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Microsoft tries to jumpstart Windows 2000 development

By Sharon Gaudin
Network World, 02/17/00

SAN FRANCISCO - Microsoft is upgrading its application development tool set to get as many programmers as possible building Windows 2000 applications - a savvy move since that well is basically dry.

The company this week announced that it is reworking its Visual Studio tool set to focus on building Web-enabled applications, along with applications that are Windows-2000 specific. Visual Studio 7.0 is slated to ship by year-end but a new tool kit is expected in March, according to a Microsoft spokesman.

Version 7.0 of Visual Studio, which is an umbrella that encompasses Microsoft's Visual C++, Visual Basic and other tools, is being designed to include utilities for Web-based forms and services, along with offering XML and HTTP-based services. But industry watchers say the changes to Visual Basic are creating the real buzz in the developer community.

"There have been features reserved for Visual C++ since the dawn of the VB world,'' says Dan Mezick, president of New Technology Solutions, a North Haven, Conn. VB consultant and training company. "Now Microsoft is putting those features into VB... That's Microsoft trying to leverage the huge base of VB developers and get them writing applications for Windows 2000.''

Microsoft contends there are 3.4 million VB developers but several analyst firms put that number anywhere from 1.5 million to 2.5 million. There's generally believed to be about 300,000 to 500,000 VC++ developers.

The object-oriented features that are being dropped into VB include:

Inheritance, which is like a digital family tree, where features are automatically passed down to new objects. It is virtually the opposite of aggregation, which has been a VB mainstay.

Free threading, which means that more than one process can use the same application at the same time.

Polymorphism, geared to increase code reuse, which allows the same piece of code to be used in different ways.

Analysts say these kinds of tool features are what will help developers write applications for Windows 2000, a complicated operating system with a slew of new features, like Active Directory and Intellimirror. Windows 2000 has anywhere from 30 million to 45 million lines of code. Windows NT 4.0, its predecessor, has about 15 million lines of code.

And Microsoft is hoping that more developers will mean more Windows 2000 applications. As of this week, there are 27 certified applications for the new operating system.

Laura Didio, an analyst for Giga Information Group, however, says it will take more than beefed up tools to get developers building programs for the complicated new operating system.

"We are talking about really complicated programs,'' Didio says. "It's a much larger code base and there's lots of add-ons and wizards. It's a whole new environment. You just don't hand people tools and say, go to it. They need design guides and how-to's and do's and don'ts if they're going to get any level of quality." she says.

"That's what I'm watching for,'' Didio says.

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