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Jolt Awards

2006 Jolt Awards

Jolt Hall of Fame

Visual Studio 2005
Microsoft (msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio)

Visual Studio 2005 is, in many ways, a bigger change for Microsoft's Integrated Development Environment than was the debut of Visual Studio in 1997. At the time, Microsoft already had Windows environments for programming C++ and Visual Basic. Combining those development environments was a welcome step, but didn't portend a sea-change in Microsoft's vision of how developers work. The induction of Visual Studio 2005 into the Jolt Hall of Fame is in part a recognition of the end of that era when a programming tool could succeed by focusing on empowering an individual developer, within a team or not. With Visual Studio Team System 2005, Microsoft has released a set of technologies that focus on the team itself. The maturation of these technologies, not incremental improvements of the coding experience, will determine the success or failure of Visual Studio from here on out.

Of course, the idea of Visual Studio "failing" may seem absurd. Visual Studio is essentially synonymous with "Development for Windows." While there are still programming editors and alternative IDEs available, Visual Studio is clearly the best environment for developing Windows applications in mainstream languages. It is also easily the best environment for the programming tasks associated with ASP or ASP.NET development.

Despite Visual Studio's absolute dominance within its realm, judges expressed some reservations about inducting VS into the Hall of Fame this year. The Team System technologies are brand new, the new Expression line of GUI-design tools are just being glimpsed in Community Technology Previews, and the WinFX APIs and tools will surely change the Visual Studio experience. Perhaps most importantly, the epic battle between Visual Studio and Eclipse has barely been joined. It hardly seems the time to give Visual Studio a pat on the back and send it off to the retirement home with a gold watch: The product line has a long working life in front of it.

In the end, though, we wanted to acknowledge the unequaled polish and responsiveness of Microsoft's editor-compiler-debugger components, now only a part of a larger development ecosystem. These "classic IDE" components will certainly continue to evolve, but are well into the realm of diminishing returns. Visual Studio already does it about as well as it can be done.

—Larry O'Brien

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