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What .NET Compact Framework 3.5 brings to mobile app development

The latest version of the .NET Compact Framework emphasizes unit testing, distributed applications and better mobile device emulation.

The .NET Compact Framework brings managed code and XML-based Web services to devices like mobile phones and personal digital assistants. It was introduced with Visual Studio 2003 and has been revamped twice, first for VS 2005 and again for the recently released VS 2008.

At the recent DevConnections conference in Las Vegas, Amit Chopra, senior program manager for Microsoft's Visual Studio for Devices group, outlined some of the new features in the .NET Compact Framework 3.5, or .NET CF 3.5.

Whereas the move from .NET CF 1.0 to .NET CF 2.0 focused primarily on improving performance, Chopra said the .NET CF 3.5 release has five main focal points.

  • Distributed applications, such as those that use Windows Communication Foundation (additional information about this can be found in the blog post The WCF subset supported by .NET CF by Andrew Arnott)
  • Data-driven apps, which can now leverage the Language Integrated Query
  • Diagnostic tools, such as a CLR Profile that specifically targets the .NET Compact Framework
  • Unit testing, which now mirrors the experience for unit testing desktop applications, integrates with Visual Studio Team System and Team Foundation Server, and supports testing across various device configurations
  • A security-aware IDE -- that is, one in which Visual Studio 2008 is able to manage device security settings and certificate management; this, in turn, makes it easier to test code

Other enhancements to the .NET Compact Framework 3.5 include a device configuration manager, a device certificate manager, a Managed Device Connectivity API for writing custom remote controls, and support for Visual Basic and C#. (Previous versions of .NET CF had supported only Visual C++.)

In addition, Microsoft has updated the .NET CF's Device Emulator. This, as its name implies, sits within Visual Studio and displays the UI of a mobile application as if it were on the mobile device itself. By using the emulator, developers need not posses the actual device they are programming against.

When v2.0 of the emulator was released, it, like .NET Compact Framework 2.0, focused on improving performance, Chopra said. Other enhancements included supporting Windows Vista and providing a battery emulator, which allows developers to see how an application performs when a device's battery is low.

The Device Emulator 3.0 adds automation support and allows programmers to access interfaces using VBScript., Chopra said. Moreover, one can now use XML config files to configure emulator instances, he added.

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