The Visual Studio launch should have been something of a yawn due to the simple fact that the program has been available on MSDN for a few weeks, but Microsoft took the opportunity to announce Visual Studio Online.
Before you get excited or too doubtful about the idea, it is important to know that the offering isn't a copy of Visual Studio you can run in a browser and it isn't 100% new either. Several of the services have been available as part of Team Foundation Service and are now available in public preview as Visual Studio Online.
This allows you to set up five basic users for free and it acts as a cloud-based project server. You can use Visual Studio, Eclipse or XCode as your client side tool. There are four tiers of service each at a different cost with a 50% reduction while the system is in "commercial preview". You also get 60 free minutes of build time using a hosted build controller that supports .NET, SharePoint, Office, TypeScript, Windows Phone and PowerShell.
The system is, of course, hosted on Azure and also includes an elastic load testing service that was in limited preview before. Also new is Application Insights. This collects "live telemetry" data from both development, test and production environments and works with .NET and Java applications running on Windows Server and Azure for both web and phone apps.
The final component is all new and is attracting most interest. Codenamed "Monaco" it's a new online code editor that will let you work with HTML, ASP.NET, Node,js and PHP. It targets Azure-hosted websites and claims that you can edit live code.
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On the one hand this is a big step forward for Microsoft, but on the other you have to ask why has it taken so long? Even now there isn't an actual product you can use, just some videos and some information on how it will work despite the claim that Microsoft has been working on it for three years.
So is this the start of the new dawn?
What is clear is that for the Microsoft developer the sun rises over Azure.
Microsoft's efforts in moving parts of the development process into the cloud is as much centered on making Azure the new desktop as it is on broadening the tools available to developers. In fact Microsoft is so focused on Azure that it doesn't even bother to protect its investment in Windows. With Monaco, a Chromebook or a Mac is just a good a development platform as Windows and IE10/11. However, Microsoft is succeeding in making Azure more attractive to developers than alternatives such as Amazon AWS. Most cloud platforms offer infrastructure but not development structure.
In this area Microsoft seems to be doing the right thing. What you think of it depends on how much you like Azure and the prospect of monthly subscriptions. Personally, I found it depressing that most of the FAQ and technical info seemed to be on the topic of licencing, signing up, subscriptions, accounts and which subscription worked with what....