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Beta Available for Mobile .NET Pieces

Microsoft stepped along the path to its goal of providing infrastructure for making data available "anytime, anywhere on any device" on Wednesday by posting beta versions of its Microsoft .NET Compact Framework and the Smart Device Extensions for Visual Studio .NET.

The .NET Compact Framework and the Visual Studio extensions made their debut as a technical preview in October. Final versions are expected later this year, says John Montgomery, group product manager of Microsoft's .NET Developer Platform Group.

The compact framework is a subset of the .NET Framework Microsoft launched in February for running Web services-based applications. Combined with the extensions, the code allows developers to extend applications to smart devices using the desktop interfaces they are accustomed to along with tools engineered to make the job faster.

"It takes the same tools and gives developers a way to rapidly send them out to devices," Montgomery says, noting that some source code from applications built using Visual Studio .NET can be copied and pasted directly into mobile applications.

Like the .NET Framework, which can be downloaded onto Windows 2000 and Windows XP machines and will be included as part of the Windows .NET Server editions, the .NET Compact Framework will become part of an operating system -- Windows CE .NET.

The compact framework will also be distributed with the Visual Studio .NET Smart Device Extensions. Microsoft has not yet disclosed its plans for distributing or pricing the extensions, Montgomery says.

The biggest differences between the technical preview of the device-enabling developer tools and the new betas are performance and polish. The technical preview "was not for the faint of heart," Montgomery says. "The biggest thing we hadn't turned on in the preview at that point was the optimizing compiler."

Microsoft has also done work to ensure compatibility with the desktop framework, which hadn't been released to manufacturing when the technical previews came out.

The .NET Compact Framework and Visual Studio .NET Smart Device Extensions are pretty much feature complete in their beta forms, Montgomery says: "The stuff I know that they're adding is mostly bug fixes."

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Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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