Today we are announcing that Microsoft has acquired DevBiz Business Solutions, the makers of the popular TeamPlain Web Access for Team System.  TeamPlain is a web front end for VSTS that enables users to access the majority of TFS functionality from within a Web browser.  The focus of TeamPlain is on work item tracking but it also includes some valuable version control capabilities (like viewing history/change sets, diffing files, browsing the source base, etc.), some SharePoint integration, Reporting services integration, and some upcoming build support.  TeamPlain gives VSTS a new avenue to reach a broader array of people within the development team who don’t use Visual Studio today and don’t want to install Visual Studio clients on their machines.  It also improves reach by enabling some access from non-Windows clients.

TeamPlain has been in the market for about a year now and has been very successful.  Many of our VSTS customers use TeamPlain today and are very satisfied with it.  Our advisory council and other customers have been telling us for the past year that we need a web UI for VSTS and that TeamPlain would be a great solution for us.  We’ve listened, looked very closely at the product and concluded that they are right.  Today is the culmination of a long process and the beginning of another.

TeamPlain will become Microsoft Visual Studio Team System Web Access.  Effective today, TeamPlain is available, at no additional charge, to users who own a Team Foundation Server and can be downloaded from here.  It will be accessible by any user properly licensed with a TFS CAL.  Support will continue to be provided by the current staff via the DevBiz online forums.

Over the next few months, we will be rebranding TeamPlain as a Microsoft product and running it through our release process.  When that is complete, we will be releasing it as a VSTS Power Tool, transitioning support to the Microsoft forums and beginning CSS (phone) support.  In the Orcas timeframe, we will be releasing Team System Web Access as an official, documented, localized, and officially supported component of Team Foundation Server.

A look at the product

I've included a few screen shots here to give you a flavor for what TeamPlain looks like and what it can do:

Some likely questions

What version of TeamPlain are you releasing? - The initial download that is available today is TeamPlain V1.0.  After we have run it through the Microsoft release process, we will be releasing TeamPlain version 2.0 as a VSTS Power Tool.  V2 includes some cool new features, including Viewing/Managing builds, additional version control capability, AJAX support for a more responsive experience and larger project support, and much much more.  Ultimately we will be incorporating V2 (or a derivation of it) into the official product in the Orcas timeframe.

What is the Microsoft release process? - It is a long checklist of things (I think about 20 or so) that we have to do before we release any product.  It includes security reviews, scans for geo-politically incorrect terminology, test sign-off and much more.

When is "the Orcas timeframe"? - If I told you I'd have to kill you.

No, seriously, when is it? - Seriously, I can't tell you :)  What I can say is that we have been releasing CTPs for Orcas for a good while now.  We are currently working on getting ready for Beta 1.  Keep your eyes and ears open over the coming months for more news about it.  I'll have to let you draw your own conclusions about how long it will take after Beta 1 releases.  Our philosophy is to get the product to you early, in many forms, CTPs, Betas, RCs, etc and use your feedback on when you believe it is ready to help guide us.

Why do you say "the Orcas timeframe"? - Because, as I mentioned, Orcas has been in the works for a while now and we are just adding web access to the line-up.  It's going to take us some time to work out the details of how it fits into our schedule and I am expecting that it may not actually ship on the same day as the rest of Orcas but rather in the same timeframe.

How does this relate to CodePlex? - I think of them as different things, although clearly there is some overlap.  TeamPlain and CodePlex both have web UI for some overlapping areas.  Over time, we may look to see what we can share but we'll see how that evolves.

Does this mean I don't need TeamPrise any more? - No, not if you do X-Plat development and/or want Eclipse integration.  While TeamPlain can provide some cross platform access via the browser, it is not designed to provide the full set of capabilities that a developer would use: IDE and editor integration, command-line access for scripting, full version control access, etc.

Is Microsoft using TeamPlain internally? - Some groups are, yes, but it isn't broadly used yet.  The IT group probably uses it the most.  We installed a pre-release copy on the DevDiv dogfood server to experiment with it.  We are in the process of rolling it out to all of our internal users now.  I'll probably blog about the progress of this over the next couple of months.

What happens if I call Microsoft support about TeamPlain now? - We are working with our support organization to prepare them to support the product.  They are expecting to begin supporting it when we release it as a Power Tool in a few months.  I wouldn't be surprised if you run into some people in support who don't know anything about the product today.  I expect over the next couple of weeks we will educate the front line phone representatives on how to route calls for it.  Until we begin Microsoft based support in a few months, you will be directed to the DevBiz forums for answers to your questions.

In closing

This is a big step forward for Team System and I hope you are as happy about it as I am.  The future is looking brighter every day!

Brian