LOS ANGELES - As expected, Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates announced the general availability of the one and only release candidate for Visual Studio .Net, and the .Net Framework, which were "pretty much ready to go" and which would be final before the year-end.
In a keynote address here at the companys Professional Developers Conference on Tuesday morning, Gates also announced the extension of .Net to smart devices, unveiling the technology preview for the Smart Device Extensions for Visual Studio .Net and the Microsoft .Net Compact Framework.
In addition, he told the several thousand developers in attendance about the availability of a range of software development kits including, the .Net My Services SDK, .Net Alerts SDK, the Tablet PC SDK, the .Net Compact Framework SDK and the .Net Speech SDK which will allow developers to seamlessly embed speech enhancements into existing and new HTML, XHTML and XML Web applications.
Gates also outlined a Microsoft product lineup going forward, which next year includes the release of the Tablet PC, the Windows .Net Servers, the .Net Enterprise Servers 2002, .Net My Services and Visual Studio .Net.
Releases planned for 2003, he said, included the next version of the Windows operating system, currently code-named Longhorn, the Longhorn server line, .Net Enterprise Servers 2003, more .Net My Services and another Visual Studio .Net.
Gates also said that XML Web services and its key tool, Visual Studio .Net, would be the catalysts for driving technology to the next wave of innovation.
Microsoft now had the key pieces around the .Net architecture, he said: Servers, services and intelligent clients, which created the foundation for .Net applications. ".Net depends on three big bets: around XML, a new platform with smart clients, and rich services connected by servers that provide great user experiences," Gates said. "Were talking about allowing user involvement in interacting with the application. Its a vision that includes peer-to-peer and allows you to work offline. Its a big shift from HTML." The next wave of Internet evolution involved standards, connectivity and presentation. XML was about distributed computing, the set of standards required to support e-business. "We have no doubt that this bet will pay off," he said.
Taking XML Global
In line with that, Microsoft also announced on Tuesday its Global XML Web Services Architecture that provides a set of principles and guidelines for advancing the protocols and file formats of todays XML Web services to more complex and sophisticated tasks. This architecture would provide the architecture for the next generation of XML Web services, Microsoft said.
It also published four specifications – WS-Security, WS-License, WS-Routing and WS-Referral which were built on XML Web services specifications. These would be available for a review period and then submitted to standards bodies, Microsoft said.
Gates said this new world of computing would change the world of applications significantly, involving a shift to decentralized and distributed computing that would span multiple clients, servers and services. They would also federate across organizations. New systems that played in larger solutions would have to be built and new orchestration tools developed.
"We think that every piece of our software is revolutionized by XML, which is affecting everything at Microsoft and the way our applications deal with data," he said.
The deployment of code to the client needed to be seamless and hands free so that there was no deployment cost.
"The way we use the PC will change dramatically going forward, resulting in greater productivity, enhanced communications, business solutions, music, movies and photos, TV and games that would always work," Gates said.
The next generation clients would exploit the power of the edge, be XML Web service connected, provide offline support, natural user interface, integrated communications, analytics and action, seamless deployment. "This will all also apply to smart devices," Gates said.
The key client would remain the full-screen client, he added, setting the stage for the release of Windows XP in New York on Thursday. Windows XP represented a key milestone for Microsoft, Gates said, announcing that New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani would be attending the launch event as an indication of his gratitude to Microsoft for its confidence in New York.
XP would also be on virtually every PC by year-end, Gates predicted. It would also be a key upgrade for many users, he said.
The new OS will allow new development features to be added to applications – things like fast-user switching, remote desktop, and improved reliability – even over Windows 2000. Developers could use side-by-side assemblies to isolate applications, preventing "DLL hell" and making them solid for users.
XP also offers system-wide error reporting, which will allow users to send an error report to Microsoft and receive assistance about the problem.
Gates also touted one of his favorite projects, the Tablet PC, "which is like a laptop without the keyboard." It will have 802.11b wireless connectivity, which would become pervasive going forward. The Tablet PC would also be able to run every Microsoft application and would be widely available in the second half of 2002.
The Tablet would be about 2.5 pounds, have a battery life of more than five hours and great support for hot docking. All Tablets would also have support for the .Net Framework.
The building block services of .Net were also very important and fundamental for broad Internet usage, Gates said, and was found in things like Passport, which had more than 200 million accounts and over 2.5 billion authentications a month.