Microsoft is changing the way that new versions of the .NET framework impact existing applications. Here are the goals that Microsoft has. Installing new versions of the .NET framework should not break existing applications that are installed. The new version should also be backward compatible. Finally applications should run against the version of the .NET framework they were released under.
These new Microsoft goals are realized in the .NET framework version 4. This is a statement that must be tested thoroughly. Previously the new .NET frameworks would be used for any existing installed application. However now Microsoft claims the latest version will not break existing apps. I can envision the need of virtual machines to test .NET framework upgrades, and the impacts on applications which depend on prior versions of the framework.
Microsoft claims that the .NET framework version 4 is the most backward compatible version yet. My recommendation is to trust, but verify.
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