Microsoft this year finally completed its plans to merge .NET Core, .NET Standard and .NET Framework. The company first announced the ambitious effort last year, and was able to complete the task on schedule with the official release of .NET 5.0 — along with ASP.NET Core, EF Core, C#9 and F#5 — at its .NET Conf 2020 in November.

“You’d think that “November 2020” was a cheque that could not be cashed given all the challenges this year, however, .NET 5.0 has been released on time,” Richard Lander, program manager for the .NET team, said in a blog post

In addition to unifying its .NET solutions, .NET 5.0 features improved performance across several components and .NET libraries, reduced P95 latency, and expanded platform scope with Arm64 and WebAssembly. 

But that’s not it for the company’s .NET unification journey. Microsoft already revealed .NET 6.0 will be released in a year with more focus on Xamarin developers being able to use the platform. 

Aside from the .NET 5.0 release, one of the biggest announcements of the year was in September when Microsoft made the decision to exclusively license OpenAI’s GPT-3 language model — the autoregressive language model that outputs human-like text. Microsoft plans to develop and deliver advanced AI solutions and create new solutions based on advanced natural language generation. 

In response to the ongoing pandemic, Microsoft quickly added new capabilities to Microsoft Teams that tackled the needs of the new remote workforce. Features included ability to avoid background distraction, minimize background noise, participate in large meetings, work offline, and break out chat windows. 

The pandemic also forced the company to take its annual Build conference online in May where it announced Windows Terminal 1.0, Azure Synapse Link, Azure Cognitive Services updates, Project Reunion, the open-sourcing of Windows Package Manager Preview, and the acquisition of Softomotive for low-code robotic process automation capabilities.

Other notable announcements throughout the year included investments to Visual Studio, updates to TypeScript, and new open-source tools.

Visual Studio Online became Visual Studio Codespaces in May to represent the solution’s ability to do more for developers than just edit in the browser. The Visual Studio extension model was redesigned in October to not only make extensions more reliable, but easier to write and support locally or remotely. The general availability of Microsoft Edge Tools for VS Code extensions was also announced in October to make it easier for web developers to do more with Visual Studio. 

After many updates to its programming language for application-scale JavaScript, TypeScript 4.0 was released in August. The latest version is meant to represent the next generation of the language, and focused on expressivity, productivity and scalability. 

Lastly, the company released a number of new tools into open source. 

Application Inspector’s source code analyzer for identifying “interesting” features and metadata was released in January. 

GW-Basic Code, the BASIC interpreter written in assembly language, was brought to GitHub in May for historical and educational purposes. 

Project Tye, an experiment project meant to make it easier to develop, test and deploy microservices was announced in May. 

The company open-sourced its extension of TensorFlow for Windows, TensorFlow-DirectML, in September. The solution is meant to bring Tensorflow beyond its traditional GPU support and to native Win32 and Windows Subsystem for Linux. 

Project OpenFuzz was released in September to reduce the complexity of fuzz testing and help developers find and fix bugs at scale. And Playwright for Python was announced in October for automated end-to-end tests written in Python.