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Beta on tap for Visual Studio, SQL Server

Just in time for TechEd Europe, Microsoft also plans a low-cost edition of its Visual Studio software development product.

Microsoft is expected this week to release the first beta of its Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 software development products.

The software giant also plans to announce a low-cost edition of Visual Studio to try to expand use of its flagship programming application, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. Details are expected at Microsoft's TechEd Europe conference this week in Amsterdam.

According to a Weblog from Microsoft's Visual Studio development team, the company is very close to completing the first beta for Visual Studio 2005, code-named Whidbey, and the second beta of SQL Server 2005, code-named Yukon. In March, Microsoft said it needed to delay delivery of the products until next year, which had originally been expected by the end of last year. An original beta of Yukon came out late last year.

A major component of Visual Studio 2005 is the inclusion of modeling tools designed to improve the process of putting newly written business application into production in corporate data centers. The forthcoming modeling capabilities, called Visual Studio Team System, are meant to offer a more sophisticated alternative to IBM's well-established Rational line of tools, noted Mike Sax, president of Sax Software, which sells Microsoft-related tools.

Microsoft will also launch a different edition of Visual Studio intended to broaden its use, according to industry sources. The Web site Neowin, which tracks Microsoft, said the low-cost edition will have the "express" label.

"Basically, they're going to price certain versions of Visual Studio, so even hobbyist types can get on the action," said one person familiar with Microsoft's plans. "I think the idea is that if you get the tech in front of "low-end" developers, they can grow and get exposure to it to someday play in the big leagues."

A Microsoft representative on Friday declined to comment.

The announcement of a cheaper and simpler version of Visual Studio is expected the same week as the JavaOne conference, where Sun Microsystems plans to release a $99 Java programming tool called Java Studio Creator.

CNET's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.