The first development tools to help users start prototyping online software services in Microsoft's .net strategy will be unveiled in July.
The software giant is expected to release a beta version of Visual Studio.net at the Microsoft Professional Developer's conference in Florida on 11 July.
Demonstrated during Forum 2000 last week, the new tools suite will provide developers with a way of creating and using external Web-hosted services in the Visual Basic rapid application development environment.
Visual Studio is integrated with Soap (Simple Object Application Protocol), Microsoft's new object programming model that allows applications to use online services running on both Microsoft and non-Microsoft platforms.
Using XML (eXtensible Mark-up Language), generated by Visual Studio, Paul Maritz, vice-president at Microsoft's platform group, showed how software services built with Soap could be re-used by external developers, such as a business partner.
Providing that a software service conforms to Microsoft's Soap specification, a user can publish a component to perform a task such as online billing on the Web. A business partner can then subscribe to this service and integrate it with internal procurement systems.