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The .Net strategy will allow users to access data on a variety of Internet-connected devices. In a bid to attract the developer community to the new platform Gates unveiled a new set of development tools.
Release Candidate 1 of the Visual Studio.Net software development suite is the flagship of this set of tools. One key feature is the ability to build a front-end interface for a Web service automatically so that it can be deployed in a way that makes it available on any computing device.
Most of the new functionality is provided through integration with XML, the industry standard that has become the foundation of Microsoft's .Net strategy.
Also unveiled were Release Candidate 1 of the .Net Framework - the architectural blueprints of Microsoft's Internet computing platform - and early code of ASP.Net, the environment for building Web services for active server pages.
XML will be the central way the next version of Microsoft's SQL Server database deals with information. Paving the way for this new database Microsoft has introduced SQLXML 2.0, a set of components for its VisualStudio.Net tool that extends the use of XML in SQL Server.
The Office software suite will also become a tool for working with XML documents. Microsoft is working on a future version that would allow users to display and edit XML documents.
"XML would be the fabric to tie all these things together," Gates said.
Microsoft has made a new service pack for Windows 2000 available on the company's anonymous FTP server as a collection of HotFixes, although some of the newer folders are not publicly available.
Many HotFixes are already available through the Windows Update feature. The files in the publicly available folders are password-protected compressed archives, with passwords available for a fee through Microsoft Services.