Primary among the new features in and new direction for Orcas will be advances in how the toolset handles data, sources said.
Data becomes "cool" in Orcas, said a source familiar with Microsofts strategy for Orcas. "Data becomes a first-class citizen in the tool."
Indeed, Anders Hejlsberg, Microsoft distinguished engineer and father of the C# language at Microsoft, will be delivering talks on just how this will work.
Hejlsberg is scheduled to talk about the .Net Language Integrated Query Framework.
An abstract of the talk said: "The future Orcas release of Visual Studio aims to unify the programming models through integrated query capabilities in C# and Visual Basic, a strongly typed data access framework, and an innovative API for manipulating and querying XML."
Hejlsberg hinted as much in an interview with eWEEK at Microsofts TechEd in Orlando in June.
"My particular interest for the past couple of years has been to really think deeply about the big impedance mismatch we have between programming languages, C# in particular, and the database world, like SQL—or, for that matter, the XML world, like XQuery and those languages that exist," Hejlsberg said.
Meanwhile, Hejlsberg will discuss the future of C# and demonstrate a new compiler he has developed for improved data handling in C# 3.0.
And Paul Vick, tech lead, Visual Basic development at Microsoft, will give a similar talk on the future of Visual Basic.
"Visual Basic 9.0 will offer radical improvements in its ability to work with data in all its forms: as objects, as XML, as relational data," said the abstract for Vicks session. "Also, get a glimpse into the future of dynamic programming in VB with coverage of new features intended to radically simplify working with dynamically typed data on the .Net platform," the abstract said.
Indeed, in looking to its future Microsoft is reaching back to its past, sources said.
In Orcas, many of the new and innovative features actually borrow from Microsofts FoxPro database, sources said.
And the team that has been working on the VB data integration capabilities has been referred to as the "Zorro" team inside Microsoft—in homage to the FoxPro ties, sources said. Zorro is Spanish for fox.
FoxPro and Visual FoxPro are all about data, and in the new world of Visual Basic, data handling and rapid application development become fused, sources said.
Internally, WinForms and Visual Basic have been coupled under the same group at Microsoft.
Regarding C# and FoxPro, Hejlsberg told eWEEK: "FoxPro comes at it from a different angle. They have their own run-time infrastructure and they are not hosted on .Net the same way as the other languages are. So thats the ball they have to chase. C# is already on what we think is the right run-time infrastructure but is lacking the capabilities of deeper data integration. So thats where were looking."
Despite putting FoxPro features in the key Orcas language, Microsoft has said it is planning to continue to enhance FoxPro. A first service pack for FoxPro 9.0 is due by the end of 2005.
There also seems to be a move afoot inside Microsoft to break down walls between the FoxPro team and the other Visual Studio data tools teams.
Levy and Alan Griver, who is Microsofts Visual Studio Data Group manager, were interviewed in the FoxTalk newsletter, and Griver had this to say about Fox collaboration inside the company:
"I made a blog entry a few months ago—not in much detail—that basically talked about Visual Studio Data, which is the team that reports to me. Its a team that is made up of multiple groups, if you will. Fox is one of them, and the Data Tools in Visual Studio is another. I dont believe that there should be a wall between the two teams.
"To that end, some of the Fox people are bringing some of the great capabilities of Fox to .Net. But at the same time, there are people from the Visual Data Tools team who are working now on Fox. Its not a question of resources going only one way from Fox to Visual Studio."
Meanwhile, although Microsoft will discuss Visual Studio 2005, code-named Whidbey, at the PDC, the major focus will be on Orcas, sources said.
"Just like the 2003 PDC was about Whidbey, this years PDC will be about Orcas," a source said. Microsoft typically holds its PDC every two years.
Microsoft will re-focus on Whidbey at the launch of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 on Nov. 7 in San Francisco.
Mary Jo Foley of Microsoft Watch contributed to this article.
This story was updated On August 29 to reflect Microsofts latest plans for FoxPro.