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Microsoft Prints Roadmap for Visual Studio .NET

With the company putting all of it weight behind .NET, Microsoft is hoping to ease some of developers' concerns about Visual Studio's role in the .Net framework by providing details on the direction of its development products.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant Thursday provided a road map for future versions of its flagship development tool, Visual Studio .NET, and the Microsoft .NET Framework.

"One of the sources of confusion around Visual Studio .Net is how it is going to line up with the rest of the .Net framework," said Rob Perry, a senior analyst at the Yankee Group. "(Microsoft is) saying 'we know that again things are not perfectly lined up, but here is how they will line up in the future.'"

According to the company, forthcoming versions of Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework will take advantage of their relationship with important platform milestones including Microsoft Windows .NET Server and the next version of SQL Server(TM), code-named "Yukon."

Microsoft has openly admitted that it may oversold .NET early on, and is now trying to clearly outline that it has a designated path to follow, as it battles with Sun, IBM, BEA and other Java proponents in a vision for Web services.

".NET came out with a little bit too forward thinking view of where this could lead," said Perry. "Now Web services has come back to a much more understandable progression around how you deliver applications and Microsoft has delivered enough of the pieces that now it's just a matter of how to bring them all together, how to use them, and what benefits you can get out of them."

Microsoft now has to convince some of the most important players, developers, of its plans to synchronize the next version of Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework, code-named "Everett," with Windows .NET Server, which incorporates the .NET Framework into the Windows platform infrastructure.

"Developers are the software industry's most important asset and constantly have their eyes on the future," said Eric Rudder, senior vice president of the Developer and Platform Evangelism Division at Microsoft. "By providing the road map for Visual Studio, our mission is to continue to give developers the clarity they need to be successful on the Microsoft platform."

Visual J# .NET, Microsoft's development tool for Java-language developers who want to build applications and services on the .NET Framework, will be included with the Visual Studio integrated development environment (IDE), along with the standard Visual Basic .NET, Visual C++ .NET and Visual C# .NET.

Visual J# .NET was previously available as a download and began shipping with Visual Studio .NET in July 2002.

The rifts between Sun's Java and .Net have been widely reported. While Microsoft talks about embracing Java, and has included the new tool for Java developers, the two companies have been unable or unwilling to come to agreements to enable it directly within the platform.

"It makes perfect sense for Microsoft to provide their developer base with the best tools to use in the development environment they control," said Perry about J#. "I don't think real Java people will be jumping over to these tool, the camps are still somewhat segmented."

While the likes of Sun and IBM heavily push the use of a single language, namely Java for deployment of Web Services, for developers, Microsoft is keeping its commitment to a diverse array of languages, noting that VS "Everett" will support more than 20 programming languages and integrate each of the Microsoft programming languages with visual design support.

While not going into any depth about the upcoming "Yukon" release of SQL server, Microsoft noted that Visual Studio for "Yukon" will build upon improvements to deepen the synergies between the tool and the language, as well as provide additional support for the latest XML Web services standards and specifications.

Another significant path the company plans to ease for developers is VS integration for creating apps for mobile. Microsoft will integrate the .NET Compact Framework and Smart Device Extensions into Visual Studio "Everett," which would allow a developer to use existing skills in Visual Studio to build applications for "smart" mobile devices.

Microsoft is offering registered users of Visual Studio .NET who do not have rights to the next version under annuity licenses or MSDN subscriptions a limited-time deal to acquire "Everett" for $29. Full pricing and availability for Visual Studio "Everett" have not yet been determined.

The company plans to make full disclosure of its roadmap for development products available next Monday, Aug. 26, on its developer site.