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At this week's TechEd 2001 developer's conference, second beta versions of Visual Studio.Net are being distributed. By all accounts this is the last beta, and the company will now focus on bug fixes rather than new features prior to the product's release, which will be towards the end of the year.

If you are a developer Microsoft aims for you to get a copy of the latest beta. It expects to distribute some 2.5 million copies of the software before the official launch.

Two new Visual Studio.Net tools are being introduced this week and these should be available in beta versions next month. These are Visual Studio.Net Enterprise Architect (VSEA) and Visual Studio.Net Enterprise Developer (VSED). The former provides conceptual, logical and physical modelling tools for mapping out the business requirements of .Net applications, while the latter includes frameworks and templates as version control and data management capabilities. In addition, both of these offer software and database testing tools, the first version of C#, and the Common Language Runtime for the .Net environment.

There are a couple of gems in here that are worth considering in more detail. The first of these is the Common Language Runtime. This has now been extended to support some 20 different languages including, in announcements made this week, both Fortran and RPG. It is worth quoting the Great William himself, "in the future, no one language is going to dominate. They will all be quite vibrant, and it is likely that new languages will emerge".

This is an interesting consideration. If you are going to build a service-based environment (and it is not clear that many are planning to do that at the moment), then Sun and Microsoft (to take two obvious contenders) offer radically different approaches.

Sun offers a development environment that is entirely predicated upon the use of Java. Microsoft is the one that is positioning itself as the champion of a multi-lingual approach. If we break this dichotomy down to its bare bones it is clear that "Java is best" is an inferior argument to "use whatever language suits you". Of course, the best technology does not always win out but Microsoft does seem to have a preferable approach in this instance.

The other point that caught our attention was the introduction of VSEA and its implications for the modelling market in general. According to Dan Hay, who is the lead product manager for Visual Studio.Net, "because of the asynchronous nature of .Net, good modelling and an understanding of business logic is key to its success".

We completely agree. And this will also apply to comparable Internet service building environments from other vendors. But we remain to be convinced about how good the modelling is in VSEA. While it will support UML 1.2, history suggests that it will be good at drawing pictures but less robust when it comes to the sort of features associated with traditional modelling (dare we say CASE) tools. There are already some signs of resurgence in this market and this seems likely to continue.

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