In part 1, I wrote that when Bill Gates introduced .NET, he described it as a "bet the company" move. That's no exaggeration! .NET is so fundamentally new and different - and it was such a huge investment - that if it had failed, Microsoft itself might have failed along with it. It's that important!
But we know now that .NET not only didn't fail, it has been an outsized, monumental success!
One of the biggest benefits of "starting over" with .NET was that Microsoft has been able to create a top-to-bottom architected environment where the pieces actually integrate and support each other. ASP.NET (the web piece) works hand-in-glove with ADO.NET (the data piece) and they're all supported by Visual Studio .NET (the developer environment). We dig into the details about the various pieces of the .NET Framework, including pieces of .NET like the CLR and the CLI, in the next lesson. But right now, let's look at Visual Studio .NET, Visual Basic .NET and Visual Basic 2010 Express Edition.
Back in VB6 days, it was possible to buy a version of Visual Studio that only included Visual Basic. The paid versions of Visual Studio .NET include all of the supported Microsoft languages. This makes sense because they're really not that much different after you get past the surface and professional programmers might use different .NET languages for different problems today.
The Express edition - that's what we will use - is a little like the old VB6 because both Visual Basic and C# have a separate version. In addition, Microsoft has created SQL Server 2008 R2 Express for database capability. There are so many tools for Web programming that Microsoft has bundled them all together into something they call the Microsoft Web Platform. It includes Visual Web Developer, SQL Server Express, Silverlight Tools, IIS and ASP.NET Extensions and whatever else they think you need, all in one humongous download. So Microsoft has a fairly complete suite of products that you can use for development, all completely free.
Microsoft states that the Express versions are "designed for hobbyists, students, and novice developers" and that they "lack the full breadth of features found in higher-end ... editions." Maybe so, but they're still very capable, and Microsoft also states that you are free to use them for commercial purposes: "There are no licensing restrictions for applications built using the Express Editions." Furthermore, the source code and assemblies created with VB.NET Express are completely compatible with the rest of .NET, including the high end versions that cost lots of money.