Microsoft makes early .Net move

Microsoft Corp. planted a .Net stake in the ground last month by rolling out the beta of its Visual Studio.Net and .Net framework at Comdex in Las Vegas.

The company also said it has submitted its new C# (pronounced C sharp) programming language, an object-oriented language designed for its new .Net Internet platform, to the European Computers Manufacturers Association (ECMA), an international standards body.

The moves signify Microsoft’s attempt to shift its six million or so developers to .Net, a broad initiative designed to allow software to run on the Internet and be accessed by any number of devices.

“This is a first and most necessary milestone for Microsoft,” says Dwight Davis, an analyst with Summit Strategies. A key for Microsoft to make the transition to .Net is to create inertia in the developer community. But one of the challenges is to articulate what Microsoft officials commonly refer to as the “.Net vision”.

“The definition of all this .Net stuff is still unclear,” Davis says. “We still don’t know what a .Net application is, so it’s hard to put a finger on what remains to be done to develop .Net.”

In September, Microsoft unveiled its .Net Enterprise Servers, but the move was more of a rebranding of its former Windows DNA servers, including SQL Server and Exchange, and less of a technology shift toward .Net.

However, Visual Studio.Net, originally called Visual Studio7.0, is the first product specifically designed for .Net. It features a drag-and-drop environment that supports prebuilt Web Services. The development environment will begin to familiarize developers with XML, which is key to .Net. It also will incorporate C#.

The beta released at Comdex is not feature-complete and the company plans an enterprise version early next year, according to company officials.

Visual Studio.Net is a major part of the .Net Framework, which includes a multilanguage run time environment and a set of class libraries for constructing the basic building blocks of .Net applications. The framework, which Microsoft calls its next generation Web application development platform, also includes a common set of APIs for all programming languages, which allows error-handling and debugging across languages.

Key to the Framework is the Common Language Runtime (CLR), which is where developers can compile code written in any of 17 languages, including Perl, Python and COBOL. The CLR also was submitted to ECMA along with C#.

Microsoft plans to combine CLR and C# with SOAP and DCOM to foster integration among systems and applications within its .Net strategy.

The C# language allows developers to build components that can be invoked from any application running on any platform. Microsoft officials say it will give developers a way to build Web-based applications and services that can be run over the Internet.

The language has eliminated parts of C++, including multiple inheritance and complex syntax, and added such things as memory allocation features, so that applications need less code, developers make fewer errors and debugging cycles are reduced, according to Microsoft.

The .Net Framework and Visual Studio.Net beta are available free at Microsoft’s Web site (, but only to subscribers to Microsoft’s Developers Network. Others can order the package but will have to pay for materials and shipping.