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Microsoft outlines Visual Studio plans

Microsoft Corp. laid out its (relatively) long-term plans for Visual Studio .NET last week in events at the VSLive! Conference in San Francisco.

With Bill Gates nowhere in sight, it was left to Eric Rudder, senior VP of developer and platform evangelism, to lay out Microsoft's plans for the soon-to-be-unveiled Visual Studio .NET 2003, and add a preview of the subsequent revision, code-named Whidbey. Visual Studio .NET 2003, expected to ship to beta sites in March, promises improved security capabilities, connections to non-Microsoft data sources (such as Oracle databases), and extensions that will allow developers to utilize the .NET Framework in phones and PDAs, Rudder said.

''You'll see Visual Studio .NET 2003 complement Windows Server 2003,'' Rudder promised. ''You'll see the next version of Visual Studio complement the next version of SQL Server, which we code-named Yukon. And in the version after that, you'll see the next version of Visual Studio complement our Longhorn release of the next operating system. We want to make sure [users] have the right tools available at the right time to really take advantage of the platform.''

Microsoft last week also said it has started distributing public betas of five ASP.NET Starter Kits. The five starter kits are sample applications designed to help developers use ASP.NET, Rudder said. They include e-commerce storefronts, data-reporting applications, time-tracking programs and community portals. All the APIs in the new kits are available as managed code through the .NET Framework or as native code COM objects, which allow developers to use C#, VB .NET, VB or C++ to develop applications, he said.

Rudder admitted that the upcoming version of the VS.NET dev tool would be little more than an incremental update -- adding that it was, ''in some senses, designed to be a small update.'' The real focus of this year's conference was the growing swarm of vendors buzzing around .NET.

Venerable SD toolmaker Borland used the VSLive! stage to give its first public showing of its Project Sidewinder IDE for the .NET Framework. Borland officials concede that the software is not ready for prime time just yet, but when it is, the new developer tool suite will compete with Microsoft's VS.NET. Sidewinder (the product's code name) is a C#-based IDE for building applications on the .NET Framework, including ASP.NET, ADO.NET and WinForms, said Borland's VP of developer relations and chief evangelist David Intersimone. Although the first generation of the product supports just the one language, said Intersimone, Borland plans to support other languages with the product in future versions.

''An awful lot of developers are using JBuilder, [Borland's enormously popular Java IDE]'' Intersimone said. ''More and more of them were telling us that they were working with C#, which is the .NET language. It's only natural that they would want to work with a familiar tool.''

One of the most attention-getting demos in the exhibit hall was an application put together by Infragistics' technology evangelist, Brad McCabe. To prove that developers could achieve the look and feel of a thick-client app with a thin-client (browser-based) implementation, McCabe built a reference application using Infragistics' NetAdvantage ASP.NET components for Web navigation, menu, tabs, toolbars, trees, grids and charts. Called simply ''Expense Application,'' the app involves Web services, client-side Java scripting, XML data binding and other real-world code samples, McCabe explained.

Infragistics makes reusable, presentation layer components for building Microsoft .NET, COM and Java applications. The East Windsor, N.J.-based company last week brought out a new version of its NetAdvantage suite at the show. NetAdvantage 2003 Vol. 1 is an integrated toolset for developing the presentation layer for applications. It will feature components for Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003, Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft COM, and will include major feature enhancements of the ASP.NET Grid and Visual Studio .NET 2003, McCabe said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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