Thanks to Dieter De Preester for the tip: Microsoft's Visual Studio.NET Web site was updated Friday with information about the release of the Beta 1 version of the company's upcoming software development suite, which is "nearing completion and will soon be available to developers." The site notes that Visual Studio.NET Beta 1 will be made available to MSDN Universal subscribers "before general availability," and that this important release will also be available to the public "for a nominal fee." Microsoft has been very forthcoming with information about Visual Studio.NET, in sharp contrast to previous Visual Studio betas. The company's fixation on moving its customer base to the .NET future is probably driving this newfound openness.

Visual Studio.NET is the follow-up to Visual Studio 6, which was released in 1998. In addition to providing major updates to its core products, such as Visual C++, Visual Basic, and Visual FoxPro, Visual Studio.NET will facilitate .NET development with new technologies such as C# ("C Sharp"), ADO+, Windows Forms, Web Forms, Web services, SOAP, and more. Since announcing the .NET initiative (then known as Next Generation Windows Services) in January, the company has slowly released reams of information about the technologies that will make .NET possible. Microsoft hopes that it can accelerate adoption of .NET by getting developers onboard early.

For more information about Visual Studio.NET Beta 1, please visit the Microsoft Web site