today took a giant step in its drive to become a supplier of
upscale development tools for large companies.
The company announced Enterprise versions of its Visual Studio 97
integrated development tool package, Visual Basic 5.0 toolset, and Visual
C++ 5.0 compiler. The Enterprise versions allow teams of programmers to
share and reuse code for building ActiveX-based multitier client-server and
With the new versions, Microsoft has put itself directly in competition
with the top echelon of business application development tool makers for
large corporations, including Oracle,
Forte Software, and Powersoft.
Microsoft is attempting to drive widespread adoption of its ActiveX object
framework by including everything but the kitchen sink into Visual Studio
Enterprise Edition, a strategy that analysts say will make it difficult for traditional
tool makers--regardless of whether Microsoft offer superior technology.
"Their goal is to drive marketshare their way. By offering a value
package, it makes it hard on people offering one product, such as a single
development tool, to survive. With Microsoft's deep pockets and marketing
clout, it makes it much more difficult for others to compete," said Evan
Quinn, an analyst at International Data Corporation.
The Enterprise versions of the tools will include: Microsoft Transaction
Server 1.0, the company's ActiveX-based application server; the Microsoft
SQL Server 6.5 relational database server; Visual SourceSafe 5.0 software
version control system; and a new set of Microsoft visual database tools.
The Enterprise editions of Visual Studio 97 and Visual Basic 5.0 will also
include the company's long-awaited Microsoft Repository, a database for
storing code, application descriptions and models, and other development
information for use by teams of programmers.
Microsoft Transaction Server allows developers to build single-user ActiveX
components and deploy them as part of multiuser, multitiered applications
through a series of Wizards. Transaction Server handles component
distribution, transactions, and security.
The new visual database tools allow developers to view and edit database
objects, such as tables, views, and stored procedures. An SQL debugger for
checking SQL stored procedures from within Visual Basic and Visual C++ is
Microsoft has also introduced an application modeling tool, called Visual
Modeler, for designing ActiveX components. The tool will not be included in
the Visual Basic, Visual C++, or Visual Studio 97 package. But purchasers
of the Enterprise editions of any of those tools can download Visual
Modeler free of charge from Microsoft's Web site once the tools ship later
The company plans to release future development products in much the same
fashion, said Jon Roskill, Visual Basic product manager at Microsoft.
The new Enterprise features will not appeal to all Visual Basic
programmers, said Roskill. "This is really aimed at the top 15 percent of
VB developers in big companies. We're giving them the tools to build a
The Enterprise Versions, while intended for developers building large
applications, are not intended to replace tools used to design and build
multiuser transactional systems used by credit card processing
companies and airlines. This first batch of tools is targeted at developers
building departmental applications supporting a maximum of several hundred users.
But future releases of back-end technology, such as Microsoft Transaction
Server, coupled with future Windows NT clustering features will allow
applications to be scaled up, said Roskill.
Scaling up to that level is on the feature list for the next version of
Visual Studio 97 and other enterprise tools, said Roskill. "We already have
about 50 to 60 features sketched out, but we'll probably only do 15 or 20
A key feature for future versions of Transaction Server will be additional
support for Web-based transactional applications, say Microsoft product
Microsoft has not announced pricing for the new versions, all of which are
scheduled to ship by the end of the first quarter. However, IDC's Quinn said, "I
would be incredibly surprised to see this package priced any higher than
$2,500 per seat," for the Enterprise Edition of Visual Studio, which would
make it very attractive to developers considering more expensive tools from
Powersoft, Forte, and other makers.
Customers who purchased Visual Basic 4.0, Enterprise Edition, or Visual C++
4.2 Enterprise Edition after January 27 are entitled to a free upgrade to
the corresponding version 5.0 Enterprise Edition.
The company also announced a bevy of supporting players, each announcing
new products or a pledge to work with Microsoft's software reuse gear.
Pure Atria said both its
ClearCase and ClearCase Attache software configuration management package,
as well as its Purify error detection software will support Visual Studio 97.
Rational Software said its
Rational Rose modeling tools will work with the Microsoft Repository,
allowing developers to visually model complex application before coding.
Platinum Technology today said
its software modeling, construction, and management products will work with
Visual Studio 97 and the Repository.
Software error detection products from NuMega Technologies will allow developers
to debug ActiveX controls, along with full C++ and Visual Basic applications.
The Powersoft division of Sybase said its S-Designor modeling tool
can store and retrieve application information in the Microsoft Repository.
Logic Works announced that its
Erwin modeling tool supports a bidirectional link with the Microsoft