Steve Ballmer has been trying to rally Visual Basic enthusiasts in San Francisco, and in doing so he's opened up a little more on the project Bill Gates allegedly went off to supervise - Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS).
As Ballmer tells it, NGWS a strange cocktail. It seems that it will consist of Windows 2000 ("the cornerstone of Windows DNA," but in its Blackcomb future rev), Visual Studio 7, which will incorporate Web Services, ASP+Web Forms, and language innovations for Visual Basic. The Web development tool will have "deep XML support" and "complete object-oriented programming capabilities", supposedly eliminating the need for using VB script, which will be mixed news to those who have wrestled with it.
This doesn't seem a totally clearly thought through vision. The smoke-'n-mirrors demo didn't work properly either, but Ballmer dismissed this as "extra drama". Visual Studio is to include VB7, with new ASP technology called Web Services to link applications, services and devices using HTTP, XML and SOAP. ASP+Web Forms is to be based on XML and COM+ in a drag-and-drop environment, and since all the programming is to take place on the server, "applications run on any browser and platform".
This bit is well thought out - it confirms what we've been telling you about the way the latest rev of Windows Everywhere is going to depend on client browsers, not operating systems. Ballmer outlined what is planned for VB7, and its relationship to NGWS. Language enhancements are to be added, including features that will make it "a full object-oriented programming language. Object-oriented programming is the most-popular way to build large-scale, robust applications that are easier for their developers to understand, debug and update", we are told. Microsoft's enthusiasm knows no bounds, it seems, for suddenly object-oriented programming has become its flavour of the month: OOP "overcomes the weakness of traditional programming systems that separate data from the instructions... objects can be used as tried-and-true building blocks for the faster creation of applications."
Alleluia! But why has it taken Microsoft twenty years to wake up to the well-understood advantages of object programming? Microsoft stopped beating any drum for object orientation when it quietly dropped the intended object-based filing system for Cairo (the original code name for Windows 2000, announced in March 1993 for delivery in 1994). [Editor's note: Graham Lea is an object nazi - go easy on him, he can't help it] Nor has Microsoft been championing the Object Management Group, or making plans to link non-Windows 2000 applications to applications on other platforms. At least existing CORBA applications can port to Windows 2000, and the COM-to-CORBA interworking spec will enable COM+ applications to interface with CORBA-enabled applications.
For Microsoft to claim, as it does, that "with object-oriented programming, Visual Basic will now deliver all the power of languages such as C++ or Java" is mind boggling, and utterly impossible. As might be expected. there's no date for all this, except that it had been expected this year. Some of it may come in March 2001 at the same time as the next iteration of Windows 2000, but Microsoft has pegged Blackcomb for full NGWS implementation, so don't hold your breath. ®