Get Ready for The Next Generation:Building Powerful Applications that Work Across the Web

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 15, 2000 — The business meeting is over. You’re in the back seat of a taxi on the way to the airport when you get an instant message on your Internet-enabled cell phone. Your next meeting in Denver has been cancelled and you might just as well fly directly home to Chicago. A few taps on the screen update your schedule, send it to your associates at the home office, rewrite your airline ticket and send email to your family to let them know you’ll be home in time for dinner. You’re using instant messaging, calendaring, e-commerce and email functions but, rather than moving in and out of a handful of applications, you’re using them all from a single, seamless interface.

Or, perhaps you’re at work monitoring inventory flow. Orders booked from retailers around the country automatically spur inventory movements from your central facility to regional distribution centers, lead to the reactivation of extra manufacturing capacity and — as raw materials stocks decline to threshold levels — initiate purchase orders to suppliers and track their progress in providing just-in-time inventory. Half a dozen or more applications are interacting over an intranet and extranet in a secure and reliable fashion. And although you’re monitoring this activity, you might just as well go back to drafting that marketing strategy memo you were working on, because all of these supply-chain applications are interacting seamlessly and automatically.

If the first generation of Internet applications provided email and file transfers and the second generation enabled Web publishing and information distribution, the third generation is evidenced by the rise of a fully programmable Web that allows applications to work together seamlessly across the Internet the way the best desktop applications today can work together on a local hard drive.

Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer discussed the concept today in San Francisco before thousands of developers gathered for his keynote address to the Visual Basic Insiders Technical Summit (VBITS). His wide-ranging talk delved into Microsoft’s vision of the programmable Web, reinforced the company’s deep commitment to developers and outlined Microsoft’s strategy for Next Generation Web Services (NGWS) that will simplify the development of enterprise Web applications.

Key to that strategy are Windows 2000 and new Web Services, ASP+ Web Forms and Visual Basic language innovations. These enhancements will build on the existing skills of the more than 3.2 million Visual Basic developers who represent more than half of all professional developers worldwide, and who can easily develop third-generation Web applications that lead to a better Internet user experience.

“Software developers will create the new Internet user experience that consumers and businesses want on the Web,”
says Ballmer.
“We’re focusing on enabling that experience by arming the millions of Visual Basic developers with a comprehensive set of Web development tools that include in-depth support for XML — the key standard for exchanging information on the Web that’s the next step after HTML — and a complete solution programmers can use to build applications out of standard components that can be stored and used anywhere on the Web.”

Web Services

To make it faster and easier for developers to create new Web applications for consumers and businesses, Ballmer today said that Microsoft is adding Web Services to Visual Basic. The millions of Visual Basic developers already create powerful desktop applications with relative ease by taking advantage of ready-to-use components and Windows services. Web Services expands this reusable “building block” concept to the Web, enabling developers to use standard Web protocols like HTTP and XML that eliminate the need to write all code from scratch, support state-of-the-art security technologies, and can be accessed by programs written in any language, using any component model and running on any operating platform.

“Web Services offer incredible value to organizations,”
said Ballmer.
“Not only can companies more easily integrate internal applications, but they can also access services exposed by other businesses, enabling, for example, manufacturers and their suppliers to easily work together, or enabling several companies — such as a retailer, credit card company and parcel service — to work together to support a common customer.”

In addition to Web Services, Ballmer said that Microsoft is adding and integrating XML into the entire toolset of its next-generation Visual Studio development products. That will make it simpler for developers to use the programmable language of the Web to create new applications.

ASP+ Web Forms

Ballmer also announced today that Microsoft is adding new ASP+ Web Forms technology to the next release of Visual Studio to further ease the work of developers creating new Web applications. ASP+ Web Forms are analogous to the Windows Forms that already ease development of traditional applications for Visual Basic developers. With Web Forms, developers will create Web applications by dragging-and-dropping pre-fabricated controls onto a form, then double-clicking on those controls to add whatever special instructions they may require.

In addition to speeding development, ASP+ Web Forms give developers the choice of using any of their favorite Visual Studio languages, such as Visual Basic or C++. The resulting applications will run on any browser and any computing platform, so they are accessible to virtually all users. The instructions behind Web Forms run on the server rather than the browser for faster execution and easier maintenance.

Language Enhancements

Ballmer also announced new language enhancements to Visual Basic that will boost its effectiveness for developers creating new Web applications. The key to these enhancements is the updating of Visual Basic with features that make it a full object-oriented programming language. Object-oriented programming is the most popular way to build large-scale, robust applications that are easier for their developers to understand, debug and update.

Object-oriented programming overcomes the weakness of traditional programming systems that separate data from the instructions on what the application is supposed to do with that data. With traditional, structured systems, it’s easier for data to be modified without the developer’s knowledge, creating errors that are difficult to identify and correct. Object-oriented programming, on the other hand, packages data and its instructions in a single, modular, reusable unit called an object. These objects can be used as tried-and-true building blocks for the faster creation of larger applications. With object-oriented programming, Visual Basic will now deliver all the power of languages such as C++ or Java while maintaining the greater ease of use that has made it the world’s most popular development tool.

“Today’s announcements are just part of our overall strategy to build Next Generation Windows Services that will provide an entirely new Internet user experience,”
summed up Ballmer.
“By empowering millions of developers to take advantage of these advances, we are hoping to catapult consumers and businesses to entirely new levels of productivity and opportunity. For those who think the Internet is something special now: just wait for the next generation.”

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