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An Uncertain Future for Visual Studio Express

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Visual Studio Express was never meant to be a free product. When the first version was released in 2005, the Express edition was intended to be an entry level product that cost approximately 100 USD. In order to build up a customer base for the product, and to promote .NET in general, Microsoft said that anyone registering the product within the first year would get it for free.

That promotion started on November 7th, 2005. By April 19th there were over five million copies of VS Express downloaded and Microsoft felt that it would be best to keep the product free. At that time there were five versions available: Visual Basic, Visual C#, Visual J#, Visual C++, and Visual Web Developer.

Visual J# no longer exists, but the other flavors were refreshed for the 2008 and 2010 editions of Visual Studio along with new versions for Windows Phone, XNA Game Studio, and Robotics Developer Studio. (The latter two have since become add-ons requiring another version of Visual Studio Express.)

The product guide for Visual Studio 11 only lists the following editions:

  • Express for Windows 8
  • Express for Web
  • Professional
  • Premium
  • Ultimate
  • Test Professional

As of press time Microsoft was unwilling to confirm or deny that Express editions for C++, VB, C#, or Windows Phone would eventually be released for Visual Studio 11.

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