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Microsoft vice president makes .Net pitch

The software giant's vice president makes a simple pitch to win crucial buy-in among developers for its .Net vision
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

What a difference three weeks makes.

Microsoft group vice president Paul Maritz kicked off the company's eighth Professional Developers Conference in Orlando Tuesday by articulating how Microsoft wants programmers to transition to its .Net platform.

But instead of delivering a repeat of the confusing, vapourware-ridden message that the company's top brass provided to press and analysts at Microsoft's Forum 2000 .Net day at the end of June, Maritz kept the .Net pitch simple.

"It is our task to introduce you to a new generation of technologies from Microsoft," Maritz told the estimated 6,000 developers attending his morning PDC keynote.

Maritz added that Microsoft's goal was to extend the current client-server computing paradigm to a "client-server-services" paradigm.

Maritz rolled out the .Net Framework, a set of classes and libraries that will allow developers to create a set of common building blocks that will underlie the next generation of .Net applications and services from Microsoft and third-party vendors.

He told conference attendees to expect to receive on Wednesday alpha versions of the framework and Visual Studio .Net (aka, Visual Studio 7) tool set. Already, Microsoft has delivered preview releases of Visual Studio .Net and the .Net Framework to more than 100 companies, Maritz said.

Maritz touted Microsoft's forthcoming Active Server Pages+ (ASP+) technology as providing .Net developers with a new, multilanguage programming model. And he told attendees that Microsoft has in the works a new server-side tool called Xlang (pronounced "slang") that will enable them to "orchestrate multiple Web services". Maritz described Xlang as an "XML business-process automation workflow language".

While Maritz emphasised the importance of the .Net programming tools and technologies to Microsoft's emerging vision, he also touched on the three other core components of the company's .Net platform.

These are .Net enterprise servers, which are the next releases of Microsoft's server applications, such as SQL Server 2000, Exchange 2000, Host Integration Server 2000, etc, the .Net building block services, such as Passport Internet authentication, calendaring, XML storage that the company plans to roll out over the next 18 months, and a new generation of .Net device software that will run on both PCs and devices.

Mariz also touched briefly on the relevance of current and future Windows operating system releases to developers. He told attendees that Whistler, the successor to Windows 2000, will be the first fully .Net-enabled Windows release. Blackcomb, the follow-on to Whistler, will be the vehicle for delivering Version 2 of Microsoft's .Net technologies.

Maritz told developers to expect Whistler in the second half of 2001, several months later than the March 2001 target the company set for itself at the start of this year for Whistler delivery. Blackcomb, which Maritz characterized as a "major" upgrade, is due out in the second half of 2002.

Maritz told developers that Microsoft has a four-fold plan to help them move to .Net. First, the company wants to help them build more rapidly "rich Internet user experiences". Then, the company is aiming to help programmers "transform Web sites into Web services," Maritz said. After that, Microsoft is counting on its .Net technologies to allow developers to orchestrate multiple services and ultimately federate Web services and corporate services, Maritz added.

Microsoft's PDC runs through the week. Chairman Bill Gates is slated to provide the Wednesday morning keynote.

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