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Microsoft readies Visual Basic 6.0

The software giant is hoping to lighten the load on application developers with the more Web- and database-friendly version of its development tool.

Microsoft is hoping to lighten the load on application developers with a new, more Web- and database-friendly version of its Visual Basic development tool.

The company will next week announce Visual Basic 6.0, which will feature additional tools for building Dynamic HTML (DHTML) client systems, component object model (COM)-based middle tier components, and database systems for both Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle databases.

Visual Basic 6.0 will debut in September, as part of the company's Visual Studio 6.0 development tool package. Microsoft announced Visual Studio 6.0 Enterprise Edition, a new package of its development tools intended to be more enterprise-friendly, last week at its TechEd conference in New Orleans.

As previously reported Microsoft also gave TechEd attendees a sneak peek at Visual Basic 6.0 last week. The company also announced a deal with Iona Technologies to deliver increased integration between that firm's OrbixOTM software and Microsoft Transaction Server.

While VB 6.0 does indicate that Microsoft recognizes the existence of other software companies' products--such as Oracle databases--within big companies, it is a decidedly Microsoft-centric tool, said Melinda-Carol Ballou, an analyst with the Meta Group. "VB is still a Microsoft-centric tool, largely focused on Microsoft environments. But the COM to CORBA bridging, and Oracle support is very important for linking to non-Microsoft applications," she said.

"Basically, it's a decent upgrade," Ballou said. "The fact that they are creating COM to CORBA interoperability is big news, and marks a very important shift in Microsoft's corporate strategy. In the past, they have let everyone else do the integration work."

Microsoft claims that 95 percent of VB developers build applications that access data of some sort, and many use the tool for building front end applications to data stored in Oracle databases, said Carolyn Duffy, a Visual Basic product manager. Microsoft claims that VB is the most popular front-end tool among Oracle users, Duffy said.

The tool will let developers create browser-neutral HTML applications. But new tools have been added to VB for building DHTML clients intended for use with Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser, Duffy said. A new Dynamic HTML Page Designer speeds up development of DHTML clients, while the WebClass Designer, also new with VB 6.0, provides an object model for building Web server components for use with Microsoft's Internet Information Server.

Visual Basic 6.0 will include features to make it easier to tie applications to databases and other data sources through the company's ActiveX Data Objects (ADO) technology, an existing interface to Microsoft's OLE DB universal data access application programming interface (API).

Last week, Microsoft product managers demonstrated VB 6.0 being used to build a server-side application, linked to both a Microsoft SQL Server database and Microsoft Index Server, the company's text search tool for corporate intranets.

The demonstration application queried both SQL Server and Index Server using ADO, and enabled the deployment of thin-client HTML applications.

Microsoft is adding features to Visual Basic 6.0 intended to allow server-side application development using the same forms-based interface currently used to build client applications.

Also planned for VB 6.0 are new debugging tools that will also be included in Visual C++ 6.0. The new tools let developers debug middle-tier applications built using the company's Transaction Server middleware.

Visual Studio 6.0 is slated for introduction in September. No pricing has been announced. The current version of Visual Basic Enterprise Edition is priced at $1,199.