As expected, Microsoft Chief Software Architect and Chairman Bill Gates headlined the long-awaited launch of Visual Studio.Net at the Marriott Hotel in San Francisco Wednesday.
In his keynote address at the VSLive Visual Studio Developer Conference, Gates highlighted the .Net development environment, a culmination of Microsoft's three-year investment to build a platform on which solution providers can develop XML-based Web services.
"Today is a major step forward in letting people build the next generation of applications," Gates told the standing-room-only crowd.
In addition to Visual Studio.Net, Microsoft on Tuesday launched SQL Server 2000 Web Services Toolkit and BizTalk Server 2000 Toolkit to help developers integrate .Net with applications built on those Microsoft enterprise servers.
Both toolkits are now available from the Microsoft Developer Network.
Gates also unveiled key ISV partners that will be launching .Net-compatible products. ISVs on board to makes tools compatible with .Net are Borland, which will launch a version of its C++Builder and Delphi tools for the platform, and Macromedia, which will do the same with Dreamweaver UltraDev, said Gates.
Other vendors that will make some of their products compatible with .Net are IBM, Computer Associates International, SAP and Groove Networks, he said.
Showing his lighter side, Gates opened his keynote by reminding conference attendees that Thursday is Valentine's Day and, as a last-minute gift idea, he displayed a copy of Visual Studio.Net wrapped in a plush red heart.
Answering critics that say .Net is too proprietary, Gates stressed Microsoft's commitment to ensuring .Net services are compatible with other vendor technologies.
To prove this, Gates mentioned Microsoft's leading role--with competing vendor IBM--in launching the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) last week.
The group aims to teach solution providers how to use Web services across various operating environments and to give them standard ways to implement and test services.
Absent from the list of vendors supporting WS-I was Sun Microsystems, the hardware giant and the creator of the Java platform, .Net's biggest rival.
Taking a verbal shot at Sun, when a slide of WS-I supporting companies flashed on a large screen, Gates said, "A lot of nice companies decided to join this organization."
With the help of Microsoft employees, Gates also demonstrated how .Net makes it easy for developers to create Web services based on standards such as XML and SOAP.
Visual Studio.Net contains the Common Language Runtime (CLR), the framework that enables developers to use multiple languages--including Visual Basic, C#, C++, Perl, Pascal and Java--to create XML-based services that run on the .Net platform.
Visual Studio.Net is the primary competitor to a host of Java-based tools from companies such as Sun, BEA Systems and IBM to help developers build Web services using Java and XML.