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S. ‘Soma’ Somasegar

Microsoft just announced a public preview of a new service called Visual Studio Online that extends many of its services for software development teams to the cloud, including source control features and Git support. The service puts Microsoft in more direct competition with the popular GitHub development service, at a lower price in some cases.

The Redmond company is announcing the new service this morning as part of its Visual Studio 2013 launch event. It’s a new effort by Microsoft to adapt its traditional software development tools to the way developers are now working and collaborating.

Microsoft is also previewing a new browser-based coding tool called Monaco, as part of the Visual Studio Online service, to complement its traditional desktop development environment. The Monaco browser-based development tool will work initially with Windows Azure websites, letting developers edit sites from the web.

“We are taking the next huge step forward in the Visual Studio journey,” said S. “Soma” Somasegar, vice president of Microsoft’s Developer Division, in an interview earlier this week. “We are getting into a whole new era for Visual Studio.”

Visual Studio Online will be free for teams up to five users, and included in Microsoft’s MSDN subscriptions, with additional users starting at $10/month under Microsoft’s introductory pricing.

For some smaller teams, that could provide an alternative to GitHub, which lets developers work for free with public code repositories but charges between $7/month and $50/month for those who want to work with private code repositories.

The Visual Studio Online service takes elements of Microsoft’s Team Foundation Service to the cloud. That includes the option to work with the Git open-source version control system in addition to Microsoft’s own Team Foundation Version Control.

Other features include a hosted build service, elastic load testing and application insights, providing data about how an application is being used.

GitHub reports more than 4 million users, and earlier this year raised $100 million from Andreeseen Horowitz with a goal of expanding its technology for use by a variety of professions beyond software developers.

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