In a move to reassure Visual Basic 6.0 users, concerned that the launch of Visual Studio marks the end of their development environment, Microsoft has announced that it plans to support VB 6.0 until 2008. However, after 2005 this support will be limited, and VB 6.0 will never get very strong support for 64-bit environments. The company also has admitted that it has no definite plans to help third-party tool vendors maintain tools for the old environment. Microsoft will offer "high level" support for Visual Basic 6.0 until 2005, said Ari Bixhorn, Microsoft's Visual Basic .Net product manager. After that, users will have to pay, and the level of support will be reduced, until the product is retired in 2008. Many business users have built business-critical applications around this "old" version of Visual Basic, and are expecting to continue using them for some time. Microsoft is offering help in moving applications into Visual Studio .Net, in the form of a developer roadshow and an upgrade CD, but for many users this is not going to be practical. "With VB6.0, our main focus is enabling applications to continue to run in the environment they are running in today," said Bixhorn. "Primary support will be for 32-bit environments, although as 64-bit systems become more mainstream, there will be fixes to make VB6.00 apps run on them. This is a 32-bit exit issue, not a VB support issue." Very many corporate VB applications, however, rely on third-party components, from companies such as Sheridan Software Systems, and will need long term support for these. "It might be a good idea to lean on these to adopt a similar support model to Microsoft," conceded Brixhorn. There seems little doubt that the main focus is on helping users to move to Visual Studio .Net.