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Back in June, a blogger by the name of Jeroen van den Bos posted an article on his blog where he argued that Windows Vista should ship with one of the Visual Studio Express editions installed. van den Bos recalled the days when he could boot up his Commodore 64 and just start programming away. Many operating systems have since deviated from that concept, especially Windows, but van den Bos claims that it can still happen. All Microsoft needs to do is ship Windows with Visual Studio Express, a free version of the Visual Studio IDE. It sounds simple enough, but Microsoft says that's not the case at all.

According to Visual Studio Express' Lead Product Manager Dan Fernandez, Microsoft had seriously considered the idea of bundling an Express edition of Visual Studio with Vista, but there were just too many snags. Fernandez says that the real "deal-breaker" was legal restrictions, but he wouldn't go into detail about the problem. Other reasons Fernandez notes include differences between installations and servicing in Visual Studio and Windows, difficulties in meeting Vista's "standard", a lack of localization in Visual Studio (only supports 9 languages), and problems deciding which version of Visual Studio Express of the five available would actually ship with Vista.

Since Microsoft found that it couldn't bundle Visual Studio Express with Vista, it decided to consider the alternatives, which either already exist or may be added. The first option is for customers to just download the IDE from the MSDN, which is what most people do already. It's simple and doesn't require any additional effort by Microsoft. The second option is to just use Vista's built-in Visual Basic and C# compiler. Sure, writing code in Notepad isn't exactly a jaw dropping experience, but it's still an option.

Microsoft may also include a link in Vista's Programs menu which would reach out to the MSDN and download an Express edition of Visual Studio, presumably whichever one the user prefers. Once Orcas-the next release of Visual Studio-is released, the link would be updated and customers could keep their development suite up-to-date with the latest tools. While this might lure in some would-be developers, it seems somewhat hokey to me. Even though it's not, I just get this "Try AOL Free for 6 Months" feeling just thinking about it.

The last possibility is that Microsoft could leave the bundling up to OEMs. OEMs wouldn't have to deal with the same difficult barriers that Microsoft would, and they could pick and choose the machines that would ship with the software. Fernandez gives the example of high-end gaming machines that would include Visual Studio Express plus some tutorials on how to begin developing mods and gaming software. This idea isn't all that bad, mainly because I think many gamers would find the tutorials both useful and interesting.

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