our partners to build additional stuff."

Microsoft came under particular pressure from embedded developers to change its policy. "One of our mobile operator partners has a big market share, and uses different platforms as well as the Microsoft platform. They've been talking to us for a while now."

The change raises interesting possibilities for cross-platform .NET. "If you want to target the Mono runtime, you can do that," said Somasegar.

Another Visual Studio announcement relates to the sharing of the source code for the IDE. "This is the next step in our effort to share source," Somasegar said.

"Most recently we opened up source code access to large parts of the .NET Framework. Now, for people building on top of the Visual Studio tools platform, giving them access to the source code for Visual Studio will be beneficial to developers designing and debugging their add-in. That's why for our VSIP [Visual Studio Industry Partner] premier partners we will do that. The win for Microsoft is that more developers use our tools."

Somasegar claimed that Visual Studio is "the most widely used toolset around the world," but at the same time admitted "developer tools is not the most profitable business."

The IDE business is commoditized, as vendors such as IBM, Oracle and Sun Microsystems give away tools to promote their platforms. Microsoft joined them by making its Visual Studio Express series free, and now reports that over 17 million copies have been downloaded.

Even so, Somasegar said Microsoft does not intend to give away its high-end editions, adding that sales have actually increased since the Express family was launched in November 2005.®

A freelance journalist since 1992, Tim Anderson specialises in programming and internet development topics. He has columns in Personal Computer World and IT Week, and also contributes regularly to The Register. He writes from time to time for other periodicals including Developer Network Journal Online, and Hardcopy.

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