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Microsoft steers developers to Longhorn

Company executives give developers a peek of the next major edition of Windows and other forthcoming products in a push to spur interest in the operating system.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Monday plans to discuss the company's strategy to generate interest--and dollars--from an avalanche of Windows-oriented products over the next three years.

At the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Gates and other company executives will detail the company's progress in building the next major edition of Windows, code-named Longhorn, which analysts expect to be released in 2006.

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What's new:
Microsoft is providing developers with more details on Longhorn and other forthcoming products at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

Bottom line:
The company is trying to sell developers on Longhorn--the next edition of Windows--well ahead of its release. "You've got to give them time to work with it," a Microsoft product manager says.

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The executives are aiming to sell developers on how they can take advantage of Longhorn and other forthcoming software components that make up the company's "platform" for building corporate applications, according to Microsoft.

"These developers are on the bleeding edge...and you can't just spring stuff on these guys. You've got to give them time to work with it," said Adam Sohn, product manager of the platform strategy group at Microsoft. "The PDC (Professional Developers Conference) precedes the next wave of the platform by a couple of years, but that's normal for us because we get critical feedback."

Conference attendees will receive a DVD with an early version of Longhorn, as well as forthcoming editions of Microsoft's flagship development tool, Visual Studio.Net, code-named Whidbey, and SQL Server, code-named Yukon.

The software giant is looking to entice developers to adopt the next wave of software updates--notably upgrades to its Visual Studio.Net development tool and its SQL Server database due in late 2004--to drive demand for Windows-based products.

Microsoft relies heavily on professional software programmers to promote the use of Windows-based applications. By sharing the technical details on the software plumbing needed to build such applications, the company hopes to convince technology decision-makers that its software is secure enough.

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Ballmer questions open-source code security
Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft
Security concerns continue to hound the software giant. Last week, the company said that anxiety over vulnerabilities in its software contributed to a larger-than-expected slowdown in corporate sales during its last quarter. Key executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer, have highlighted the company's commitment to improving security.

The conference also represents an opportunity for the company to show how the requirements for building software applications are changing. Microsoft is designing its own software to work in an increasingly spread-out and connected computing environment, which can span many types of computers and organizational lines, Sohn said.

"The focus is really on breaking down barriers between silos of information, which live in different places in the life of an end user," he said.

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Steven VanRoekel, director of Web services marketing at Microsoft, said the company will discuss how developers can use Web services-based software to improve application connectivity. The company also will explain how developers can use features in its .Net line of software to write more secure code and build "smart client" applications, or software that takes advantage of the processing power of desktop PCs, he said.

Other products to be highlighted at the conference include: Indigo, the next version of its .Net Framework, which the company calls "a framework for building connected applications and Web services;" WinFS, a new storage system that will be built into Longhorn; and Avalon, a graphics and presentation system built into the operating system.

Although Longhorn is still a few years away, developers can begin to take advantages of the enhancements that Microsoft is building into its tools and database, Sohn said. Developers who use features such as "managed code," which works to better insulate Windows from program crashes, can expect those skills to transfer to future editions of Windows and other Microsoft products, he said.

Meanwhile, the company has been trying to build excitement in the developer community by setting up several Web logs, or blogs, that have been tracking the upcoming event, which is sold out.

"The sense of community is something we're very cognizant of in looking at the open-source community," Sohn said. "Hopefully, we'll continue to win the hearts and minds of developers."