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Microsoft Updates Web Services Tools

Microsoft Corp. Wednesday unveiled two Simple Object Access Protocol-crafted technologies to help developers build and use Web Services, which the software giant bills as "programmable building blocks" for the Internet.

The first tool is the beta release of the Microsoft SOAP Toolkit Version 2.0, which provides developers using Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0 with fast Web Services development capabilities for applications prepared for production. SOAP is a standard that provides a way for applications to communicate with each other over the Internet, independent of platform.

The second is Web Services Behavior for the Internet Explorer browser software, which will pave the way for Web developers to aggregate Web Services from multiple Web pages. Web Services support for IE provides a mechanism for developers to use Web Services from scripts in a Web page to improve aspects of traditional Web page design, yielding a more personalized user experience.

Both tools facilitate the creation and integration of Web Services -- applications made available over the Web via Internet-standard XML, SOAP and UDDI.

Microsoft first introduced SOAP Toolkit 1.0 for Visual Studio 6.0 last summer as a convenience for developers. The new version builds on Web Services standards, including full support for the Web Services Description Language (WSDL), Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) and SOAP 1.1.

The final release of Version 2.0 will go further by incorporating compatibility with the company's .NET platform. The toolkit will work with additional operating systems, including Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 98 and Windows Me, and will be fully supported by Microsoft Product Support Services.

One industry analyst commented on the importance of such upgrades for development standards.

"During the next two years, we expect that B2B solutions will demand Web-service architectures to support dynamic business collaboration," said Thomas Murphy, a program director with META Group. "Web services fundamentally shift the market towards integration and collaboration and must be built on open industry XML standards such as UDDI and SOAP."

Both the beta release of the Microsoft SOAP Toolkit Version 2.0 and the Web Services Behavior for Internet Explorer 5.0 are available for free download here.