When I first became involved with the Visual Studio SDK team back in summer 2003, the VSIP SDK was something that was only briefly mentioned on websites and books as something you could use to provide deep integration into Visual Studio. It was treated as this mythical, untouchable beast that you (as the lowly individual developer reading the book) would never be able to touch. You were stuck to whatever features you could hack into your VS Addin. Unless, of course, your organization signed a license agreement with Microsoft. For that, you received a SDK which was, well, let's just say, far from sufficient.

  • There were only a handful of samples (all in C++/COM of course)
  • You couldn't write managed code for your integration
  • The docs were....very lacking (e.g. "see the IDL file" was the typical response we would have to give)
  • There were no blogs, forums, etc (except for one usenet group)... in fact, the license prohibited the discussion of technical details of Visual Studio integration
  • In short, the development experience felt nothing like building a component on top of a platform much like building an app on top of Windows or .NET feels.

Over these past three years, that has all changed dramatically. Here is a simple timeline of where Microsoft has gone with VSIP:

  • July 2003: VSIP SDK / program made "free" (as in beer), only signing a click-through agreement on the web got you the VSIP SDK
  • March 2004: "VSIP 2003 Extras" ships: Allows you to create a package in managed code using the new interop assemblies (and a few 'helper classes' for basic package tasks)
  • April 2005: Visual Studio SDK team is formed inside Microsoft
  • June 2005: Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 / VSIP 2005 Beta 2 ships...and the VSIP SDK is retired with that release
    • Managed Package Framework expands on helper classes to provide a better C# package development experience
  • October 2005: Visual Studio 2005 ships
  • October 2005: Visual Studio 2005 SDK version 1 ships
    • Some license changes are made to make working with and discussing the SDK more easy and open
  • April 2006: Visual Studio 2005 SDK version 2 ships
    • First 'release version' of the SDK containing the IronPythonIntegration sample showing end-to-end language integration, including the Windows Forms designer.

In between, we have also released many CTP snapshots of the SDK (roughly once per month). Today, with the release of the Visual Studio 2005 SDK Version 3, we are making more significant changes to the VSIP program. As was announced a few days ago, the Visual Studio 2005 SDK documentation is now available on the public MSDN site. To compliment that, the Visual Studio 2005 SDK Version 3 is being published to a public download location. You can download the Visual Studio 2005 Version 3 SDK here (no registration required). No longer will you need to log into Passport/LiveID to download the SDK!

On the licensing side, we're also making a change that should have a huge impact on the developer tools community. We have removed the licensing restriction that requires you to target a Microsoft platform. Yes, you read that correctly. Feel free to re-read it again if the shock hasn't set in yet. You can now legally create a Visual Studio package for tools to target the JRE, Linux, Apache, or whatever your platform of choice may be! (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.....please have your friendly local corporate attorney review the license to make sure it's compatible with whatever project you're working on.) With that said, we are hoping that with this move, we "open the floodgates" to even more cool and useful tools and products plugged into the world's leading development environment. Extend on!