Microsoft hones .Net tools for battle

A revamped suite of Visual Studio.Net development tools will be released this fall, with more updates to follow. They're weapons in the battle for enterprise customers, says Microsoft.

REDMOND, Wash.--Microsoft executives unveiled plans Thursday for upcoming versions of the company's software development tools.

Microsoft plans to deliver this fall a minor update to its Visual Studio.Net suite of development tools, said Eric Rudder, senior vice president of Microsoft's developer and platform evangelism. New features include better security and performance and tight integration with the forthcoming Windows .Net Server operating system for businesses. The update, code-named "Everett," will also provide support for writing software for mobile devices, such as cell phones.

Visual Studio.Net, originally released in February, is a revamped package of tools that includes Visual Studio, C++, C# and other tools for writing software. It serves as Microsoft's chief weapon in the battle for software developers, who have a choice between Microsoft's .Net Web services plan and rival software sold by Sun Microsystems, BEA Systems, Oracle, IBM and other Java backers. Web services is an emerging method of writing software that allows businesses to interact via the Internet.

Microsoft detailed its Visual Studio.Net plans at its yearly financial analyst meeting here at its company headquarters Thursday.

Rudder said the company's tools are essential weapons in the battle for enterprise customers that Microsoft is waging with IBM and other competitors.

"With .Net, our biggest competitor here is ourselves, getting (developer) trials and adoption," he said. "Demonstrating the value of .Net is incredibly important to us."

After the minor revision to Visual Studio.Net this year, Microsoft will release a more comprehensive update in late 2003 when the company expects to release its next version of its SQL Server database, code-named "Yukon." The new version of Visual Studio.Net will feature new visual-design tools and support Yukon's new data storage architecture, which will make it easier to find and use corporate data, Rudder said.

Microsoft product manager John Montgomery said this version will offer improved communications between developers within a project, allowing them to instant message each other or chat on newsgroups, for example.

Rudder added that this second new version will allow software developers to use any programming language they want to write "stored procedures," or programs that execute on a server, for Microsoft's SQL Server database.

Further out, Microsoft will release a third new version of Visual Studio.Net to coincide with a the 2004 release of a new version of Windows, code-named "Longhorn," that will use Yukon's data storage capability. This new version will feature a new user interface, Rudder said.

Rudder added that the company will work to increase sales and usage of Visual Studio.Net by targeting developers still in school, by increasing the number of business partners that can help sell .Net software, and through better marketing of the benefits of moving to Web services.

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