Microsoft releases key Vista developer technologies

The software company posts two software development technologies that are part of WinFX, Vista's programming model.

Mike Ricciuti Staff writer, CNET News
Mike Ricciuti joined CNET in 1996. He is now CNET News' Boston-based executive editor and east coast bureau chief, serving as department editor for business technology and software covered by CNET News, Reviews, and Download.com. E-mail Mike.
Mike Ricciuti
2 min read
Microsoft on Wednesday gave developers access to a key piece of Windows Vista, months ahead of the operating system's release.

The company posted near-final versions of two software development technologies that are part of WinFX, the underlying programming model being introduced with Vista, which is slated to ship late this year.

The release is "a significant checkpoint" on the road toward delivery of the company's new programming model, since it allows developers to build and deploy applications on their core production systems, said Ari Bixhorn, director of Web services strategy at Microsoft.

WinFX combines Microsoft's existing .Net programming model with new tools for more easily linking software over the Internet, displaying data and creating business systems, Microsoft said. It will be shipped with Vista and also made available in versions for Microsoft's current client and server operating systems, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, Bixhorn said.

The programming model includes the application programming interfaces used by millions of developers to build software that runs on Windows. Microsoft's goal in certifying parts of WinFX for production use--ahead of Vista's launch--is to entice developers to create new programs tied to the new development model, thus driving demand for Vista.

The two new technologies released on Wednesday are Windows Communication Foundation, developed under the code name Indigo, and Windows Workflow Foundation. WCF links server-based systems using Web services, while WWF is used to map business processes to networked applications.

Both are being made available under what Microsoft terms a "go live" license, meaning that the code can be used in production settings.

Microsoft demonstrated Vista, developed under the code name Longhorn, in 2003 and planned to release the operating system in 2004, but the company has since scaled back its initial plans for the release.

Making parts of WinFX backward-compatible with current Windows releases means that developers can get started before Vista arrives and new programs will work on existing PCs, Bixhorn said.

"We're giving customers the green light to use this in production," he said. "We have been working with several hundred early adopters for past year or so. We've done reliability testing...and additional stress tests that enable (the software) to be used in production."

The two technologies, in addition to a preview release of WinFX, are available to the general public for free download from Microsoft's Developer Network Web site, Bixhorn said.

One of Microsoft's goals with the programming model is to make Windows more appealing to companies building new business applications that use a development method called a service-oriented architecture. SOAs are modular systems that rely on standards--notably Web services and XML--to be more flexible and cost-effective, analysts say.

Overall, while Microsoft executives continue to predict widescale acceptance of Vista by businesses, market analysts say the switch won't happen overnight. Gartner analyst Michael Silver, for instance, says that companies will need at least 18 months of preparation and testing after Vista's debut before they can deploy it.