Microsoft recently began to offer users a preview into the eagerly-anticipated next versions of ASP.NET and Visual Studio 2013. The last stable release of the popular server-side Web application framework came in August 2012, so it's clear that it's ripe for an upgrade. Since its last version, agile programming, HTML5 and cloud-based development have continued to evolve, and application programming frameworks are relied on for a increasingly wider range of enterprise applications and self-service data reporting tools

At Microsoft's TechEd conference in Houston, it showcased the code-named "Project K," now revealed to be ASP.NET vNext, reported ZDNet contributor Mary Jo Foley. Company officials stated that it is the "cloud-optimized" and "streamlined" iteration of .NET. The move is the latest in a busy few months for the application framework. In April, Microsoft said that it would contribute ASP.NET to the open-source .Net Foundation. In early May, Microsoft debuted .NET 4.5.2, which included several important security updates and bug fixes, as well as a few "nominal" new features. 

The company also took another big step at TechEd in its "Universal Apps" strategy, announcing the release candidate of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2, according to Foley. With the update, programmers can reuse more of their code for apps that will have full functionality on both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. This expansion of Visual Studio's palate and cross-platform interoperability bodes well for companies that need to ramp up their mobile development in a hurry.

Multi-platform development is the goal

The cloud, agile programming, HTML5 and mobile all coalesce in the need for faster, error-free multi-platform development. It's clear that the need for a unified framework was at the forefront of the minds of Microsoft employees developing the new version of ASP.NET. In an interview with TechCrunch, Brian Harry, the corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, equated platform evolution with the need to remain relevant

"We had the same framework that ran everywhere, but we were seeing very different requirements for the different platforms," Harry told TechCrunch. "More than large monolithic libraries, developer now want small packages that they can pick and choose."

Part of this effort will be making .NET more agile in both the cloud and on servers, TechCrunch reported. Cloud-optimized libraries will be consolidated to only feature components usually leveraged through the cloud, eliminating tools like Windows Form and Windows Presentation Foundation that are not typically present in cloud-centric libraries. This will make the development process less cluttered and faster, Harry said, as well as giving programmers and easy way to simultaneously run apps that use different versions of .NET. 

Visual Studio updates focus on usability

InfoQ outlined some of the other changes present in the Visual Studio 2013 Update. These include enhancements to the Web editor and increased support for HTTPS connections in Browser Link. In an appeal to an increasingly security-conscious application user base, ASP.NET Identity 2.0 will be able to support two-factor authentication. Git users will also notice several changes, including the option to amend and revert commits. Additionally, tags can be more easily controlled and queried through permissions.

Overall, it's exciting to see Microsoft is continuing to follow up on their 2013 promise to release ASP.NET updates on a more frequent schedule.