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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Microsoft takes Express route to budding developers

With the upcoming launch of SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005, due in November, Microsoft thinks it has a pretty compelling message for database products and development tools from the small business to the enterprise. But Raj Pai, C# group program manager at Microsoft, said the company is missing part of the audience with its lineup -- and that audience is the all- important next generation of coders and database administrators.

"We don't have a good answer for the hobbyist, for the guy who wants to build a Web site with some dynamic functionality, the kid who wants to learn how to write code, the professional who wants to build a quick office application that makes her more productive," Pai said.

To solve that problem, the software giant has introduced what it is calling Express editions of the Visual Studio programming languages, and of SQL Server. Those products will be available as free downloads, and will be optimized for running on the average desktop, supporting 1 CPU, 1 GB of RAM and in the case of SQL Server, 4 GB of data. While some features of the standard edition have been turned off, such as the ability to easily write code for supported mobile devices, Pai said the focus with the products is on keeping the download small, and the functionality intact.

"Most SKUs are under 50 MB, and support 90 to 95 per cent of what the average professional developer would want to do," Pai said.

Of course, to get the additional five or ten per cent of functionality, a user of an Express product must upgrade to the full Visual Studio suite of development tools. Projects built in Express can be deployed using any of the full editions of Visual Studio, but are limited to using a single development language due to the nature of the product. The Express editions are single- language offerings -- in Visual Basic, C#, C++, J# and Web Developer editions -- whereas the Standard and Professional versions of Visual Studio support any and all of those languages.

On the database side, Roger Wolter, SQL group program manager at Microsoft, described the Express version of SQL as primarily a client database, although it can be run on the server for a small Web site, he noted.

Wolter sees three target audiences for SQL Express: with users of Visual Studio Web Developer Express users who need a database to manage their Web applicants; with hobbyists and professional looking to build applications, either client/server or Web; and most interestingly, with independent software vendors, who will be able to use SQL Express as an embedded client data store, complete with reporting services.

The products are available now for download in beta form at , and include a version of the company's MSDN Library that is focused on information for learning developers.

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