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Visual Studio 2010 to launch in March

Microsoft says it has reached the Beta 2 milestone for its collection of developer tools. The software maker also says it is simplifying the number of different versions it sells.

Microsoft is set to announce on Monday that it is ready with a second beta version of its Visual Studio 2010 and .Net Framework 4.0 developer tools. Both products are set for a final release on March 22, Microsoft said.

"Microsoft has reached the home stretch for Visual Studio 2010," said Dave Mendlen, a senior director in Microsoft's developer division. "This is probably the biggest release we've had in many years."

Among the product's features is a Tivo-like recording feature that Microsoft has now dubbed "IntelliTrace."

"That's our time machine," Mendlen said. "We're very proud of that."

Other features new to the 2010 release include support for Windows 7 and Windows Azure as well as tools for building on top of Microsoft's Sharepoint product.

With Visual Studio 2010, Microsoft is also taking the opportunity to scale back the number of different versions it sells, cutting the number of subscription options from seven to three. In a telephone interview, Microsoft Vice President S. "Soma" Somasegar said that move came from customer requests.

They told us "one place you can do better is making it simpler how you package your products," Somasegar said.

Under the new plan, myriad Visual Studio options will be consolidated into Professional, Premium, and Ultimate. Microsoft is planning an "ultimate offer" promotion that will give many current subscribers access to the next-higher version of Visual Studio as well as 750 Windows Azure compute hours per month. Next year, the company plans to change that to offer varying amounts of Azure compute time based on the level of the Visual Studio subscription.