Microsoft Releases .NET Framework, Visual Studio .NET

Microsoft gave developers access Tuesday night to the final version of the centerpiece of its .NET Web services strategy.

Completed versions of the Visual Studio .NET developer toolkit and the .NET Framework were posted to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) site late Tuesday.

Granting the several million MSDN members access to the finished or "gold" code marks an important milestone in Microsoft's move to formally launch the product next month at VSLive! in San Francisco. Both products are key pieces of Microsoft's Web services strategy, known as .NET.

Web services is a new paradigm for application development. The idea behind Web services is that applications can share data and invoke capabilities from other applications no matter how those applications were built or what platform they run on.

Nonetheless, an important schism exists between Microsoft's .NET Web services strategy and a Web services approach built on the J2EE platform that is championed by Sun Microsystems and others. Other Web services players include IBM, Oracle, BEA and HP.

While the XML Web services may interoperate nicely in a Web services future, the current battle is to get developers using your development tools and writing applications that run on your server software. For Microsoft at least, revenues also come from MSDN subscriptions and Visual Studio licenses.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says Microsoft has bet the company's future on its .NET strategy. Microsoft has known for several years that it has been losing its once strong hold on developers' attention. Instead of developing to the Win32 APIs, developers have increasingly been writing applications for the Web. .NET is Microsoft's effort to be at the center of the development picture again.

The .NET Framework provides the foundation that the .NET XML Web services -- which Microsoft hopes lots of developers start building -- will run on. Visual Studio .NET gives developers a toolkit to build such Web services and Web services-based applications.

In the hopes of getting lots of developers excited about .NET-based applications, Microsoft staged what it says was its largest beta testing cycle ever with the products. More than 3.5 million beta copies of the .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET went to developers, the company says.

Microsoft hopes to generate more momentum around the platform with the Feb. 13 launch and related events in 145 cities worldwide with an expected 100,000 attendees.

The .NET Framework is a multi-language application execution environment based on XML, SOAP, WSDL and other industry standards. The application runtime handles memory management, address versioning, reliability, scalability and security. Components of the .NET Framework include a common language runtime, class libraries and ASP.NET. The common language runtime supports about 20 languages, but the notable absentee is Sun's Java.

Visual Studio .NET is the newest version of Microsoft's 10-year-old rapid application development environment, with the major update being an overhaul to support and enable the creation and incorporation of Web services-based applications.

Also new to Visual Studio is support for Visual C# .NET, Microsoft's follow on language to C and C++ that incorporates many of the best attributes of Java.

The Visual Studio .NET suite is available in three versions: Professional, Enterprise Developer and Enterprise Architect.

The .NET Framework is available as a free download here. It runs on Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6a, Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 and Windows XP. It will be built into the forthcoming Windows .NET Server operating systems scheduled for release later this year.

Visual Studio .NET is available only to MSDN subscribers.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.


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