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Visual Studio 'Whidbey' to Ease 64-bit Transition for Developers

Taking another step in the major effort to enable 64-bit computing across its product lines, Microsoft will bring support for 64-bit CPUs to the next version of Visual Studio .NET, code-named "Whidbey."

Whidbey is the overhaul of Visual Studio .NET that is intended to support the next version of SQL Server, itself code-named "Yukon" and scheduled for release sometime in 2004. Yukon is billed as an especially significant release of SQL Server for developers because the .NET Common Language Runtime will be built directly into the database engine.

Details on Whidbey came out this week during a keynote by Eric Rudder, Microsoft senior vice president for servers and tools. Rudder also discussed, in more limited detail, some of the enhancements to come in the next version of Visual Studio .NET, code-named "Orcas."

Microsoft, Intel, AMD, HP and IBM are among the companies trying to time a market shift from 32-bit to 64-bit computing, and the shift seems increasingly drawn out and likely to involve a mix of platforms for years to come. Microsoft introduced a 64-bit version of SQL Server 2000 recently to coincide with the 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, but the company had not built 64-bit support into its flagship developer toolset with the 2003 release of Visual Studio .NET. Given the slow transition to 64-bit technologies, the Whidbey development platform will most likely be used primarily for writing 32-bit code.

Whidbey will enable existing .NET Framework 1.1 customers to take advantage of support for 64-bit CPUs without changing source code, Rudder said. It will also allow customers to leverage advances in security and administration and improvements in performance and scalability without any source code changes.

Among the other changes included in Whidbey are day-to-day developer productivity enhancements, such as enhanced debugging, no-touch deployment and a popular feature of Visual Basic 6.0 called "Edit and Continue" that was dropped in Visual Studio .NET 2002 and 2003. Edit and Continue allows developers who are debugging source code to change the code and run it with the changes without needing to go back and recompile.

The Orcas release of Visual Studio will coincide with the "Longhorn" release of Windows, and Rudder said the developer toolset will support the managed interfaces, user interface changes and other changes planned for that release of the operating system.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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