Microsoft released Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework on January 16. This release completes the largest beta program in Microsoft's history and involved more than 2 million technologists (not just developers).

Since Microsoft announced Microsoft .NET at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2 years ago, the company has made it clear how important this technology is to its future. Throughout the development of Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework, Microsoft executives frequently uttered the phrase "betting the company on it."

The developer community has waited a long time for a new set of tools, and Microsoft has come a long way from Visual Studio 6.0 (which was a great tool set in its time). Looking back at the 2 years of preparation for .NET, the only negative aspect of the release seems to be that Microsoft's marketing machine spent the entire 2 years trying to explain what .NET is: "It's tools, it's an architecture, it's servers, it's devices—it's all of the above."

The people involved in the beta program, however, know exactly what .NET is; many of us suffered through the different versions and the pain that resulted from updating servers and fixing all the broken code. I can't tell you how many times I erased servers during the beta period because I knew that an uninstall of the old version and an install of the new version simply wouldn't work or, worse, would hose the server. But we—all 2 million of us—pressed on because the more we learned about .NET and its power and capabilities, the more we became addicted to the new technology.

.NET's adoption rate will be interesting to watch during the next few months. Many people predict that .NET will experience the same "slow" adoption that Windows 2000 endured. (Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server largely drove Win2K adoption.) The .NET Framework doesn't run on Windows NT Server, and Microsoft says that making a product backward-compatible to that extent is difficult. One fact that will help adoption is some vendors will preinstall the .NET Framework on the suite of .NET servers that will ship later this year.

As an early .NET adopter, I've encountered an interesting dilemma in my company. For the past few months, my developers have been saying, "I dread being on a project that isn't .NET. I don't know whether I can go back." These people aren't just Microsoft developers; they also have heavy Java and Sun Microsystems backgrounds. At the same time, my infrastructure people are saying, "How in the world are we going to get the .NET Framework into production?" This dilemma will dominate many heated discussions in IT shops around the world during the next few months. Installing the .NET Framework on a server is no small task, and the implications of fitting that much code into the OS can be overwhelming. To help developers, Microsoft has a sample application that shows them how to embed the .NET Framework into their .NET applications' setup code so that the .NET Framework automatically installs on the server along with the application. Can you imagine developers trying to convince IT folks to let them install applications that include 600MB of the .NET Framework? Even .NET Framework client installations, where desktops in the enterprise are diligently controlled, will be controversial.

You can get the release versions of the .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET from the following Microsoft Web sites.

Microsoft .NET Framework Redistributable:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/downloads/sample.asp?url=/msdn-files/027/001/829/msdncompositedoc.xml

Microsoft .NET Framework Software Development Kit:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/downloads/sample.asp?url=/msdn-files/027/000/976/msdncompositedoc.xml

Microsoft .NET Framework Setup.exe Bootstrapper Sample:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/downloads/sample.asp?url=/msdn-files/027/001/830/msdncompositedoc.xml

Visual Studio .NET Released Exclusively to MSDN Subscribers:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/subscriptions/resources/subdwnld.asp