Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage at this year's VBITS (Visual Basic Insiders Technical Summit) show in San Francisco and discussed the next version of Visual Basic (version 7.0) and how it relates to Microsoft's upcoming Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS). The keynote address also touched on what Microsoft calls the "third-generation Web application," which requires Windows 2000, ASP+ Web Forms, and the next version of Visual Basic.
"Software developers will create the new Internet user experience that consumers and businesses want on the Web," Ballmer says. "We're focusing on enabling that experience by arming the millions of Visual Basic developers with a comprehensive set of Web development tools that include in-depth support for XML, the key standard for exchanging information on the Web that’s the next step after HTML, and a complete solution programmers can use to build applications out of standard components that can be stored and used anywhere on the Web."
With 3.2 million users, Visual Basic is the most popular development tool of all time. Visual Basic developers represent over half of all software developers today. Microsoft intends to make it easy for these developers to transition to the development of third-generation Web applications. Third-generation Web apps will define a new, fully programmable Web where distributed applications work together seamlessly over the Internet the way that desktop applications do today.
The first step is a new set of Web Services for Visual Basic, which will make it easier for VB developers to create new Web applications. Web Services for Visual Basic takes the widely used visual programming model in Visual Basic and extends it to Web development, allowing for easy drag-and-drop distributed software development.
"Web Services offer incredible value to organizations," Ballmer says. "Not only can companies more easily integrate internal applications, but they can also access services exposed by other businesses, enabling, for example, manufacturers and their suppliers to easily work together, or enabling several companies, such as a retailer, credit card company and parcel service, to work together to support a common customer."
Additionally, the core Visual Basic product will be integrated with a comprehensive XML toolkit, allowing developers to work more closely with the native language of the Internet. The next version of Visual Studio, which will include Visual Basic 7.0, will feature a new Active Server Pages (ASP) technology dubbed ASP+ Web Forms, where developers will create Web applications by dragging-and-dropping pre-fabricated controls onto a form, then double-clicking those controls to add whatever functionality they require. To Visual Basic users, this is familiar territory, and that's the point: Making Web development as easy as Windows development. However, ASP+ Web Forms will work with any of the Visual Studio tools, including Visual C++, allowing developers to work in the language of their choice.
Visual Basic 7.0 will also feature a number of language enhancements, including the much-anticipated move to a fully object-oriented programming model. Visual Basic will now be able to compete with the power of C++ or Java while offering the ease of use developers have come to expect from VB.
"Today's announcements are just part of our overall strategy to build Next Generation Windows Services that will provide an entirely new Internet user experience," Ballmer explains. "By empowering millions of developers to take advantage of these advances, we are hoping to catapult consumers and businesses to entirely new levels of productivity and opportunity. For those who think the Internet is something special now: just wait for the next generation."
As for the expected ship date, no one seems to know for sure. However, reports suggest that Visual Studio 7.0, along with VB 7.0, will ship in March 2001, along with Whistler, the next update to Windows 2000. Historically, Microsoft has issued Visual Studio releases in late summer.
To view a Webcast of Ballmer's keynote address, please visit the Visual Studio Web site