One of Microsoft Corp.'s first developer tools met one of its latest in a demonstration Tuesday at the TechEd 2001 developers conference here, when Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect, showed how a primitive computer game he wrote long ago on a prototype IBM Corp. PC could be modified by Visual Basic.net.
Bringing back to life one of the first applications Gates ever wrote using Quick Basic -- a predecessor to Visual Basic, which Gates designed in the early 1980s -- the software guru showed how the archaic game Donkey.bas could be transformed from simple two-dimensional graphics into a richer interactive experience using XML (extensible markup language) Web services.
But Gates maintained in his speech that Visual Basic.Net is just one of more than 20 development languages that Microsoft has embraced in order to push its .Net initiative as the best platform for creating applications and Web Services.
"In the future, no one language is going to dominate," Gates said. "They will all be quite vibrant and it is very likely that new languages will emerge."
Instead of pushing a single language, Microsoft is promoting a tool that uses Microsoft's Common Language Runtime (CLRT), which allows developers to write code in languages from the burgeoning C# to its rival Java. That tool is Visual Studio.Net which Microsoft will release in a beta 2 version this week.
Microsoft Tuesday added Fortran and Report Program Generator (RPG) to the list of languages that will run on Visual Studio.Net. Developers can use the graphical environment to build applications that incorporate multiple Web services, including Microsoft's services suite called Hailstorm and its authentication service Passport.
Competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and a variety of other software and hardware vendors have come up with their own ideas for how developers should build Web applications. One of the most popular alternatives is the six-year-old Java. While Sun has promoted Java as the best way to create Web services, Gates said Tuesday that companies will need to be more flexible moving forward.
Even Microsoft -- a company known for its proprietary philosophy -- will have to become flexible. Gates noted that the .Net platform will be one of several competing platforms that will support platform-agnostic Web services.
"Standards will facilitate this," Gates said. "(XML) is the centerpiece standard for how all this rich development and new applications will be pulled together."
Gates professed optimism about a speedy move to a world of Web services, saying that advances in connectivity, microchips, PCs and mobile phones, speech recognition and other technologies continue to move the effort forward.
"The pace of technological change has not slowed down," Gates said. "The promises of digital business, the promise of companies collaborating in a new way -- all of those things are as important and as valid as they ever were."