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Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2017 development environment continues the company’s new tradition, under CEO Satya Nadella, of working with open-source technologies and competing platforms. (File Photo)

Microsoft this morning released Visual Studio 2017, the latest version of its integrated development environment — continuing its expansion beyond traditional Windows software with updated features for making cloud and mobile apps on Mac, Linux and other operating systems.

Microsoft cloud VP Julia White. (GeekWire File Photo)

The goal is to support “any developer, developing apps for any platform,” said Julia White, corporate vice president for Microsoft’s cloud business, citing new features including the integration of the Xamarin cross-platform development tools and a new Visual Studio Mobile Center with tools for making mobile apps.

Visual Studio has been around for two decades, having launched in February 1997. This new release is part of a steady expansion of the program’s horizons and capabilities in recent years. Microsoft itself is increasingly looking beyond its flagship Windows PC operating system under CEO Satya Nadella, working with competing mobile and cloud technologies as new types of platforms and devices emerge.

This new world brings both opportunities and potential pitfalls for Visual Studio.

“Microsoft’s new and updated developer offerings continue the company’s focus on cross-platform, non-Microsoft, and open source OSs, frameworks, and languages,” explained Rob Sanfilippo, analyst at the Directions on Microsoft research firm. “The strategy could help Microsoft developer offerings gain mindshare for use on platforms where they haven’t previously been applicable (for example, on Linux servers or popular mobile devices).”

“However,” he added, “the diversity of tools offered to and used by developers has grown dramatically in recent years, and it is common for developers to incorporate many technologies from different sources into the development of a single application. Such technologies gain and lose popularity quickly, and developers are more apt to switch than they were traditionally, when the same tools were typically used for many years. Furthermore, many tools and technologies are offered as open source software with no licensing fees. This environment could make it more difficult for Microsoft to retain its VS customer base even as it expands the capabilities of its products and services.”

Connected Services inside Visual Studio 2017. (Microsoft Image)

With the new release, Microsoft has shifted to a more modular approach for Visual Studio installation, part of a larger effort to make the program faster to use. The company says Visual Studio 2017 launches up to three times faster than Visual Studio 2015 did. The new program also adds “enhanced navigation” features with color coding, grouping, sorting and filtering to quickly navigate code.

.NET Core inside Visual Studio 2017. (Microsoft Image)

Other new features promise make it easier for Visual Studio developers to connect apps to cloud services including Azure Mobile Apps data storage and authentication. Visual Studio 2017 supports development of applications in .NET Core, which is Microsoft’s open source framework for building cloud and server applications and microservices for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

There’s also new support in Visual Studio 2017 for developing containerized applications, which wrap up the code and technologies needed to deploy and run apps across a variety of platforms.

See this Microsoft blog post for a deep dive on Visual Studio 2017’s new capabilities. Prior to the general availability release today, Microsoft says it saw nearly 700,000 downloads of the Visual Studio 2017 Release Candidate.

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