Visual Studio Key to MS E-Business Strategy

BOSTON (06/05/2000) - Developers at Microsoft Corp.'s Tech Ed show in Orlando today got the most revealing glimpse so far of Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS), Microsoft's view of how software will be transformed into services that live on the Internet. Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates claimed new development tools will make it easy to create those Internet services.

Microsoft's Visual Studio tool set and Visual Basic language have large followings, and in his keynote this morning, Gates said Microsoft will leverage that popularity to push Microsoft to the forefront of the electronic-business market.

Gates said Visual Studio 7 will to contain all the tools needed to "expose" applications to the Internet, using content-tagging language XML. In a demonstration, Tech Ed attendees were shown how exposing an application to the Net could be accomplished with a few drag-and-drop operations. An alpha version of Visual Studio 7 will be available this summer, with a beta shipping in the fall and general availability expected at an undisclosed later date.

In the meantime, programmers will get their hands on a Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) tool kit for the current Visual Studio 6. SOAP is an XML-based protocol for program-to-program communication, initially pushed by Microsoft but now also backed by IBM and others.

In a demonstration of the tool kit, Tech Ed attendees were shown how a Web-based translation service could be hooked into Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client, so an e-mail message could be automatically translated from English into French when it is sent.

Gates said Microsoft will invest US$2 billion during the next three years to bring Visual Studio and Visual Basic programmers up-to-date with new technologies such as XML and SOAP.

In a second key announcement, Microsoft unveiled BizTalk Orchestration, a feature that will appear in BizTalk Server, Microsoft's XML server technology due later this year.

Orchestration, based on the design tools Microsoft recently gained through its acquisition of Visio Corp., lets business analysts join with developers to create diagrams of business processes. Elements in a diagram are graphically connected to pieces of code that implement them. It is then possible to modify business processes by manipulating the diagram.

Gates was originally expected to outline NGWS at an event in Redmond, Washington, where the company is headquartered. The event was delayed because Microsoft feared it would coincide with a decision in its antitrust trial.

But Gates' keynote at Tech Ed revealed many of the components of what is expected to be NGWS. The use of XML will turn Web sites into Web services, said Gates, and services that run on multiple platforms can be combined, again using XML, into a rich view on the PC desktop.

"As we bring together the best of the browser and the best of productivity apps, that's a new synthesis," Gates said.

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