Microsoft has for the first time shown developers a preview of development tools for its .Net framework, announced last month.
However, some analysts said the software giant's aspirations for .Net to become a ubiquitous platform supporting services across the internet are hampered by its failure to embrace Java.
At the eighth Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2000 in Florida yesterday, Paul Maritz, the company's group vice president of platforms, announced that delegates would receive preview versions of Microsoft .Net framework for building and running web services, and versions of its Visual Studio development system, Visual Studio.Net.
"Delivering this software to developers today is an important milestone in helping developers build next-generation internet software and services," said Maritz. "By creating a unified platform where devices and services co-operate with each other, Microsoft is unleashing a new wave of developer opportunity and creativity that will help developers reach a new level of power and simplicity."
Robin Bloor, founder of analyst Bloor Research, said Microsoft .Net represents a strong offering but the industry is still awaiting delivery.
"There is a lot of good stuff in the strategy, particularly the support for XML, and it is pretty open. The only problem is that the strategy does not embrace Java, which is such a powerful force in the industry," said Bloor.
"Every time Microsoft tries to pull the industry away from something it fails. It needs a strategy to embrace Java, through providing Java interfaces."
The .Net framework provides a development and execution environment for building and running web services using technologies such as Simple Object Access Protocol (Soap) and eXtensible Markup Language (XML).
Soap is a standards-based interoperability protocol that uses XML to provide a common messaging format to link together applications and services across the internet.
With its support for Soap, the .Net Framework extends two of Microsoft's most popular technologies, Active Server Pages and the Component Object Model.
Microsoft has also published two core specifications for creating and using web services aimed at increasing the functionality of the Soap family of XML interoperability specifications.
The specifications are: Soap Contract Language (SCL), which describes the capabilities of web services, and Soap Discovery (Disco), which provides rules for locating web services.
Developers will be able to use the SCL specification to provide other developers and development tools with a description, based on XML, of the messages a web service is expecting to send and receive. For example, they will be able to describe, in a standard way that a stock quote web service understands, how to process messages with stock ticker symbols and return messages with the current stock price.
The Disco specification enables the SCL description of a web service to be automatically discovered. If a developer wants to build the stock quote web service into the application, for example, a tool such as Visual Studio .Net would follow the rules defined in the Disco specification to do so automatically.
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