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Q&A: Jason Zander Talks About His New Role As Visual Studio Head

Jason Zander, who served as general manager for Microsoft's .NET Framework, began his first day in his new job as GM overseeing the Visual Studio Team at the VSLive New York conference Monday. Zander, the opening keynoter at VSLive in downtown Brooklyn early Monday morning, just got word of his new assignment on Friday. Right after talking about Silverlight and the CLR at VSLive, RDN executive editor Jeffrey Schwartz caught up with Zander to talk about his new role.

RDN: How do you feel about this change?
Zander: I am excited about this. The developer division on the framework and tool sides has always worked closely and that will not change. I have worked with a bunch of folks on the VisualStudio team for years so I know everyone over there. There's a whole bunch of stuff we can do.

RDN: What's first on your agenda?
My first task, given [Visual Studio] 2008 is almost done, is to work on the next version of Visual Studio. We are already working on product planning and features, that also includes language features -- languages are now under me as well. That includes the next version of C#, VB and all the dynamic languages as well.

RDN: With Beta 2 looking pretty good, do you anticipate any further ones?
I don't think we'll be seeing another beta. We are getting toward the end [of the beta test cycle]. We don't have any firm announce dates other than the launch date in February. But honestly, we're working on wrapping up all the content well before the launch. Stay tuned -- probably some time later this year, you will start seeing the final release candidate bits coming out from people.

RDN: Moving forward, what will be the key areas of focus for Visual Studio?
To me there's a few things. One, just like we did factoring with the .NET CLR for Silverlight, we made it more compact, and we made it really easy to deploy on a machine. I'd like to see those same kind of attributes showing up in the full .NET Framework as well as Visual Studio, so it gets easier and easier to use the tools. It needs to be easier and more friction-free across the board. After that there's a bunch of other stuff we can do to update the productivity features in the tool itself. There's a bunch of easily defined things in Expression, there's some techniques we can pull into Visual Studio to make it easier to find features and functionality. There's a bunch of themes like that -- I will be sitting with the team figuring out what should be in and out.

RDN: Will you be overseeing Visual Studio Team System as well?
Visual Studio Team System will fall under a group next to me, so what we wind up with is essentially three general managers that make up the .NET/VS products. Scott Guthrie will have all the runtime pieces, the CLR, ASP.NET, and WPF, that sort of thing. I have Visual Studio, all of the compilers, the languages, the Visual Studio shell and IDE, Office [for developers], PopFly. The third business will be Visual Studio Team System, which of course is TFS and the advanced suite products which are built on top of the first two. All three will work closely together. Andrew Kass is the general manager for that group. All three of us will report to Soma S. Somasegar, the corporate VP for the developer division.

RDN: Who will oversee the work you were doing with the .NET Framework?
I had a wonderful staff that owned the product. My team has 300 people. We have asked some of those folks to step up and continue driving it. Plus, Scott [Guthrie, who is] doing some of the other stuff I did as GM, will pick up some of those responsibilities.

RDN: Most organizations are still on earlier versions of the .NET Framework. Are you pleased with the progress?
We are making really good progress. In the end it comes down to what organizations are running in their enterprises, and what new features they are looking for. I personally feel we've added some compelling new features in the .NET Framework 3.0, WCF, WPF, Card Space, Work Flow. There's a whole bunch of advanced features, we're seeing a whole bunch of uptake of WPF, especially the ISV segment. If you throw Silverlight into the mix, you can imagine how an ISV can do a rich desktop play with WPF and 3D and I can also write a Web companion that uses Silverlight across the board. For enterprises, we have Workflow and WCF, and they are going well.

RDN: How would you characterize the ecosystem for Silverlight?
The ecosystem has developed very fast. We have had tremendous response from Mix, and now there's a tremendous amount of content out there. There's a ton of excitement around it. It fills the gap that people were asking us to fill, .NET with some reach.

RDN: Are you anticipating quick uptake to Visual Studio 2008, or will it be phased?
I think people will be interested. It solves some concrete problems, such as JavaScript integration. If you're a Javascript developer writing hundreds of thousands of lines of codes, it's a painful proposition today.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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