Amongst all of the hoopla around the Windows 8 Consumer Preview launch at the end of February, it was easy to miss the release of the Visual Studio 11 Beta and updates to other .NET technologies. While there isn't too much more here that wasn't known beforehand (the ASP.NET Web API is the really big announcement), and this release of .NET is supposed to be 4.5 and not a giant update, there are still a number of things to know about it. I've gone through all of the various blogs and release notes about it to highlight the most "need-to-know" items in .NET 4.5 and Visual Studio 11 that are currently being talked about.
.NET Framework and CLR
Visual Basic gets a few minor upgrades and two really big upgrades: Async support and Iterators.
F# adds a ton of support for Web services (OData, WSDL) and other data connectivity options (SQL, resource files, DBML files). It also gets LINQ and auto-implemented properties, which will go a long way in making it on par with C# and Visual Basic. IntelliSense in Visual Studio is much improved as well. The full details are here.
The Async system has been significantly improved. In addition, using the Await system is much easier. Async/await are being made full-fledge members of both C# and Visual Basic. Stephen Toub has the full details.
ASP.NET Web API
The ASP.NET Web API is a new framework for creating RESTful services using a model and controller pattern familiar to MVC developers. It can produce XML or JSON based on the "Accept" header of the request.
The real question is: What advantage does the ASP.NET Web API offer over the WCF Data Services system? It looks like the Web API wins out over WCF Data Services in two major areas: ease of consumption from jQuery clients and the relative simplicity of creating services. The WCF system always had that "kitchen sink" feel that enterprises need but is too heavy for most developers. The Web API is a much more lightweight, and its few steps from idea to working service model that developers will appreciate. While the beta does not support it, there is talk that the final version will support OAuth.
Front end improvement
ASP.NET MVC 4 will be providing mobile templates for projects, and it will support jQuery Mobile. In addition, support for minification and bundling will be built right in to create a smoother and faster experience for users, particularly for sites that use a lot of extra content or on devices with slower connections (like mobile devices). There is now support for the Web Sockets system, which can yield rich rewards for developers who take the time to learn to work with it.
Visual Studio 11
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Justin James is an OutSystems MVP, architect, and developer with expertise in SaaS applications and enterprise applications.