Nov 08, 2019 newsletter

Remote development takes another leap forward with Visual Studio Online

Visual Studio Online

Microsoft announced that Visual Studio Online, its cloud-based development environment, is now available for public preview.

Microsoft’s recent focus on remote development reveals powerful trends in developer productivity, shifting development needs, and Microsoft’s cloud-first strategy.

Announced in May at Build 2019, Visual Studio Online spins up remote development environments that are accessible from anywhere. Developers can edit code from either their browser or through a code editor extension that connects your local instance of Visual Studio or Visual Studio Code to the cloud. From Microsoft:

"Whether you’re working on a long-term project, a  short-lived feature branch, or want to quickly review a pull request, Visual Studio Online can help you be more productive by providing a fully configured development environment in minutes. By pointing to a Git repo, Visual Studio Online sets up everything you need to focus on being productive."

Microsoft’s announcement is a win for remote developers. With Visual Studio Online, developers—who are leading a remote work revolution—can work anywhere on any device without needing to set up complex or finicky local environments.

Visual Studio Online also indicates a growing focus on ease of development.

Visual Studio Online allows for quick provisioning of modular and highly reproducible environments. When environments can be quickly created and disposed, developers benefit from quick experimentation, better collaboration, and easy onboarding.

Microsoft also sees an opportunity to integrate more Microsoft services into its developer tools.

Visual Studio Online comes with Live Share, a coding collaboration tool, and IntelliCode, an AI coding assistant, already built-in and enabled. Developers can link GitHub, a Microsoft-owned service, to Visual Studio Online, too.

Providing developers with access to its extensions exposes more developers to the full depth and breadth of the Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft can integrate more tools in the future, especially anything related to Azure, its cloud service.

While Visual Studio Online still has room to improve—including its price tag—over the next few years, remote development will continue to change how we think about the role that the cloud will play in redefining software engineering.

Google’s acquisition of Fitbit could shake up the wearable ecosystem for developers

Google acquires Fitbit

Google announced its acquisition of Fitbit, one of the world’s leading wearable device makers, for $2.1B.

Google’s acquisition could be a boon for developers in the smart wearable ecosystem, but poses a number of short-term challenges.

In the short term, Fitbit is thrown into a state of developer limbo. Without any clear plans for the future of Fitbit and how it will be integrated into Google’s developer ecosystem, Google undermines developer confidence in the Fitbit platform. Likewise, Google’s tendency to shutter projects and services makes Fitbit a riskier platform for developers interested in creating wearable apps.

In the long term, however, Google can resuscitate its dying wearable business and breathe new life into its Android-based health platform.

WearOS, Google’s wearable operating system, is widely regarded as a failure. WearOS controls a paltry 4% of the smart wearable market, while rival Apple controls a commanding 38%. Unlike Apple, Google doesn’t build its own smartwatch or wearable hardware, relying instead on other manufacturers that have been unable to keep pace with Apple and Samsung.

Google desperately needs Fitbit’s hardware, which makes up an impressive 24% of the wearable market. From Google:

"Our hardware business is still relatively young, but we’ve built a strong foundation of capabilities and products, including Pixel smartphones and Pixelbooks, Nest family of devices for the home, and more."

Once Google’s hardware portfolio—boosted by Fitbit’s tech—is widely adopted, Google can unify its developer experience across Android, WearOS, and Fitbit. Developers will benefit from a more streamlined ecosystem and a deeper focus on health applications—a fast-growing consumer market flush with opportunity.

Google Fit, an app for iOS and Android that aggregates your health data from different integrations, will likely be revamped.

Google will likely also find ways to merge FitbitOS—a slimmed down operating system designed for exceptional battery life—and WearOS. App development for Fitbit and WearOS could be massively improved, simplifying the developer experience.

For Google, the success of its Fitbit acquisition will ultimately depend on its long-term benefits to developers in its wearable and Android ecosystem outweighing any short-term uncertainty. That is no small challenge.

Small bytes

  • GitHub expands the student pack to include $100k worth of tools and training to every student developer. Like its parent company, GitHub is trying to draw young developers to its platform [GITHUB]
  • Alibaba will now offer a MongoDB managed service. Alibaba Cloud is growing rapidly in Asia and will help MongoDB expand its reach to new customers [ZDNET]
  • Microsoft is now contributing to OpenJDK alongside Oracle. Microsoft is now the dominant player in the world of Java [JAXENTER]
  • GitHub Sponsors is now generally available. Open source software has a funding problem, but Sponsors could be a new way for developers to get paid for their work [GITHUB]
  • Apple is not a fan of cross-platform apps built with Electron. Apple is rejecting apps for its macOS App Store and threatening to ban accounts that try to use off-limits Apple APIs [THE REGISTER]
  • Stripe announced a new CLI for building and testing Stripe integrations. Stripe grew rapidly by aggressively making its products easy for developers to integrate. A CLI continues that developer-first ethos [STRIPE]


  • Madge is a developer tool for generating a visual graph of your module dependencies and finding circular dependencies [MADGE]
  • Duck Duck Go now lets you search in the browser using a terminal interface [DDG]
  • CodeSandBox for VS Code lets you create and edit sandboxes on CodeSandbox in your code editor [GITHUB]
  • Spleeter is a free tool from Deezer that makes it to split your audio files into vocals, instruments, and more [DEEZER]
  • Tailwind Builder makes it easy to create beautiful Tailwind templates in minutes [TAILWIND BUILDER]
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