Launched in 2002, the Microsoft .Net framework provides a set of components used by many enterprise applications, such as database connectivity, as well as a way to compose applications using multiple programming languages -- .Net supports C#, C++, F#, Visual Basic, Python, Ruby and others.

Microsoft estimates that more than 7 million developers use .Net. The software has been installed over 1.8 billion times in the past year, on the cloud, on mobile devices, and on Windows servers and desktop machines.

The company has been open sourcing parts of the .Net stack for some time, including a new .Net compiler named Roslyn and various components of ASP.Net, the company's .Net Web framework. Earlier this year, Microsoft even established a foundation to manage the growing collection of open-source .Net technologies.

The newest batch of .Net code to be exposed to the public is the largest, and most vital, portion yet, including the ASP.Net, the common language runtime and base class libraries.

To develop Linux and Mac versions of the software, Microsoft will work closely with the Mono community. Linux developer Miguel de Icaza started Mono in order to develop a version of .Net specifically for Windows. It is currently overseen by software tools development company, Xamarin. Other interested third parties are also encouraged to contribute.

Microsoft hopes to have the first working versions of the Linux and Mac versions of .Net available within the next few months.

Microsoft's new Visual Studio Community, available Wednesday, is also aimed at broadening the company's developer base. The company already offers a free stripped-down version of the IDE, called Visual Studio Express, though this new offering offers most all of the capabilities of the professional edition of Visual Studio. It also allows developers to access the 5,000 Visual Studio extensions created by Microsoft and others.
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