Microsoft updates development platform for Vista
What is it?
Not a moment too soon, Microsoft has released version 3.0 of its .net software development platform, which developers will need to make use of new features in the Windows Vista operating system, such as the Windows Presentation, Workflow and Communication foundations.
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But like the foundations, previously codenamed Avalon and Indigo, .net Framework 3.0 has had a previous incarnation: WinFX (Windows Framework Extension).
When WinFX was announced, analyst firm Gartner said, "These technologies represent the largest change in Microsoft's programmer interfaces since the introduction of Win32 with Windows 95 and NT 3.1 nearly 10 years ago." It added, "Developers will need to migrate their skills to the .net Framework."
Version 3.0 of .net will ship with Vista by default. After initially proposing to exclude XP and Windows 2003, Microsoft is now making the new technology available by download for users of these older operating systems.
Where did it originate?
The .net Framework was released in beta for public testing in 2000. WinFX appeared in 2003, heralding the end of Win32 (which had grown to 70,000 application programming interfaces). Win32 had succeeded Win16 in 1992.
What's it for?
Windows Presentation Foundation Classes (WPF, previously known as Avalon) is described in terms familiar from every release of a Microsoft development product as a "technology for building rich Windows applications".
Based on XML and vector graphics, WPF is concerned with managing layout, graphics (including 3D) and text.
Windows Communication Foundation Classes (WCF, previously called Indigo) brings web service concepts to all program interoperations, whether local or remote.
Windows Workflow Foundation Classes (WF) uses workflow to automate tasks and integrate transactions. The fourth new element in .net 3.0 is Windows Cardspace (WCS, previously Infocard), which stores and manages digital identities.
What makes it special?
Although the platform is available to XP and Windows 2003 users, the full benefits will only be available to Vista users. Applications should be able to run on other platforms that support .net 3.0, but that is a theoretical advantage, with initiatives such as Mono struggling to implement .net 2.0.
How difficult is it to master?
For those who are already working with managed code, Microsoft said WinFX/.net Framework 3.0 would "seem like second nature".
Microsoft has pledged to ensure that older applications will continue to run, but Win32 applications will not be able to take advantage of the Foundation Classes, so it is time for those who have not yet done so to move to the .net Framework.
What systems does it run on?
Vista and the forthcoming Windows Server, although downloads are available for XP and Windows Server 2003.
What's coming up?
Microsoft has also announced related plug-ins and add-ons for Visual Studio 2005, but the full development capabilities of .net 3.0 will not be available until the "Orcas" release of Visual Studio, vaguely promised for some time after the general release of Vista.
Rates of pay
Developers with two years' experience of the .net Framework can expect to earn £35,000 and over.
You can download the .net Framework version 3.0 from MSDN. Microsoft is also offering three two-hour e-learning clinics free to devlopers. These provide introductions to developing witht eh Presentation, Communication and Workflow foundations using Visual Studio. Developers will need two years' experience as a full-time developer using Visual Studio 2005/Visual Studio 2003.