Microsoft boosts tool set for .Net

Microsoft last week released two beta versions of its Visual Studio.Net tools aimed at easing the task of designing and creating applications that support Web services.

Analysts said the beefed-up releases target enterprise architects and developers who plan and build Web services from scratch. But developers who want to do so with the current Visual Basic applications will need to prep and migrate that code to the new .Net environment.

"There are a lot of changes in Visual Studio.Net that make it difficult to move Visual Basic code," said Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn. He cited differences in syntax and data types between Visual Basic 6.0 and Visual Studio.Net that will make updating existing applications a complex task.

In part of its announcement, the company said that the feature list is now complete for .Net and that it will only address bug fixes from now until year's end, when the product is scheduled to ship. Tips for managing new and existing code are available at http://msdn.microsoft.com, Microsoft officials said.

The company's .Net framework, introduced last year, aims to help developers craft applications as Web services that share functions with disparate applications and devices via the Internet.

Visual Studio.Net Enterprise Architect (VSEA) provides conceptual, logical and physical modeling tools for mapping out the business requirements of .Net applications. Visual Studio.Net Enterprise Developer (VSED) contains frameworks and templates for creating .Net applications, as well as version control and data management utilities.

Dan Hay, Microsoft's lead product manager for Visual Studio.Net, said that because of the asynchronous nature of .Net, good modeling and an understanding of business logic are key to its success.

The .Net framework "requires a different design perspective because it's loosely coupled, and you don't know how many people will access an application," said Dwight Davis, an analyst at Summit Strategies Inc. in Boston.

Both VSEA and VSED offer software and database testing tools, the first version of Microsoft's new object-oriented language C# (pronounced C sharp) and the Common Language Runtime for .Net.

The beta versions of both tools are expected to be available in June, company officials said. The alpha version of Microsoft's entry-level tool, Visual Studio.Net Professional Edition, has been available since November.

All three versions are expected to begin shipping by year's end.

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