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MS face-lifts FoxPro tool

Thousands of loyal Visual FoxPro developers are being nudged into the world of Web-based transactions with a new version of the database application builder.

To a new generation of developers raised on Java and the Web, Microsoft's (MSFT) Visual FoxPro database development tool seems about as cutting-edge as an 8-track tape.

But FoxPro remains hugely popular with a handful of core enthusiasts. Now Microsoft is trying to nudge thousands of loyal developers into the new world of Web-based transactions with a brand-new version of the tool.

The new version, code-named Tahoe, updates the aging FoxPro development tool with a support for building transactional Web applications, through links to Microsoft's Transaction Server middleware, company representatives said.

Transaction Server enables the development of networked applications for e-commerce and other systems, using Microsoft's COM component architecture.

However, to use Transaction Server, COM components need to adhere to a design called "apartment model threading" which refers to the execution of multiple operations at one time.

Currently, Visual FoxPro cannot build apartment model COM components. That capability will be included in Tahoe, Microsoft product managers said, allowing developers to build multitier transactional applications using FoxPro.

Aspen is expected to add support for Internet Explorer 4.0 controls, dynamic HTML, and Windows NT-specific technology and infrastructure components, such as Microsoft's Message Queue server, Active Directory services, and Zero Administration technologies, according to Paul Gross, Microsoft's vice president of developer tools.

Visual Studio, introduced earlier this year, also includes Microsoft's Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual J++, and Visual InterDev development tools.

Tahoe builds on Microsoft's continuing plan to move FoxPro developers--a vocal and surprisingly large contingent--into its overall software development strategy based on COM and the company's Windows Distributed interNet Applications Architecture, which Microsoft detailed earlier this year.

FoxPro, now 13 years old, was acquired by Microsoft in 1992 when the company merged with Fox Software. FoxPro was intended as a competitor to the reigning king of development tools at the time, dBase, developed by Ashton Tate and later sold to Borland International.

Both Visual FoxPro and Visual dBase, as the latest incarnation of the tool is called, fell out of favor as client-server development tools such as Sybase's PowerBuilder, later Web development tools like Allaire's Cold Fusion, and Java-based tools came into vogue.