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July 31, 2000 -- Microsoft's new vision of the Internet is a far cry from today's network of online content. Microsoft views the future Internet as a world of interrelated services that are developed by different individuals, written in different languages, deployed on different types of hardware, and hosted by different Internet operating systems.
The company's offering for this brave new world is the .Net platform. Actually, .Net is not a platform in the traditional sense; it is not a common hardware or software system. Instead, .Net is a collection of protocols that allow Internet applications to take advantage of disparate services running on different machines.
One direct result of Microsoft's new strategy is that the next version of Microsoft Visual Studio will feature retooled languages, modified explicitly to support the .Net platform. Java will be missing from the package, as Visual J++ is being discontinued. Not to worry, though; Microsoft will be introducing a new language, called C#, to fill the void. The company has assigned its best resources, including star language specialist Anders Hejlsberg, to C#'s development.
Given Hejlsberg's history, it's no surprise that Microsoft would entrust this endeavor to him. After all, C# will not be his first attempt to revolutionize the software-development landscape.
As chief architect at Borland, Hejlsberg secretly turned Turbo Pascal into an object-oriented application development language, complete with a truly visual environment and superb database-access features. Once touted as the "VB killer," Delphi has remained a cornerstone product for Borland (now Inprise/Borland).
When Microsoft hired Hejlsberg, luring him with a generous salary, stock options, and a large sign-on bonus, Borland sued for unfair recruiting practices. Borland also claimed -- providing few details to support the accusation -- that Hejlsberg was working on "Delphi for Java." This suit was eventually settled in Borland's favor; by that time, however, Microsoft had put Hejlsberg to work.
TEXTBOX_HEAD: Microsoft's goals for C#
Hejlsberg beefed up Microsoft's Java offering; among other things, he artificially propelled its version number from 1.1 to 6.0 in one release in order to keep it current with the versioning of other Visual Studio languages. In fact, this leapfrogging of version numbers did not exaggerate the differences between 6.0 and its predecessor. Hejlsberg had added features that turned the language into a powerful Windows application-development platform. Additions included access to the Windows API; consequently, programs that took advantage of new features were not portable.
Hejlsberg's changes to Microsoft's offering prompted Sun to sue Microsoft for Java license violations. Instead of keeping the Java platform neutral, Sun claimed, Visual J++ language extensions locked developers into the Microsoft platform. Despite the fact that Microsoft's Visual J++ is arguably the best Java compiler, and that the company's virtual machine (the runtime module that executes Java bytecode) is one of the fastest available, Sun's suit has effectively prevented Microsoft from competing in the Java arena.