Great news from Microsoft on this year's Tech-Ed. The new Visual Studio 2008 Shell will be available for download and redistribution for free as part of the Visual Studio SDK.

The Visual Studio Shell will be available to Visual Studio Industry Partners with Visual Studio 2008 beta 2 and will be available to the broader development community with the release of Visual Studio 2008.

The Shell comes in two flavors:

  • integrated mode, optimized for programming languages;
  • isolated mode, optimized for specialized tools.

I think this will usher a new era of innovation for independent language and tools creators for which a full blown IDE was the greatest restriction in targeting larger audiences. Previous licensing schemes, such as Premier Partner, involved a considerable amount of money (10K/year) to access the bare-bone IDE.

Deploying applications based on the Visual Studio Shell will be royalty-free. This involves that you owe a Visual Studio Professional license still, but redistributing is now free.

This year's Tech-Ed launched also the first "virtual" edition on site. There you can find a video, A Closer Look at the Visual Studio Shell, where Microsoft group product manager Joe Marini discusses the newly announced Visual Studio 2008 Shell.

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