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Visual Basic update stalled

The update to Microsoft's flagship development tool, Visual Basic, is delayed while the firm tries to synchronize elements of its tool family.

The shipment of a much-anticipated update to Microsoft's flagship development tool, Visual Basic, has been delayed while the company attempts to synchronize elements of its tool family in anticipation of a unified lineup release later this spring, according to a Microsoft product manager.

Visual Basic 5.0, originally due to ship this month, most likely won't debut until March. "We said the official release will be in the first quarter," said Jon Roskill, Visual Basic product manager at Microsoft. "Things happen at the last minute. We have a window we are shooting for, and we are going to make sure we don't have any problems."

Roskill had in October indicated that VB 5.0 would be released to manufacturing in December, which would put the product on store shelves this month. He said one reason for the delay is to ensure that various ActiveX controls and drivers included in Visual Basic 5.0, and in the company's other development tools, were in sync.

"Roughly 80 percent of our developers use multiple Microsoft tools. Nothing drives these guys crazier than finding out that one control or driver doesn't work in all tools," Roskill said.

Microsoft plans to this spring release the first part of its long-standing effort to unify its multiple development tools, such as Visual C++, Visual J++, Visual InterDev, and Visual SourceSafe. That project, code-named Boston, will result in the delivery of suites that include several of Microsoft's tools, a unified development interface, team development software, and a software reuse repository.

With Boston, Roskill said, "we are thinking a lot about making the full development life cycle more manageable. But before you can run, you have to walk, and you have to sync tools on drivers and DLLs."

Visual Basic 5.0, eagerly anticipated by VB developers, contains new compiler technology, borrowed from the company's Visual C++ toolset, that promises to make Visual Basic applications run faster.

Microsoft is also touting the upgrade as a vehicle to accelerate development of applications based on its ActiveX component architecture. The company is pitting ActiveX against Sun Microsystems' hugely popular Java development language for control of Internet and intranet development.

Other features of VB 5.0 include the ability to launch Visual Basic applications as ActiveX documents so that they can be loaded onto Web servers and inclusion of Microsoft's Developer Studio interface to give the tool a look and feel common with other Microsoft tools. VB 5.0 will also include support for the DCOM cross-platform technology and Microsoft Transaction Server so developers can build cross-platform transactional applications.

A limited-feature Control Creation Edition of VB 5.0, for building ActiveX controls, has been available in beta form from the company's Web site since November. A final version will be posted after the full version of VB 5.0 ships this spring, Roskill said.

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