Gates at OOPSLA

[PROGRAMMERS REPORT, November 19, 2002] -- At the recent OOPSLA 2002 conference in Seattle, Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates discussed the upcoming road map for Visual C#, .NET and Visual C++. Gates repeated recent company statements that a new version of Visual C++ .NET will be 98% conformant to the ISO C++ standard.

Gates told the OOPSLA audience that XML standards such as SOAP, UDDI and WSDL ''will create a framework that will allow us to think of software at many different levels of scales.''

Software will be viewed, continued Gates, as ''components that can be fit together, even in cases where the developers of the different components haven't had to work together or design the same structures.''

Gates said his company's highly touted ''sabbatical'' for security issues -- held earlier this year -- had uncovered some useful practices. ''A lot of it has to do with the process, the discipline of reviewing the code and making sure the amount of code that's actually a point of vulnerability is very, very small,'' he said.

Going through the security reviews was ''very enlightening in terms of looking at the surface area of the system that had grown up and [seeing] if there were a defect in those lines of code that would create a problem,'' he said.

''So the process of review, the process of keeping that surface area small -- the human elements that go into that are a very big part of it,'' added Gates.

''We also need to have higher-level description, richer typing of the systems, [and a better] understanding [of] the constraints of the systems so that you can use model-based approaches that look statically at what's going on with the code and flag things at compilation time,'' he said.

Gates recalled that, when he dropped out of Harvard in the mid-'70s, he was somewhat hesitant, because he would miss out on participating in the work being done at the time to prove that programs behaved in a certain way.

''It turns out I didn't miss all that much in terms of rapid progress,'' he joked.

Constraint systems with model checking are key to future innovations in software development, he suggested.

[For the complete transcript of Gates' OOPSLA speech, go to http://www.microsoft.com/billgates/speeches/2002/11-08oopsla.asp]

Speaking to Programmers Report on the eve of Gates' OOPSLA appearance, Microsoft's Nick Hodapp, product manager for Visual C++, said Microsoft's recent work in C-related tools focuses on standards conformance, code performance, code security and rapid application development through Windows Forms.

''Innovation has been happening in libraries that developers are creating in C++,'' Hodapp said. Many of these are community written, said Hodapp, who pointed to Boost, Blitz and Loki as examples of hot classes.

''Visual C++ has had difficulty building these libraries,'' he admitted, but added that a goal of the Everett release of Visual Studio is to ''let our developers use and contribute to these libraries.'' Compilation advances for newer hardware are also in the mix for Everett, he said.

Meanwhile, C++ ''defensive programming'' will get greater support. ''We had buffer security checking in the last release. Here, we have improved [on that] by expanding the repertoire of attacks it understands,'' he said.

As far as Windows Forms goes, that has pretty much been the playground of VB and C# developers. ''That will now be enabled for V++ developers, as well,'' said Hodapp.

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About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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