Gates Outlines Strategy for Developers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- In his keynote address here at the TechEd conference, Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp.'s chairman and chief software architect, made several announcements related to the Visual Studio suite of tools.

He outlined an initiative to support developers and hinted at a forthcoming version of Visual Studio. Gates discussed Rapid Application Developer (RAD) for the Server tools, a new simple object access protocol (SOAP) toolkit, and the BizTalk Orchestration.

Gates announced a three-year commitment to developers by Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) through plans to spend $2 billion on developer support and training. The program is designed to educate the developer base Microsoft currently has and inform them about XML and future technologies. The intention is to grow the base of Visual Studio developers.

Gates also foreshadowed what developers can expect from the next version of Visual Studio. "We need to take the work we’ve done around Visual Studio and make it better," he says. As part of the strategy, Microsoft will employ a Web services platform and plans to recraft Visual Studio's suite of tools around XML.

Gates brought on stage Dave Mendlen, the Visual Studio product planner, to discuss some of the new features of the pending Visual Studio 7.0.

Mendlen demonstrated RAD for the Server, Server Explorer, and a visual component designer. Visual Studio RAD for the Server is designed to help Windows DNA 2000 developers build server-side applications and Web services.

"You can drag and drop and build Web applications the same way Visual Studio developers build Windows applications," Mendlen says.

Server Explorer lets users view resources such as event logs, message queues, and performance counters.

Mendlen says the new tools mean the suite will have full object-oriented programming. "Visual Studio will ship in alpha in the summer, beta in the fall, and we’ll ship [the final version] when it’s ready," Mendlen says.

Although Visual Studio 7.0 is still vaporware, the company issued a SOAP toolkit that lets developers build to Web services with Visual Studio 6.0.

SOAP is an open standards-based protocol that uses XML as a common messaging format to link together applications and services on the Internet. The toolkit, which is available as a free download from the Microsoft Developer Network Web site, includes source code, adds new features to Visual Studio 6.0, and includes wizards to turn Windows applications into Web services.

"The toolkit provides the plumbing to build Web services with Visual Studio 6.0," Mendlen said.

Gates also announced the BizTalk Orchestration technology. "BizTalk Orchestration lets you visually design and build business processes," Gates said.

David Wascha, the BizTalk product manager at Microsoft, said the Orchestration tool is built on top of the products that Microsoft acquired when it bought Visio.

BizTalk Orchestration lets customers build business processes, set up the connections business processes require to accomplish tasks, and compile the business processes into XML, which, in turn, is the code that is executed at run time by BizTalk Orchestration.

"BizTalk Server Orchestration is the back-end business processes that go on behind the scenes," Wascha said.

According to the TechEd guide given to attendees, Gates originally planned to detail Microsoft’s Next Generation Windows Services. A spokeswoman said that changed when Forum 2000, where Microsoft intends to outline the three-year plan to press and analysts, was delayed from June 1 to June 22.