Today marks the beginning of one of the bigger experiments that I’ve been a part of during my 13 years at Microsoft. No, I don’t mean any of the new technologies that we’re going to start talking about today and through the week. The grand experiment that we’re beginning at this PDC is radically opening up the development process within the Visual Basic group (and the rest of our division) in ways that we’ve never attempted before. I’ve been through a bunch of product cycles up until this point, and it’s never been the case that we’ve been so prepared to talk about so much so early. To be honest, I’m pretty nervous about the whole thing, but very excited as well. We’ve got a lot of great ideas and it’s wonderful to be able to really engage with people about them.
Before we start getting into this stuff over the course of this week and beyond, though, there were some basic questions that I wanted to address up front.
What version of VB are we going to be talking about? When is it going to ship?
We’re talking about the next major version of Visual Basic. It’s way too early to put any kind of timeframe on the release, especially given the fact that VB2005 still isn’t out the door.
Why are you talking about it, then, if the current version still hasn’t shipped?
As you’ll see throughout the week, we’re contemplating some major features for VB and the platform. These features are big enough that customer feedback is going to be essential to help guide us through the design phase to ensure that we produce a version that is both complete and addresses people’s needs. Waiting until the design is finished and we’re in beta would preclude the possibility of certain types of design changes that may be highly desirable. Early exposure is key.
I should add that none of this should detract from the awesomness of the current release. VB2005 is a kick-ass product that is the best version of VB yet. All of the work that we’re doing now is purely additive — making an awesome product even more awesome — so you can start using VB2005 as soon as its released and know that it’s going to get even better in the future.
Are you going to ship everything you talk about at the PDC exactly as you presented it?
The main purpose of talking about this stuff so early is so that we can get a lot of feedback on our plans. If everyone loves everything we’ve done exactly as it is now, great! We’ll go home happy. However, living here in the real world, as I do, I expect that plans will change one people start engaging with the features. Not too much, I hope, but I’m not a psychic…
Is what you’re presenting at the PDC the feature list for the next major version of VB?
Hardly. The next version contains some “big bets” that we’re getting out there early for extra feedback, but the stuff we’re talking about this week is not going to be the end-all, be-all of the next major version. There are still plenty of other things that we’re considering, just not on the scale of some of the stuff we’re discussing now.
I’m not going to be at the PDC. Am I screwed?
Not at all… We’ll be talking about everything here (in the VNext category) and elsewhere. Stay tuned for more information!