Microsoft today announced Visual Studio LightSwitch (previously codenamed Kitty Hawk), the newest member of the Visual Studio product family. It will be available as part of Visual Studio Professional, Premium, and Ultimate. Microsoft says that LightSwitch is aimed at developers of all skill levels and organizational sizes who want to build business applications that target the desktop, cloud, and Web.
A beta will be available on August 23 to MSDN Subscribers, with general availability to follow, and the software giant is hoping to get feedback as it works on getting a final version released by next year.
Visual Studio LightSwitch includes pre-built templates and tools in a simplified development environment for building scalable custom business applications that connect with existing applications, legacy systems, and Web services. Developers can choose from a wide variety of hosting, deployment, and third-party plug-in options. Deployment is simplified in that applications (which are at their core Silverlight applications) can be deployed to the client, browser, and even Windows Azure (post-beta). LightSwitch can be used with C# or Visual Basic and it supports SQL Server, SQL Azure, SharePoint, and Microsoft Office.
Microsoft says that LightSwitch dramatically decreases the time it takes to build a custom application by automatically handling routine code; it's a rapid application development tool that offers application shells and screen templates to allow the developer to concentrate on the core business logic.
There's also a lot of "drag and drop" functionality, but full access to the .NET Framework is still available; if you need to tinker under the hood, you can do so by opening your LightSwitch application in the "full" version of Visual Studio.
How does LightSwitch compare to Microsoft's recently announced WebMatrix Web development suite? Both are tools for building applications, but the approach and target audience is very different: WebMatrix is HTML UI and LightSwitch is Silverlight UI.
WebMatrix is a tool that includes a Web server (IIS Developer Express), a simple database (SQL Server Compact), and programming framework (ASP.NET). It is targeted at non-professional developers to make it easier to create new websites from scratch, or use Microsoft's Web Application Gallery to customize popular ASP.NET and PHP open source community applications. In contrast, LightSwitch is targeted at professional developers and power users looking to create custom Line of Business (LOB) applications using data from multiple sources.
Microsoft Website for Visual Studio LightSwitch
Jason Zanders Weblog Article on Lightswitch
Somasegars Weblog article on Lightswitch