During last week's Professional Developers' Conference (PDC) in Orlando the software giant discussed the .net framework, a multi-language development and execution environment for building and running Web services.
According to Microsoft .net will include features such as cross-language inheritance and debugging to aid software development when teams of programmers working in different languages are involved in a software project.
Microsoft plans to make the .net framework the de facto standard for building Web services just as its predecessor, MFC, became the de facto way to create Windows applications. The .net framework will simplify the creation of Web services by automatically handling many programming tasks, regardless of programming language. This will help reduce the amount of code developers must write and eliminate common sources of programming errors.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates promised developers that the .net framework programming model would be part of the company's strategy for the next five or six years.
"A change like what you've witnessed with what goes on in the .net framework can only take place every five or six years. This framework is a much cleaner framework than we've ever had before, but it's also ready to connect up to this XML world that the new Windows releases will usher in," Gates said.
In his keynote speech at the PDC, Paul Maritz, group vice-president for the Windows platform at Microsoft, said the .net framework will be based on a new common-language run time, which means the basic services that enable a program to execute will be unified across the various Microsoft languages.
"It has been a long-time goal of ours to get Visual Basic, Visual C++, and our other languages on to a common footing. So, whatever we do for a C++ developer, we can do for a Visual Basic developer or a developer using any other language, and also have contributions from third parties included in this environment," Maritz said.
The .net framework is based on the new Soap (Simple Object Access Protocol) specification for accessing objects on different machines.
It extends key Microsoft technologies, including the Com (Common Object Model) programming interface and Active Server Pages (ASP).
Active Server Pages+ (ASP+) is the extended .net version of Microsoft's Active Server Pages. Microsoft has positioned the technology as the building blocks for complex, scalable Web applications and services.
By automating complex application features, such as saving information that will be needed later (state management), Microsoft claims ASP+ will be able to reduce the number of lines of code a developer must write by a factor of 10.
Microsoft said ASP+ will automate many of the features required for implementing Web services, by providing transparent XML access to ASP+ applications and automating the use of Soap.
In practice, the ASP+ controls run on the Web server and project their user interface to a client. The application appears as a standard Web page in the browser.