Microsoft announced the ASP.NET Starter Kits. For more on these new products from Microsoft, see our article, Microsoft Does It Again — Released Today: The ASP.NET Starter Kits Betas on Developer.com, Bradley Jones asked Shawn Nandi, the ASP.NET product manager, a few questions about these new products:
Thanks, Shawn, for taking a few minutes to answer our questions. If you don’t mind, let’s jump right in to a few questions. The first question is, why is Microsoft releasing the ASP.NET Starter Kits?
As part of our ongoing investment in the ASP.NET community, we wanted to provide both new and experienced ASP.NET developers with a quick way to get some extremely useful applications up and running with little or no effort. Many developers today find themselves building applications like data reporting apps, Web storefronts, and portals. Instead of having to code these applications from scratch, developers can now use the ASP.NET Starter Kits out of the box or as a starting point to build their sites on top of. To help them with this, each Starter Kit ships with well-documented source code for use in Visual Studio .NET and Web Matrix (a free ASP.NET development tool). If they ever have any questions, they can consult the experts on the www.asp.net forums where thousands of members of the community interact with the ASP.NET product team every day.
The .NET Framework, which includes compilers, a great class library, several utilities, and a runtime is available for free. Additionally, the Web matrix was released for free. Now the ASP.NET Starter Kits are coming out as free products. How is Microsoft planning to justify the cost of these products? How is Microsoft indirectly making its money?
Our overall objective with these efforts is to enable developers to efficiently build reliable, scalable, and secure applications for their organizations and their customers. We share a common base of customers with software developers, which means that when their customers are happy, our customers are happy, too. As you note, the .NET Framework provides several useful utilities and a robust runtime environment. Initiatives like Web Matrix and the Starter Kits are designed to help Web developers get up and running quickly with ASP.NET. It’s interesting stuff and we want developers as interested and passionate as the great teams that built this technology. If one developer builds a cool application using the ASP.NET Starter Kits and likes what they see, that’s what is important.
The ASP.NET Starter Kits come with code for Visual Basic .NET, J#, and C#. Additionally, they have code developed within Visual Studio .NET as well as code developed outside of Visual Studio. Are there plans for these ASP.NET Starter Kits to be converted to other .NET programming languages?
The ASP.NET Starter Kits come in three different languages (Visual Basic .NET, C#, and J#) and within each language, there are two versions: Visual Studio .NET or SDK. The Visual Studio .NET version contains source code formatted for use in Visual Studio .NET, while the SDK version contains code meant for use with Web Matrix or simply the .NET Framework SDK. We don’t have any plans to translate the Starter Kits into other .NET languages but anyone is free to do so, and I’d bet that someone in the community is working on that right now!
Why these five particular topics for Starter Kits? How did you decide on these five?
We speak with a ton of developers and we’ve found that these applications represent the most popular types of applications that people are building today. We wanted to make developers immediately productive, so we focused on these five.
Do you foresee additional Starter Kits in the future? If so, what areas do you see these addressing?
I think it’s very foreseeable; we’re always looking at ways to make developers even more productive. In terms of specifics, we’ve opened the forum for community feedback on the current kits (www.asp.net/forums), and we’ll focus any future kits on the feedback that we receive in those forums.
Did Microsoft actually develop these products? Or, did they acquire them from members of the community?
The kits were developed through a collaboration between Microsoft and third parties who are members of the ASP.NET community.
Can developers within the community get involved or help with future ASP.NET Starter Kits?
Sign up to the www.asp.net forums. There is a ton of great discussion going on for a variety of topics that the ASP.NET development team monitors daily. The discussions and feedback are all taken into consideration for future directions of ASP.NET.
What is the chance that the code in the ASP.NET Starter Kits will be portable to other .NET implementations—such as the mono project?
It’s conceivable that another company or developer could do that, but there are no plans at Microsoft for such an implementation.
When do you believe these will be released as “final products?” And, what form factor do you think the release will take—or how do you see them being released? CD? Downloads?
The ASP.NET Starter Kits will be in public beta on 2/11 at http://www.asp.net/starterkits/; there is no set time for a final release because it will be based on the feedback from the beta. I anticipate that this process will go quickly, though. The final release of these Starter Kits will be distributed as a download on www.asp.net and through Compact Discs distributed at developer-focused conferences.
Which of the kits do you like the most? Which do you think is the “coolest”?
I love them all equally, but if I had to choose, I’d have to pick the Community Starter Kit. The fact that you can get a community site complete with discussions, photo albums, download section, and a newsletter mailer up and running in 10 minutes is very cool.
What is next? There was ASP.NET, then Web Matrix, now the ASP.NET Starter Kits. What can we look for [anxiously] next?
If I told you that, there wouldn’t be anything to announce! At this point, we’re focused on taking feedback from the community about how we can make ASP.NET better. It’s likely something will come from that because these projects like Web Matrix and the Starter Kits are our way to give back to the community that is contributing so much to our development process.
Thanks for your time, Shawn. Are there any other comments you’d like to make to our readers regarding these products?
If you ever find yourself in need of a discussion board, shopping cart, photo album, data reporting app, portal, or catalog of any sorts—stop coding and first check out the Starter Kits at www.asp.net/starterkits/ and let us know what you think. They just might save you enough time to actually take next weekend off from work.
Shawn Nandi is the Product Manager for ASP.NET and ASP.NET Web Matrix at Microsoft.
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