Microsoft Gives Peek at Visual Studio .Nets Future

Microsoft hints of productivity enhancements in the next major version of the product, code-named Whidbey.

SAN FRANCISCO—Microsoft Corp. celebrated the first anniversary of its Visual Studio .Net application development environment and .Net Framework with hints of things to come in the next major version of the tool as well as an update on the momentum the existing tool has generated.

Eric Rudder, Microsofts senior vice president of developer and platform evangelism, delivered the opening keynote at the VSLive! 2003 show here. Rudder announced new features in the upcoming Visual Studio .Net 2003, which will be announced next month, as well as hinted at new things coming in the next major version of the product, known by the code-name Whidbey.

Visual Studio .Net 2003 will be more connected and secure, will deliver more developer productivity, and will have a more mature ecosystem than its predecessor, which Microsoft announced at this show a year ago.

The new tool includes more database connectivity for Oracle systems as well as enhanced security features.

"We looked at our trustworthy computing initiative and upped the reliability of ASP.Net and of applications hosting on ASP.Net," Rudder said.

In conjunction with Preemptive Solutions Inc., of Euclid, Ohio, Microsoft is shipping an obfuscation product for Visual Studio .Net called Dotfuscator. "It enables developers to scramble or encrypt their code," Rudder said. It also shrinks the code, for mobile applications, he added.

Rudder announced enhancements to the Visual Studio .Net Integration Program (VSIP), to include Borland Software Corp., AmberPoint Inc. and NetManage Inc. The VSIP program now includes more than 160 members with more than 300 tools that integrate into the Visual Studio .Net environment.

Rudder also announced new public betas of two technologies: the ASP.Net Starter Kits and a set of tools known as Visual Studio Tools for Office.

The five ASP.Net Starter Kits cover e-commerce, portals, data reporting, community and time tracking, and include sample applications for users to get started in building solutions for using ASP.Net.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also announced the public beta for Visual Tools for Office, which will begin next month. Developers can use Visual Basic .Net and Visual C# .Net to automate and extend Microsoft Word and Excel.

"Office is the ultimate client for XML Web services," Rudder said.

Marie Huwe, general manager of Microsofts .Net developer product management group, said "this is the first time weve made Office a serious platform for developers."

John Montgomery, director of .Net developer product management, said, "there are a large number of developers using Visual Basic for Applications, and theyre hitting a ceiling." This tool extends that capability.

Visual Studio .Net 2003 also features tools to migrate Visual Basic 6 code and controls to the new environment.

Microsoft also made an agreement with Oakland, Calif.-based AmberPoint to leverage AmberPoints Web services management solutions in Microsoft Visual Studio .Net for Web services, as well as for integration with Microsoft management solutions such as Microsoft Operations Manager.

In addition, Microsoft highlighted two key customer wins that have had success using Visual Studio .Net. Henry Dennig, IT director for the Annie E. Casey Foundation spoke of how Visual Studio .Net helped his foundation deliver funds to its grantees faster. And Bear Stearns & Co. Inc. discussed migrating several applications to .Net.

While the audience warmed to the success stories using existing and forthcoming technology, they whooped and whistled at the prospect of new productivity enhancements due in the Whidbey release of Visual Studio.

Ari Bixhorn, lead product manager for Visual Studio .Net gave a demonstration of some of the upcoming features in Visual Basic in the Whidbey release—which he called VB Whidbey. The release features new controls, increased data access and the ability to document code using XML-based comments. And one feature that received thunderous applause is the edit and continue feature, which enables developers to debug an application and without stopping the debugger make changes on the fly and keep working.

The Whidbey release is expected in 2004, Microsoft officials said.