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Microsoft promises SP 'milestone' for Visual Studio 2008

Slims for XP, data friendly for web

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First, it was Windows XP SP1. Then Windows Vista SP3. Now it's the Visual Studio and .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, due by the end of summer. The connection? Microsoft's service packs keep growing in importance as a means of updating key products between official releases.

Promoting the first SP for Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5, officially launched just six months ago, Microsoft has said SP1 - like its predecessors - is no ordinary SP.

Ian Ellison-Taylor, general manager for Microsoft's presentation platforms and tools team, called SP1 a "pretty big milestone" because it quickly connects web-side applications to databases through a new framework. SP1 also cuts the size of the .NET Framework 3.5, which was tailored for Windows Vista, by 85 per cent to make it easier to download and run on Windows XP machines.

"This is a big inflection point," Ellison-Taylor promised The Reg. "The traditional SP is a bunch of bug fixes - good stuff but not headline stuff."

SP1 is Microsoft's attempt to make Visual Studio more suited to web-side development, and see off Adobe Systems' Dreamweaver. "It's much easier than using Dreamweaver 2004 for SQL Server connections," Ellison-Taylor claimed.

For those who missed them: Windows XP SP1 was essentially an interim release of Windows after XP was slammed by virus writers immediately after its 2001 launch, and Windows Vista SP1 introduced long-overdue hardware compatibility with updates in reliability and performance to make it usable.

What can we expect this time?

According to Ellison-Taylor, the SP introduces an ADO entity framework that lets you program using high-level objects, picking your database and tables, and that does the heavy lifting by connecting to and sucking in data. The framework talks to the database and pulls in the objects for connection to an ASP.NET template.

You edit data on the site, and changes will be updated inside the database. SP1 will reduce the amount of time spent manually coding and linking to connect, and then synchronize changes between the website and the server, so you can get on with scripting the interface.

Out of the box, SP1 will connect to SQL Server 2008, MySQL, IBM's DB2 and Oracle, and there's a pluggable framework for connection to other databases. ADO.NET Data Services include standard REST URI syntax and HTTP verbs. There's LINQ to entities, browser history support in ASP.NET AJAX, and ASP.NET model view control.

On the desktop, Microsoft has realized the .NET Framework it introduced for Windows Vista and it hoped to have running on Windows XP machines is simply too much. ".NET got a little big - it was a victim of its own success," Ellison-Taylor said.

The .NET Framework Client Profile that'll come with SP1 is a shrunk-down version of the .NET Framework 3.5 Microsoft hopes will bring more of the rich graphics capabilities and communications and workflow programming possibilities found in Vista to those older machines running Windows XP.

The profile will be just 26.5MB in size, versus the regular 187MB, and feature just the Common Language Runtime (CLR), Windows Forms, Windows Presentation Foundation and Windows Communication Foundation. The .NET Framework will use a 100KB sniffer to find out what's on destination machines and download the missing software. You can also brand the profile yourself. ®

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