WinFX renamed .NET Framework 3.0

Post ImageIn a fairly quiet announcement, made on a blog (noteworthy all by itself!), Microsoft has decided to rename their next development platform from WinFX to the .NET Framework 3.0. While it won’t affect the average user, it has created quite a discussion for developers:

The .NET Framework has always been at the core of WinFX, but the WinFX brand didn’t convey this. The brand also created an unnatural discontinuity between previous versions of our framework and the current version.

With this in mind we have decided to rename WinFX to the .NET Framework 3.0. .NET Framework 3.0 aptly identifies the technology for exactly what it is – the next version of our developer framework.

We are confident that this change will go a long way towards reducing confusion people may have about our developer platform and the technologies in which they should invest.

.NET Framework 3.0 will include the existing .NET 2.0 components, WPF, WCF, WF, and WCS. Most people seem to think this is a bad idea (judging by the comments on these posts), and here’s why:

  1. The runtime is still at version 2.0, even in .NET 3.0 – sounds more confusing than helpful!
  2. Everything will be put into the %windir%Microsoft.NETFrameworkV3.0 directory. Again, confusing!
  3. As the release is built on .NET 2.0, it will include C# 2.0, and not C# 3.0, creating more confusion for down the road.
  4. The new stuff (W**) was never intended to be backported to Windows 2000, only Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 but .NET 2.0 fully supports all three. Presumably, this means support for Windows 2000 has been dropped.

Initially I agreed that the decision wasn’t a good one, but after thinking about it more, I think it was actually a good call on Microsoft’s part. This is about the development platform. When developing for WinFX, it’s better to think of it as a new platform, not just a superset of the old platform. Despite .NET 2.0 being at it’s core, developers are indeed using .NET 2.0 plus a bunch of other stuff when developing for WinFX. Naming the platform .NET 3.0 conveys this much more clearly.

Some of this is still confusing (such as, will .NET 2.0 be installed into both a V2 and a V3 directory, or just one of the two?) but I think in the long run this is good. It’s also the first time a lot of people will think of the .NET Framework as a product in and of itself, and when you do that, you realize it doesn’t matter what version the innards have. The other nice thing is that we’ll get a single installer now, instead of three or four.

I guess my main concern is that the size of the framework is going to start to balloon. Well, that and we have no idea what version of the framework the next release of Visual Studio, codenamed “Orcas”, will ship with. Presumably the change doesn’t affect the release date for Vista.

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