Microsoft Shows Off .Net Tools at Conference

ORLANDO (07/11/2000) - Microsoft Corp. executive Paul Maritz opened the company's Professional Developers Conference (PDC) here Tuesday by showcasing upcoming development tools, including an initial version of VisualStudio.Net -- the first product that's due to be released as part of the Internet-based .Net strategy that Microsoft announced last month.

Maritz, group vice president of platforms at Microsoft, said Visual Basic developers will be able to use VisualStudio.Net to create Web-based Internet computing services with drag-and-drop ease. He added that Microsoft plans to hand over to standards bodies the "core intellectual property" inside a new common set of runtime services for its various programming languages, although he didn't provide specifics.

Software developers are gathering at PDC this week to hear about .Net, Microsoft's multiyear plan to convert its products into services that will be made available via the Internet. The .Net strategy was outlined last month, but technical details about the plan have been sparse so far.

During Tuesday morning's opening session, Maritz discussed Microsoft's approach to Web services, which involves piecing together computing services running on multiple servers into a coherent offering using XML technology as the glue. In contrast to rival plans being pushed by other vendors, Microsoft's Web Services concept involves using computing resources on the client as well as the server -- something executives at the company have taken to calling the "rich client" approach.

Maritz said the drag-and-drop capabilities of Visual Studio.Net, which previously was referred to as Visual Studio 7, will be Microsoft's first step in an effort "to do for Web applications what the industry did for [graphical user interface] development." An early version of the software was distributed to attendees, and the finished product is due out next year, he added.

At the basis of Visual Studio.Net is the first release of the .Net Framework, which includes Common Language Runtime (CLR), a new set of services shared by Visual Basic, C++ and the new C# programming language that Microsoft announced last month.

The CLR will offer class libraries that support Microsoft's XML-based Simple Object Access Language (SOAP) specification, and Maritz said Microsoft will make the runtime services available for use by other companies that have developed programming languages. He said the company will also submit CLR to standards organizations.

In a number of demonstrations, developers were shown VisualStudio.Net features such as the ability to incorporate remote "building block services" running on the Internet into a local application, which itself could then be turned into a Web Service via XML. Microsoft plans to supply building blocks that developers will be able to plug into their own applications, Maritz said.

Chris Dickey, an independent software developer based in San Diego, Calif., said he was impressed by the demonstrations. "Some people see this as a plot that Microsoft is hatching, but I see Microsoft addressing real issues that developers are having," Dickey said. He added that VisualStudio.Net "looks like a very productive [development] environment."

Maritz also briefly outlined Microsoft's road map for Windows. He said Whistler, the joint successor to Windows 2000 and Windows Me that's due for release in the second half of next year, will be the first version of the operating system to feature some of the .Net technologies. The Blackcomb release of Windows, set to ship in 2002, will offer fuller .Net integration, Maritz added.

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