I am very excited that Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 is now available to our customers for testing and deployment. MSDN subscribers have access to download the bit immediately, and general availability is tomorrow (October 21). The Beta can be downloaded from here

Beta 1 was shipped in May 2009, and you will be amazed at the level of improvements we have made in the feature set, performance and stability, fit and finish, and simplification of install and use that we are bringing to you with this Beta 2 release!

At the overall Visual Studio level, there are several key changes. The biggest that you will see is a very significant simplification of the SKU and packaging.

Jason Zander articulates this well in his blog (and here is the new cool Logo as well)

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Visual Studio Express:  the free Express SKUs for C++, C#, VB, and Web have been updated and released with this version and give you the basics for writing applications

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Professional with MSDN: professional development tools as you are used to today with the addition of source control integration, extensibility, etc.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Premium with MSDN: Premium has everything in Professional plus advanced development (including profiling and debugging), advanced database support, coded UI testing, etc.  Rather than buying multiple “Team” SKUs, you can now get this combination of features in one box.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN: Ultimate has everything in Premium plus additional advanced features for developers, testers, and architects including features like Intellitrace (formerly Historical Debugging), the new architecture tools (UML, discovery), etc.  All of the scenarios we’ve talked about are supported with this version of the product.

In addition to these changes, Team Foundation Server (TFS) is now available with all versions of Visual Studio 2010.  You can get started with TFS Basic and work up to full multi-server support, SharePoint integration, etc. as your needs grow.

The new “Test Elements” SKU is designed for testers who don’t need to write code.  You can manage your test cases, work items, and do manual testing using the SKU.  Because everything is integrated through TFS, you can continue to collaborate with the entire team

You have the “Team Lab Management” SKU for managing your dev and test lab using Virtualization – allowing you to create multi-tier virtual environments, and to run build-deploy-test workflows on those environments.

Beta 2 is also comes with a “go-live” license, which implies that you can deploy the tools for your “live” projects in production (view the license agreements for more details). This is a really a great opportunity for you to get going with this Visual Studio release!

Also check out the Microsoft PressPass news about the announcement, including the promotional “Ultimate Offer”. I will let you soak in the top level messages around the announcement for a couple of days. You can also get a feel of installing the product and the top level features from this video by Brian Keller.

I will be back soon to talk to you about the many improvements and changes that we have made in the Testing related products.

Cheers!