You can already download a preview of Visual Studio 11 if you are an MSDN subscriber; if not you will have to wait until Friday September 16, when it becomes available to the general user.
The download includes a complete preview of .NET 4.5, F# 3.0 and ASP.NET MVC and it can be installed alongside previous versions of Visual Studio under Windows 7 or 8.
For the core .NET languages, VB and C#, the big news comes as no surprise as we have had plenty of opportunity to view the Async facilities. This is a way of wrapping the need to use callbacks in new syntax that hides the asynchronous nature of the interaction. Basically it says, "Wait until this task is complete but don't hang onto the thread".
C++ gets a lot of new features - upgrades to C++11 standards, automatic vectorizer and parallelizer to speed up loops and new code quality tools. Of particular note are the new DirectX tools. Clearly, if you want to write a DirectX program Microsoft thinks you should be using C++ as access via any other language is difficult. In C++ you now have asset editors, shader support, and a DirectX debugger which lets you track back to the code that set a particular pixel.
More generally .NET 4.5 has various upgrades to its core functionality; WCF, WF and even WPF gets some new features but nothing headline making unless you have missed the earlier releases of the Ribbon control.
The biggest news is, of course, .NET for Metro. The new application target may remove Win32, Win Forms, WPF and Silverlight, but you can still use managed languages to create applications for it. .NET for Metro is a cut-down class library that you can use to create Metro apps. Many of the standard classes that are used in a .NET or Silverlight application have changed or aren't available. .NET for Metro uses the WinRT subsystem to create its graphics and interface to the Kernel so now direct Win32 calls are allowed. The option to create Metro applications only appears if you install the preview under Windows 8 - cross platform development isn't supported.
It is clear that moving an existing .NET or Silverlight application to Metro is going to need many changes; what isn't clear at this early stage are there are any significant omissions that will render an application unsuitable for Metro.
Windows 8 - the Developer's Take
WinRT - the new Windows
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