Gates announces Visual Studio.NET beta 2

Microsoft Corp. chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates announced the second beta of the company's Visual Studio.NET toolkit here at the TechEd developer conference on Tuesday.

Describing Visual Studio as the tools for building Web services based on XML, Gates said Visual Studio.NET is the centerpiece development product of Microsoft's .NET strategy.

Gates also harked back 10 years to the initial release of Visual Basic, here in Atlanta, and said Microsoft now has 8 million VB developers.

"We've enhanced Visual Basic.NET and added new constructs," that give developers more headroom for growth, he said, adding that a new code swap add-in enables developers to find code and components already written by other developers and reuse them to be more productive.

"It's about developer agility, agility meaning the ability to take the applications you have and make them fit your needs," Gates said. "A key part of our approach is you can take existing code into this world and you can take any language you want."

Microsoft also added support for Fortran and RPG (Report Program Generation) to the CLR (Common Language Runtime) within Visual Studio, bringing the total to more than 20 languages.

Fari Ebrahimi, senior vice president of retail business at Verizon Communications Inc. in Dallas, has used the Visual Studio.NET beta in testing environments.

"It looks like we can be more productive with it," Ebrahimi said.

Ebrahimi and his team have used Visual Studio.NET to define programming layers, which he said makes it easier to find errors and performance problems.

He also likes the CLR, which enables non-Windows languages to run on the .NET platform, and is looking forward to using that in its final version. Ebrahimi said his nearly 15,000 programmers will be more productive if they don't have to learn new languages.

"People get familiar with things and should be able to use their language of preference," he added. "Teaching old dogs new tricks may be okay, but if people are comfortable with a language, [the CLR] helps us to get more productivity out of them."

That said, Ebrahimi won't put Visual Studio.NET tools into production environments until the final version of the code looks ready. And Verizon plans to keep the Java it has as well.

"I'm driven by business requirements, so if I see a need, I'm not 100 percent dependent on any one vendor," Ebrahimi said.

Gates said that attendees will receive the beta code on Wednesday.

"We are confident the [final] release will take place this calendar year," he said.

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