Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of presenting the keynote address and chairing the general session at the Microsoft Developer Days event in San Diego. Microsoft held Developer Days events in 34 cities across the United States that week and will hold events in more than 100 venues worldwide during the next few months.

During my keynote address, I demonstrated the power of Visual Studio.NET (VS.NET) for building ASP.NET applications. VS.NET is a suite of developer tools and Microsoft's long-awaited update to its flagship VS 6.0 product, which the company introduced more than 3 years ago.

After I wooed the crowd with some of VS.NET's incredible features, the most frequently asked question from the audience related to Windows XP Professional. (All the demonstrations at Developer Days used the XP Pro platform.) Most folks didn't seem to realize that XP, which is now shipping, includes a powerful version of IIS—IIS 5.1. (The differences between IIS 5.0 and IIS 5.1 aren't really worth mentioning in this article but are well identified in the product's online documentation.) The release candidate of the .NET Framework (the set of programming interfaces at the heart of the .NET platform), the Common Language Runtime (CLR—a run-time environment that manages the execution of code and provides services that make the development process easier), and VS.NET are happy companions on XP Pro running IIS 5.1. Someone in the audience asked, "Do you need XP to run the .NET Framework?" The answer, of course, is no. Windows 2000 runs the framework just fine, and although Microsoft hasn't publicly announced this information, I believe that the company will support the framework on Windows NT. In fact, if Microsoft can coalesce pieces of the .NET Framework, such as the CLR, into a universal collection of engine parts and submit them to standards bodies, I think we'll see Windows running on platforms we never dreamed of.

Someone else asked, "It looks as though IIS 5.1 running on XP Pro is going to be the preferred developer platform for building .NET applications. As a developer, do I still need a Win2K server?" That question is a little more difficult to answer; in fact, it's impossible to answer at this stage of the game. To mimic the robustness of a production environment at a developer level, you most certainly need Win2K. XP Pro is still a client OS and certainly doesn't have enough oomph to host large Internet sites. But Microsoft never intended it to do so. XP Pro has a lot of awesome features, is tightly .NET integrated, and handles the latest hardware devices with ease. Only time will tell whether XP will become the dominant developer platform OS.

On a similar note, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates announced to Comdex attendees last week that the beta 3 release of Windows .NET Server (formerly code-named Whistler) is imminent. In fact, the OS will be publicly available this month, which is big news for IIS administrators. Integrated into .NET Server is IIS 6.0—a dramatically new-and-improved version of IIS that I've kept you informed about in this newsletter and have covered and will continue to cover at a more technical level in the IIS Administrator print newsletter. This new server OS represents a paradigm shift in security for Microsoft. By default, .NET Server comes locked down (i.e., automatically configured for high security). In addition, the OS automatically receives security updates. As you'd expect, IIS 6.0 also performs and scales better than its predecessor. We've waited a long time for Microsoft to ship the last beta of .NET Server. The beta 3 release of this product is encouraging news for those of us who are awaiting its arrival as a shipping product.