Slow Chat with the MS Visual Basic Team

VBForums had a Slow Chat with some of the members of the Microsoft Visual Basic team. You can find the exact questions and answers on the VBForums site at:

In this brief article, we condensed some of the questions and provided the answers that members of the VB team provided. I’ve also added my thoughts to a few of the answers as well.

Question: (original question by EntityX)

Visual Basic is no longer available as a standalone product. If someone only wants Visual Basic, why do they need to buy Visual Studio? Shouldn’t it be cheaper to buy just Visual Basic?

MS Response: (PaulYuk_MS)

Thanks for your feedback on pricing. I agree there may be some good options in a sweet spot price range.

Yes, VB Express 2008 is a very good deal at Free. You can build some serious applications with it; however, you’ll want to upgrade to at least VS Standard to get client/server development and client + Web in the same box. There is also a Visual Web Developer Express product that allows Web development in VB and C#.

There is no longer a VB2008 Standard standalone product. There is only VS2008 Standard and above. VS2008 Standard is a lot of product at a modest price at $199 for upgrade or $299 for full retail. All pricing details are here:

Brad’s response:

The original poster of this question asked if Microsoft could charge a smaller amount (just a portion of the Visual Studio price) for just Visual Basic. The idea was that if only one language was used, charge only a third the price of Visual Studio for this language.

While this logic seems to make sense, if you dig into what is in the Visual Studio box versus what would be in a Visual Basic box, you quickly can realize that the proportion of Visual Studio that applies to Visual Basic (the value) is not a third. Most of what you use when doing .NET Programming is the .NET Framework. The tools for doing the .NET Framework are virtually the same between languages like C# and Visual Basic. As such, there are not two copies in the Visual Studio box, but one copy. When you filter things down to what is redundant, it ends up being a bit of syntax and some help files. The real value is in the tools and designers.

Bottom line is that if you bought only Visual Basic, I believe it would end up being more like at 80 to 90 percent of the cost of Visual Studio. At that minimal difference, you might as well buy the whole thing! I image that if Microsoft were also to factor in the additional cost of producing a separate product box and such, then the cost might actually go up to matching or exceeding the Visual Studio product due to economies of scale.

Question: (original question by birthjay)

Visual Studio and .NET seems to be getting new editions in short periods of time. How do you expect people to keep up with migrating products every time there is a new release? Where does it end, or when will we see a stable version with only minor changes? There are rumors that companies not going to .NET because of the major changes from version to version.

MS Response: (PaulYuk_MS)

I definitely hear your point that change needs to be gradual & incremental. It isn’t cost effective to keep rewriting code to get back to functional equivalence.

From VB6 to .NET, I agree that Interop Forms Toolkit is a great example where you can prioritize where you want modern features, create those new features, and drop them back into your existing code. The idea is to “embrace and extend” the app so you don’t need to do a forklift style migration.

The changes between 02′, ’03, ’05, and ’08 are much smaller in scale than VB6 to .NET. Each version, we add a few major platform innovations (generics, My, LINQ)—and they were built to work with existing code. You can simply opt in or out of them every release. I would not recommend rewriting code to use them unless you have business need.

Also, we added multi-targeting support in ’08 (in other words, you can now use the new tool to target .NET 2.0, 3.0, 3.5, and future). The great thing here is you can upgrade your VS version to get tooling benefits (faster performance, better intellisense, better lifecycle tools) without having to upgrade to the new version of .NET. You can also buy into a particular version of VS (let’s say ’08) and be happy running on it for a while. You have the choice to upgrade developer-by-developer or project-by-project.

Brad’s response:

I see the “upgrade’ issue on VBForums more than I see it on other sites that I oversee. I often respond with the question of “If you wrote code last year for the company you work for, why do you need to write more code this year? Things change. Developers need to change. The technical world evolves.

In the mid 90s, I wrote a book on creating an application with a user interface, called Teach Yourself Advanced C in 21 Days. I believe that it was a great book for learning how to capture user input, how to create colored text on the screen, how to interact with data, and more. Using what was in that book, you could create an interface that let you capture information from your users. Of course, you are going to write hundreds of lines of code for what can be done today by simply dragging and dropping an item in the Visual Studio Editor.

Yes, there is a learning curve and a migration requirement if you choose to use newer versions of tools. If you are creating modern software, there is a good chance that the payback in productivity and fewer lines of code to maintain will offset the cost.

Microsoft could upgrade Visual Studio less often to make fewer migrations for people. Of course, that means that if there is a new feature being built that would make you more productive, you are also going to wait longer for that feature to be delivered. In many cases, there is no good answer to whether new editions or too frequent or not fast enough.

The bottom line is that if new features or change were not added that improve on what you are doing, don’t upgrade. I find that, with Visual Studio, I am usually waiting for the releases to come. Of course, with Office, I was happy with the 2000 version.

Question (originally posted by szlamany)

We produced our first app for Pocket PCs using VS 2005 earlier this year.

I was wondering what new functionality/device support or compact framework features might be coming with the release of VS 2008?

MS Response: (PaulYuk_MS)

There is a good blog post from the mobile team on significant additions to mobile development in ’08:

One of the coolest mobile-specific features is the latest emulator support. It can simulate common and problematic scenarios (battery life changing) and allow you to code/test for it.

Of course, mobile developers get to enjoy most of the big ticket improvements to ’08 and .NET 3.5.—VB users get enhanced IntelliSense in many more situations and they get significant enhances to build performance and IDE responsiveness. LINQ and WCF are big-ticket platform features—VB developers get full access to those features inside of mobile.

Brad’s response:

I did a video showing how simple Pocket PC development is with Visual Studio. You can find it at:

Even if you don’t think you will ever do mobile development, it is worth creating a little application in Visual Studio to see how simple it is. You can use the emulators, so you don’t even need a mobile device. Try it!

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