Microsoft does an about-face on Visual Studio and Open Source

Last month Microsoft caused considerable concern in the open source community when it made clear that the free, Express version of its upcoming new Visual Studio development software would no longer offer support for desktop-style applications.

Instead, the company suggested at the time that users of Visual Studio 11 Express would only be able to develop Metro applications.

Last Friday, however, Microsoft did what appears to be an about-face and announced that a new, free-of-charge “Windows Desktop” version of the software–which has since been renamed Visual Studio Express 2012–will support desktop-style applications after all.

“We heard from our community that developers want to have for Windows desktop development the same great experience and access to the latest Visual Studio 2012 features at the Express level,” wrote S. Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s developer division, in a blog post on Friday.

“Today, I’m happy to announce that we will add Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop to the Visual Studio 2012 family,” Somasegar added. “This will bring to the Visual Studio Express family significant new capabilities that we’ve made available in Visual Studio 2012 for building great desktop applications.”

Accordingly, developers will be able to use C++, C#, or Visual Basic to create Windows desktop and console applications, Somasegar noted; they’ll also get access to “the latest compilers and programming language tools, integrated unit testing, and the ability for small development teams to collaborate via Team Explorer and TFS Express.”

Perhaps most importantly in this context, the new software–due this fall–will enable developers to create open source applications for existing or previous versions of Windows, Somasegar said.

Following hard on the heels of Microsoft’s official embrace last week of a variety of Linux-based operating systems on its Windows Azure cloud service, this latest announcement comes as more encouraging news that the company is recognizing the importance of Linux and open source in an increasingly heterogeneous computing landscape.

At the very least, it’s good news for developers interested in making desktop apps for Windows 8 using the free version of Visual Studio.

Microsoft may not always be a friend to Linux and open source, but lately it seems to be taking a better approach, at least in these particular cases. Let’s hope this trend continues.

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