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Microsoft Enables .NET Developer Tools for Smart Devices

Microsoft Corp. provided specifics of its plans to extend .NET to the Pocket PC and other smart mobile devices, including PDAs and cell phones, during the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles this week.

A “compact” version of the soon-to-be released .NET Framework was introduced at the show, which hosted nearly 7,000 developers at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The solution is designed to allow Visual Studio .NET developers to easily configure applications for access via smart devices.

Also, Microsoft revealed Smart Device Extensions for Visual Studio .NET, as well as Web services and .NET support under the next release of its Windows CE mobile operating system.

Microsoft said the next-generation Windows CE -- which up until now was code-named Talisker -- will be called Windows CE .NET upon its release. Meanwhile, the Smart Device Extensions for Visual Studio .NET include a set of tools for building, debugging, and deploying client-side applications for smart devices.

Steven Lees, product manager for the .NET Compact Framework, says the smart devices Microsoft is targeting with these new solutions include not only PDAs and smart phones, but also the embedded devices often found in the manufacturing industry and at point-of-sale locations. “Our sweet spot was really to go to the enterprise application developer,” says Lees, who describes smart-device capabilities as critical to the enterprise developer market.

As of now, the betas of the .NET Compact Framework and Smart Device Extensions are available as separate downloads that plug into Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework. However, Lees says, when publicly released, the tools will be tightly integrated with their respective parent solutions.

By extending .NET to the mobile smart device arena, Microsoft is maintaining pace with its primary competition Sun Microsystems, which is also making moves in this space. In fact, at its Services on Demand Summit this week in Santa Clara Calif., Sun announced a mobile development deal with Schlumberger Network Solutions, involving Sun’s Open Net Environment, which is Sun’s answer to .NET.

Many analysts believe it too early to tell which Web services platform, .NET or Sun ONE, is garnering more interest from developers. A recent survey by ComponentSource, a technology agnostic marketplace for reusable software components, found that of its base of about 600 developer members, nearly a third had committed to Microsoft .NET. The adoption ratio for Sun’s Enterprise Java Bean (EJB) component model was significantly less.

Lees says Microsoft expects the SDEs for Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Compact Framework to be publicly available around the middle of next year. Window CE .NET is slated for release by the end of this year, which is also when Microsoft says the public releases of Visual Studio .NET and the standard version of the .NET Framework will be ready.

Microsoft’s plan to bring .NET to smart devices is another sign of Redmond’s commitment to Web services – a trend that Lees figures will continue until everything Microsoft is .NET-ified. “I think that something we’ll start to see more of too,” says Lees. “Just the better integration [of .NET] across all platforms."

About the Author

Matt Migliore is regular contributor to ENTmag.com. He focuses particularly on Microsoft .NET and other Web services technologies. Matt was the editor of several technology-related Web publications and electronic newsletters, including Web Services Report, ASP insights and MIDRANGE Systems.

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