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IT managers expect developers to stay abreast of the
constantly evolving development landscape. In fact, it’s imperative for you to
keep your skill set up to date in order to maintain employment and
marketability. The trouble is you may find hard to squeeze in time to learn
about the latest technologies.

So we decided to provide an overview of what’s on the
Microsoft’s development radar for this year. From new versions to new
initiatives, it looks like it’s going to be an interesting year.

.NET Framework 2.0
The .NET Framework version
2.0 is in its second beta
. This version improves scalability and
performance with improved caching, application deployment, and updating with ClickOnce technology, and offers support for the
broadest array of browsers and devices with ASP.NET 2.0 controls and services.
There are a variety of new classes as well as updates to others and removing
existing classes. This is the base for all .NET-based applications, so it is a
major update. You’ll need to be aware of the changes for future application
development, as well as ensuring existing applications run as planned using it.

While ASP.NET is part of the .NET Framework, it does require additional
setup (via Web server) and it is often discussed as a separate technology.
I know many Web developers who are very excited about the next version of
ASP.NET. Version
adds more than 50 new controls, an enhanced security model, simplified
data access, site themes, and database caching. One major enhancement is ASP.NET
2.0’s standards support of XHTML and
accessibility standards (Section 508/WCAG).

Visual Studio .NET 2005
Although there are a number of non-Microsoft .NET
development environments available, Microsoft’s very own Visual Studio .NET (VS
.NET) 2005 is the clear frontrunner. It is the most popular .NET IDE, and the
next iteration, Visual
Studio .NET 2005
, addresses the features introduced in the next release of the
framework, as well as improvements to the development client.

One of the first things you may notice is the many flavors
of VS .NET 2005: Team System, Professional Edition, Standard Edition, and
Express Edition. They cover the various roles you may fill—from team member to
Web developer. The new team features within VS .NET
are a welcome addition and make it much easier to work with other team
members—without even leaving your desk. In particular, the Team System is a
plethora of tools for the various team roles including architects, developers,
testers, managers, and so forth.

In addition, there is tight integration with SQL Server 2005
to create database solutions within VS .NET as well as more support for
building multi-tiered solutions. Tighter integration with Microsoft Office is
included as well, making it easy to build applications that take advantage of
Office features. This is just a sampling of the numerous enhancements included
in this next release.

SQL Server 2005
It is hard to believe that we are still using SQL Server 2000. While the
technology is solid, it surprises me that it has been so long since Microsoft
has released a new version. Well, the time to release a new version is finally
approaching with SQL
Server 2005

The new version offers tighter .NET integration with the
ability to utilize T-SQL or managed code. In addition, it’s possible to develop
Web services within the database server. There are also enhancements to XML
support, reporting, and T-SQL.

Indigo is a set of .NET technologies for building and running connected
systems. It is built around the Web services architecture. Advanced Web
services support in Indigo provides secure, reliable, and transacted messaging
along with interoperability. Indigo’s service-oriented programming model is
built on the.NET Framework and simplifies development of connected systems.
Indigo will be available for the next version of Windows (Longhorn) as well as
for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

When should you start familiarizing yourself with these technologies?

I know many developers who can’t wait to get their hands on
new technologies, but I find it difficult to immerse myself in something new
when I have to complete existing projects. My existing projects utilize
current, accepted technologies like .NET Framework 1.1 so I don’t need to confuse
myself with new features that aren’t available.

On the other hand, I do find it beneficial to be aware of
upcoming product versions and their features. This enables me to recognize
situations where the new technologies may prove useful, and allows me to
provide customers with more comprehensive answers.

One caveat with new technology is the length of time it will
take to enter the mainstream once it has been released. This can be a
considerable amount of time with large companies, so it is good to know your