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Microsoft hones business tools

Further extending its reach into big corporations, Microsoft debuts a new package of its development tools for the enterprise market.

NEW ORLEANS--Further extending its reach into big corporations, Microsoft will tomorrow announce a new package of its development tools intended to be more enterprise-friendly.

At its TechEd conference here, the company will announce Visual Studio 6.0 Enterprise Edition, a new version of Microsoft's development tool bundle that delivers some of the tool integration and team development features that the company had previously promised.

The reworked bundle also for the first time works with business application software from SAP and Baan, and includes tools for working with Oracle's database software, an indication that Microsoft intends to be a more visible player in the enterprise space.

Business objects from SAP and Baan applications can be imported in Microsoft's repository as COM (component object model) components, meaning that developers can more easily extend those applications.

Paul Gross, Microsoft's vice president of developer tools, will detail the new tool bundle in a morning keynote here tomorrow.

Visual Studio 6.0, developed under the code name Aspen, is more tightly wedded to the company's middle-tier technologies, such as Transaction Server, Message Queue Server, Internet Information Server, and interoperability tools such as SNA Server, Gross told CNET NEWS.COM today.

The new bundle also inaugurates a new strategy from Microsoft that recognizes new realities in the technology marketplace. Fewer big companies are building new applications from scratch, preferring instead to leave the work to packaged software makers, like SAP and PeopleSoft.

"The future is people buying packaged applications, or prebuilt applications," Gross said. "We're focusing on tools that let users assemble component applications that build on and customize those applications."

Version 6.0 of the Enterprise Edition--which is actually the second release of the tools package--includes version 6.0 updates of Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual J++, Visual InterDev, Visual FoxPro, Visual SourceSafe. Also included is the Windows NT Option Pack and new 2.0 releases of Microsoft's Repository and Visual Modeler tools.

A spate of new tools are also included with the bundle, such as: Visual Component Manager, which was included in the previous release of Visual Studio but has been drastically redesigned; Visual Studio Analyzer, a tool for profiling distributed applications and locating bottlenecks; new database schema design tools for Oracle and Microsoft databases; and a set of tools for supporting Microsoft's BackOffice server software bundle.

Visual Studio 6.0 Enterprise Edition will ship in September. Pricing has not been announced. The current enterprise version of Visual Studio 97 is priced at $1,499.