Outgoing Bill Gates says UML on tap in Oslo SOA modeler

Jack Vaughan

UPDATED - Microsoft will incorporate UML as part of its effort to create its Oslo unified modeling environment for SOA, Chairman Bill Gates told attendees at TechEd 2008 for Developers in Orlando, Fla. The comments came as part of a wide-ranging presentation in which Gates stressed several key advances he saw as pushing technology forward in coming years.

Looking ahead, Gates highlighted high-fidelity displays, hardware performance improvements, ubiquitous broadband connectivity, unlimited storage, natural user interfaces, and new types of personal electronic devices as "megatrends" that will change developers' styles of application building.

Gates also reminisced a bit on the early days of personal computing in what he described as "probably his last public speech as full-time Microsoft employee." At TechEd in 2006 Gates announced that, beginning in July 2008, he would work full-time leading his philanthropic organization, while continuing in a part-time role of Microsoft chairman.

During a demo of the company's Silverlight 2.0 beta 2 rich multimedia browser plug-in (which will be availability at the end of this week with a commercial Go Live license), Gates reminisced briefly on input/output technology [paper tape] on the original Altair computer, the one that caused him to leave Harvard University and pursue commercial software programming. Gates and associate Paul Allen formed Microsoft in 1975.

"The Altair had 8 kilobytes of memory. The big breakthrough was when we got lower case [characters]," he mused.

At TechEd, Microsoft also announced an in-memory caching architecture known as Velocity, a new CTP for is Parallel Extensions to .NET.FX and an alliance with IBM that will allow direct IBM DB2 database access from within Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Edition.

The company also confirmed that it expected the first Oslo Community Technology Preview (CTP) would be released at the PDC in September. Gates also disclosed that UML will be part of Visual Studio 10. The reappearance of the general-purpose industry standard UML for modeling in the flagship products in Microsoft's developer line comes after several years of emphasis on special-purpose Microsoft-brewed DSLs, or Domain-Specific Languages.

"Oslo will begin to unify Microsoft modeling," said Steve Martin, director of product management for Microsoft's Connected Systems Division. Microsoft has not disclosed a date for Oslo to appear in shipping products.

Gates was asked about the future of Visual Basic in a question-and-answer period that followed his speech.

"We took great step forward when we brought it to the .NET world," he said. "It has a different style and different flavor for a whole base of applications that is very important to us. We've connected it to Office and we will be hooking Sharepoint up to that as well."

Gates influence clearly will continue long after the takes over at his philanthropy.

Gates appearance at TechEd was accompanied by an updated version of a video he has shown several times that portrays Bill Gates' Last Day at Microsoft. The self-effacing video part he portrays places him in the role of a quintessential nerd, leaving his briefcase and coffee mug on the roof of his car as he drives through Redmond, playing at his desk with plastic StarWars figures, and using 'The Clapper' to turn off the lights as he leaves his office.

Show attendee Michael Sutherland suggested that Gates had been "a great influence on the industry." Sutherland, application developer for Colorado-based Sashco, noted that Gates is not without controversy – that many people criticize parts of his legacy.

"He's created a lot of wealth and jobs, and he deserves credit," said Sutherland, who thought some criticisms of Gates were not fully fair. "People like to pick on the top guy," he said. "Sometimes they are envious of the big guy."

Sutherland said he worked in a small development shop, but was interested in learning more about the modeling technologies Microsoft has begun to discuss.

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