With the latest release of Visual Studio, Microsoft appears to be going through something akin to a 12-step program, and has reached the step where one attempts to make amends for past behaviour - namely, its Windows-centric behaviour.
Microsoft's vice president of tools, Paul Gross, told an audience at the TechEd developer's conference that the company plans to extend the reach of its Visual Studio upgrade - Version 6.0 - to interoperate with different operating systems and platforms.
Windows: not so popular
In doing so, he revealed that Microsoft now does believe that organisations are using operating systems other than Windows.
"You have a range of desktops, you don't only have Windows desktops, and we see that," Gross said.
This marks a change in focus from earlier tools campaigns, when the company pushed developers on the idea of building the best Windows applications they could create.
Luckily for developers who are living that cross-platform reality, Microsoft appears to be putting its money where its mouth is. Visual Studio 6.0, which will ship commercially on September 2, will feature cross-platform client capabilities thanks to the use of HTML, Gross said.
But perhaps more strategically, Visual Studio 6.0 will gain a number of interoperability features with key enterprise software - such as Oracle's database and SAP AG's enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite.
This will extend the usefulness of Microsoft's tools beyond simply "edit, compile, debug" to architecting three-tier, enterprisewide applications, Gross said.
Microsoft refers to its tools and services that help accomplish this as the Distributed Net Architecture (DNA).
"DNA [helps] build, manage, and deploy applications. Those applications have to run on more than NT, they have to interoperate with code on AS/400, MVS, and Unix," Gross said.
In the unspecified future, Microsoft hopes to boost the components of DNA to allow, for example, developers to write client code and let it be determined at runtime whether this code will run on a full-fledged PC, thin client, or just be accessed from the server, Gross said.
And on the server side, DNA's Component Object Model (COM)+ will feature a stronger link to applications so that, for instance, it could be determined at runtime if a transaction in a business application needs to be performed in real time, or if it could be queued up for the next time a connection is made, he said.
In the meantime, Visual Studio 6.0 will provide some sorely needed links to other enterprise applications, according to Gross.
The suite's new database tools that work with Oracle 7.3 and 8.0 will also help in designing schemas, including building and modifying Oracle tables, relationships, and indexes, Gross said.
Also, with Microsoft's Repository 2.0 included in the new suite, Microsoft has opened up the information model to third-party licensees so that they can define new objects that can be stored in the repository, Gross said.
Visual Studio 6.0 is slated for release on September 2.