Microsoft plans to issue on Tuesday a second beta release of its Visual Studio LightSwitch development tool that is intended to enable non-programmers to build Windows business applications via a drag and drop design interface.

This second beta release will also feature integration with the Windows Azure cloud platform and the capability to customise via extensions, which will provide such functionality as pivot table controls or a better application appearance. Extensions can be built via the Visual Studio Professional IDE. In this vein, Infragistics is offering UI and data visualisation controls for LightSwitch with the second beta.

Geared to citizen or end user developers, LightSwitch is a simplified version of Visual Studio that takes away most of the technology decisions in the development process, said Dave Mendlen, senior director of developer marketing at Microsoft.

"LightSwitch provides a simpler and faster way to create high quality line-of-business applications for the desktop, the web and the cloud," Mendlen said. "We do this by providing a simplified development model with tools that abstract away the majority of code writing."

There is some ability to code in Visual Basic or C# with LightSwitch, but most users will not write code, Mendlen said. He cited his own administrator as a user of LightSwitch. She is using it to build an application that tracks PCs in the department, he said.

Although LightSwitch applications are not intended to be mission critical, they could be handed off to professional developers who could tweak them for greater scalability if the applications become popular. Developers could, for example, enable a LightSwitch application to be spread over multiple tiers, such as over different servers.

LightSwitch is intended to eventually be a commercial product. General availability is due later this year. The beta release will be available on MSDN on Tuesday and via a download for non-MSDN subscribers on Thursday, at Microsoft's website.