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Microsoft retools for .Net

The company announces new high-end development tools as part of its Microsoft.Net plan to offer software and services over the Internet.

Microsoft on Monday announced two new tools that will allow programmers to build software for the Web.

The software giant said it is building two higher-end versions of the next release of its development tools, called Visual Studio.Net. The package includes updates to programming languages Visual Basic, Visual C++, and the first version of C#, a new software-programming language intended to simplify the building of Web-based software.

Microsoft's forthcoming software tools are crucial to the company's .Net strategy, intended to move its Windows operating system and software to the Web. The strategy is aimed at making software available as a service over the Internet to traditional PCs and handheld devices, such as cell phones, personal digital assistants and Web-surfing appliances.

Microsoft is competing against Sun Microsystems, Oracle, IBM and others in the race to offer businesses the software and tools they need to build Web-based software and services.

Microsoft plans to release three versions of its new software-development tool by the end of the year. The company has already released test versions of its "professional edition" to software developers. The company's two new versions, announced Monday, are higher-end versions of the tool.

The Enterprise Architect edition and Enterprise Developer edition will both offer testing tools that allow software programmers to measure the speed and performance of the software they create, said Dan Hey, Microsoft's lead product manager for developer tools. If the tests show the performance isn't adequate, then programmers can tweak their software until they're satisfied.

Both new editions also feature software components, which are pre-built software code, that programmers can assemble together to create their software, Hey said. A shopping cart for an e-commerce Web site is an example of a software component.

Hey said both editions also offer the ability for a manager of a software-development project to create a template that packages together guidelines and components for the software-development team to create their applications.

The Enterprise Architect edition has extra features that allow managers of software projects and nontechnical company executives to work with their programmers to build applications, Hey said. IT features visual "modeling" tools for software and databases, allowing nontechnical executives to create graphical representation of the software that is to be written.

"We had some very entry-level modeling tools, but this is a giant leap forward," Hey said.

The new features in the two higher-end editions are aimed at making it simpler for a software-development team to work together, analysts say.

"It is increasingly becoming more important to make it easier for people other than traditional programmers to build applications, Gartner Group analyst David Smith said. "It's a goal that's been around forever, and we're starting to reach a point where it's becoming somewhat achievable."

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