Microsoft has unveiled a new .NET programming technology, Visual Studio for Applications (VSA), which the vendor claims will give developers more flexibility to create customisable Web applications.
Modelled on Visual Basic for Applications, VSA will let developers write "event-driven programming for the server", said Robert Green, lead product manager for Visual Studio at Microsoft.
The goal is to avoid shipping pure source code or digging into source code that may require hiring outside consultants to build customised applications. The new tool aims to provide a run time that will be embedded into middle-tier business logic.
"Oracle seems to feel you should not customise applications at all. Sun and IBM are very Java-based so there you're mucking around with the source code," Green said. "We are in the middle of that, between not [customising applications] at all and mucking around with the source code."
One analyst noted the need for such technology. "As more and more of the applications developed in the Microsoft environment become dependent on server components, use of this technology will be more and more significant," said Dan Sholler, an analyst at Meta Group. "This is key so that Microsoft can deliver the same kind of quality it has with its traditional [client] environment."
Microsoft will release the first beta of VSA in coming months, when the second beta version of Visual Studio.NET is released, Green said. Microsoft hopes to ship the final versions of both VSA and Visual Studio.NET in the second half of this year.
Five ISVs have signed on as early adopters for VSA: Epicor Software, NetIQ, CI Technologies, Marlborough Stirling and Great Plains Software, which Microsoft acquired in December. The initial release of VSA will only support Visual Basic. Microsoft will add support for other Visual Studio.NET languages later, Green said.
Nick Abbott, developer tools product manager of Microsoft Australia, said there may be several local ISVs wanting early access to the product to provide their end users with the ability to customise applications.
"When we did the same for Visual Basic for applications, we had about a dozen ISVs show initial interest, but I'm not sure exactly how many went ahead with it," he said.
Abbott said the VSA product is distributed and licensed through Summit software, a global sales agent for Microsoft. This company runs worldwide conferences to attract ISV developers to new programming technologies.
Microsoft recently announced record revenue of $US6.59 billion for the final calender quarter of 2000, an 8 per cent increase over the $6.11 billion for the same quarter in 1999. Net income for the same period was $2.62 billion.
Photograph: Microsoft Australia's Nick Abbott.