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Visual Studio .NET, the Tipping Point

Whether you're ready or not, Web services is set to make a lot of noise in the developer community, and Microsoft Corp. intends to lead the band with the general release of Visual Studio .NET -- the first major piece of its .NET Web services strategy -- at VSLive! on Wednesday.

Visual Studio .NET is intended as a single, unified development environment for the creation of XML Web services. It automatically creates the necessary XML and SOAP interface needed to turn an application into an XML Web service. Visual Studio .NET features Visual Basic .NET, which now includes new object-oriented programming features; Visual C++; and C#, a hybrid of C and C++ intended to compete with Sun's Java language. C# is an object-oriented language and boasts type-safety, garbage collection, simplified type declarations, versioning and scalability support, and other features that make developing solutions faster and easier, especially for COM+ and Web services.

Its core is the .NET Framework, which consists of the Framework classes, ASP.NET and the common language runtime.

The .NET Framework Class Library, in turn, lies at the core of the .NET Framework. It supplies the syntax, code examples and related information for each class contained in the .NET Framework namespaces. In other words, it is a comprehensive collection of objects that form the starting point for the creation of any .NET application. Database access, XML manipulation, standardized user interface features and other functionality is intended to handle all of the "plumbing" and technical details, allowing developers to concentrate on actually developing business applications.

Meanwhile, the common language runtime allows developers to create applications using any modern programming language. Companies are already working on modules that allow developers to write .NET applications using COBOL, Ada, Haskal, SmallTalk, Java, Perl, Python and others.

Developer Perspective
Excitement in the Web services space is building as the release of Visual Studio .Net approaches because the environment will allow the estimated 6 million to 8 million developers now programming in Visual Basic -- arguably the largest single developer community -- to leverage their skills to create Web services applications.

"It's the largest community of developers on a single product," said Mike Clark, senior analyst at Lucin and principal designer for Web services brokerage Salcentral. "If they can get that going, the whole idea of Web services and technology will just take off."

Clark, who has been using .NET for the past 8 months, said Visual Studio .NET should not be a difficult transition for VB programmers.

"At this moment in time, everything that we've known and loved from Visual Basic has been reproduced," he said, adding that those things that have changed have resulted in clear benefits. In fact, Clark's major concern is that Visual Studio .NET will make it so easy to deploy Web services that quality control will become an issue.

He added, "We've cut 1,000 lines of code in the past month and we've shoved it into ASP.NET and we got it working in 24 hours."

Is Microsoft on Easy Street? Certainly not. For the details, see Page 2.