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Microsoft Avalon, Indigo to Help Align .NET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft unveiled a new set of developer tools and partnerships today it hopes will make its .NET framework work better with the outside world.

The announcements this week at the VSLive! 2005 developer show here highlight Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates' pledge of interoperability with other platforms like J2EE and Web services initiatives.

Key to the strategy is the advancement of Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005 developer platform code-named Whidbey, along with a subsystem for its Longhorn platform known as Avalon, and its unified programming model for building service-oriented applications called Indigo. A second beta version of Whidbey is due this spring. Microsoft advanced its release of Avalon today and is expected to do the same for Indigo later this week.

"There is heavy interest in connecting systems between Visual Studio and the rest of Microsoft offerings like Office and Windows Server and SQL Server," "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of the developer division at Microsoft, said during his keynote address. "We look at the platform in the broadest sense and look to make it interoperable with the rest. People sometimes talk about a closed system from Microsoft. We know our customers have heterogeneous systems. And for four or five years now, we have made great progress. Web services, for example, are simplifying application and data integration across all customer segments, connecting people and partners."

Somasegar noted that Microsoft's most important work in Web services has been done with IBM, BEA and others.

The .NET Framework is comprised of two parts: the Common Language Runtime (CLR), which manages program code execution; and the class libraries, made up of the ActiveX Data Objects for .NET (ADO.NET) classes for XML manipulation and Active Server Pages for .NET (ASP.NET), which are the classes used to create Web applications.

Developers can create applications using any one of more than 20 different programming languages -- though Microsoft aggressively markets its Visual Basic .NET (VB.NET), Visual C# .NET, Visual C++ .NET and Visual J# .NET languages on the Visual Studio .NET IDE . Other supported languages include Perl, COBOL, Java, SmallTalk and Python.

With that in mind, Microsoft released the second community technology preview (CTP) of Avalon. The presentation subsystem for Longhorn introduces several advances including new controls, improvements to the layout system, performance improvements and enhanced XAML support.

Likewise, Microsoft also released its Connected Systems Business Kit, which is a collection of sample applications, presentations, white papers and videos that show how to install connected systems and service-oriented architectures. The company also opened up its patterns and practices Enterprise Library, which contains application blocks designed to assist enterprise developers with common enterprise development challenges.

"The cheapest piece of code is something I don't have to write in the first place," Somasegar said.

In conjunction with the release, Microsoft VSIP partner LogicLibrary said it would include the patterns and practices Enterprise Library in its Logidex metadata repository. Microsoft's also highlighted its extended partnership with Micro Focus, which is now adopting Visual Studio as its single integrated development environment (IDE) for helping transition companies off mainframes.

Ian Archbell, vice president of product management at Micro Focus told internetnews.com the company has been working with Microsoft for at least two years on integration and its now lining up its service partners EDS, Accenture, and CSC.

"What we are doing is including the ability to integrate a COBOL-based system with .NET on the front end or extending COBOL programs trough Web services standards," said Archbell, whose company is part of the 40-member Mainframe Migration Alliance and similarly charged Migration Consortium. "The process puts the mainframe layer on top of the Windows platforms to allow you to run those applications."

Microsoft's Somasegar said the company has great momentum in the enterprise market noting that the company distributed more than 120 million copies of the .NET framework and sent more than 2.5 million of its .NET enhanced Visual Studio platform in three years.

In addition to its partner relationships, Microsoft served up its Tablet PC server development kit, version 1.7. The company is hoping to encourage more adoption of Tablet PCs. Today, there are more than 200 applications available for purchase or download optimized to run on Tablet PCs.

Microsoft said its Research University Relations group will make up to 10 awards, totaling up to $450,000 in funding, to the Phoenix RFP award for advanced research using an analysis and optimization framework. Phoenix is a collaboration between Microsoft Research, the Microsoft Visual C++ back-end team and the Microsoft Common Language Runtime (CLR) team.

Jim Wagner contributed to this story