The rapid evolution of Microsoft’s .NET platform has made it more difficult for developers to stay on the bleeding edge of its technologies, but components and productivity tools may help, experts say.

Over the last several years, the .NET platform has evolved at a “whirlwind pace,” said Todd Anglin, chief evangelist of Telerik, a company that makes .NET components and tools. Developers have much more to understand and consume than in the early days of .NET when they only targeted Web forms or Windows Forms, he added.

Microsoft first shipped the .NET Framework in 2002. It is now on the cusp of releasing .NET 4.0, a remarkably different product, which will arrive later this year. The release introduces major changes to ASP.NET.

ASP.NET 4.0 is one of the biggest paradigm shifts in ASP.NET development, and it introduces significant new client-side technology, including full data binding and template programming, said Chris Meredith, ComponentOne’s product manager of development tools.

“Microsoft has essentially made AJAX development too easy so far. It was drag-and-drop…and made it to the point where you almost don’t need to know JavaScript or how to architect client-side apps,” Meredith explained.

“It is now shifting to where the designer is being taken away, and is pushing people into that code. It is making it easy to do, but it is a very big shift in development practice.

Silverlight, a subset of the .NET runtime, was released in 2007, and Microsoft is on track to deliver Silverlight 4 later this year. Silverlight 4 will provide developers with access to Component Object Model (COM) applications and local hardware resources.

“That is an incredible cycle for anyone to abide by; it is tough on the .NET control market and on [Microsoft] customers,” remarked Lino Tadros, CEO of Falafel Software, a .NET training and consulting company.