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-- by James E. Powell
What Microsoft did for bundling applications in a suite-and growing its market share to an estimated 80 percent-it now wants to do for development tools. The company announced Visual Studio 97, packaging together new versions of Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual J++ and Visual FoxPro. The suite also includes a newcomer for Web development, Visual InterDev (previously known as Internet Studio, and before that code-named Blackbird). The tools emphasize multi-tier client/server architecture, Active Server Pages and Web interfaces.
It's not the money
Microsoft insists price isn't the motive; it's that more than 50 percent of professional developers use more than one tool. The company says VB and FoxPro excel at component consumption, VJ++ and VC++ are the best component creators and the distinction between tools will blur as the products become "richer." For now, individual products will continue to be available separately.
As was the case with the first Office suite, the tools within Visual Studio 97 aren't perfectly integrated: Visual InterDev isn't integrated with Visual Basic, and the debuggers for some tools are different.
Borland, Microsoft's largest development tool rival, says it has no plans to follow suit. Zach Urlocker, director of product management, said his customers are more interested in object interoperability. For example, Borland's alliance with Oracle emphasizes sharing an editor and object inspector, as well as the integration of Borland tools with Oracle server technology and development products.
Incidentally, if you think Office is bloated, Visual Studio should be a real treat: A complete install is estimated to take 2.4GB. The package has a $1,499 price tag.