Microsoft Extends Its .NET Framework With New Compiler Platform And Language Features

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At its Build developer conference in San Francisco today, Microsoft announced a slew of new features for its .NET platform. With over 1.8 billion installs and 6 million professional developers, .NET — which launched about 12 years ago — has long been one of the cornerstones of Microsoft’s developer ecosystem.

Besides launching the .NET Foundation today, Microsoft also announced a wider update to the .NET platform. Among these new features are a preview of a new compiler platform, deeper Azure integrations through its .NET Mobile Services, an improved just-in-time compiler and previews of new language features for C# and Visual Basic.

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As Soma Somasegar, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of the Developer Division, told me last week, the company wants to “show developers that .NET is still a very viable platform for developers who want to build apps in this modern world.”

Microsoft previously previewed the “Roslyn” .NET Compiler Platform (it has now shelved the “Roslyn” code name), but today it announced that this is now an open-source project and that Microsoft is going to start taking outside contributions, as well. The project includes the next versions of Microsoft’s C# and Visual Basic, but maybe even more interestingly, it also includes a “compiler-as-a-service API” that can be integrated into other IDEs. Xamarin, for example, demoed how it could use the .NET Compiler Platform to provide an improved C# development experience in its own Xamarin Studio running on a MacBook.

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C# and Visual Basic, too, are getting some new features in this update. Microsoft today previewed some new language features in these two languages, including primary constructors and auto-property initializers.

As Microsoft announced yesterday, it is previewing a .NET native compiler in this release, but today, it also announced updated versions of .NET’s standard just-in-time compiler. For the most part, the new compiler enables faster startup times and a number of performance improvements. This release provides new APIs that can leverage the Single Instruction, Multiple Data (SIMD) support that is now available in most modern processors. This feature, however, is still in preview.

The deeper Azure integration in this release doesn’t come as a surprise. Microsoft already announced the .NET Mobile Services last month. These provide developers with a mobile back end to connect Azure’s data storage and other features.

As Somasegar noted when I talked to him, Microsoft continues to think of .NET as a core part of its platform. These updates — as well as the launch of the .NET Foundation — is meant to strengthen the platform, and one thing he seems especially excited about is that the new open-source projects under the .NET Foundation will help bring the platform into the future.