When Microsoft announced C# in July 2000, its unveiling was part of a much larger event: the announcement of the .NET platform. The .NET platform is, in essence, a new development framework that provides a fresh application programming interface (API) to the services and APIs of classic Windows operating systems (especially the Windows 2000 family), while bringing together a number of disparate technologies that emerged from Microsoft during the late 1990s. This includes COM+ component services, the ASP web development framework, a commitment to XML and object-oriented design, support for new web services protocols such as SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI, and a focus on the Internet, all integrated within the DNA architecture.
Microsoft says it is devoting 80% of its research and development budget to .NET and its associated technologies. The results of this commitment to date are impressive. For one thing, the scope of .NET is huge. The platform consists of four separate product groups:
A set of languages, including C# and Visual Basic .NET, a set of development tools including Visual Studio .NET, a comprehensive class library for building web services and web and Windows applications, as well as the Common Language Runtime (CLR) to execute objects built within this framework.
A set of .NET Enterprise Servers, formerly known as SQL Server 2000, Exchange 2000, BizTalk 2000, and so on, that provide specialized functionality for relational data storage, email, B2B commerce, etc.
An offering of commercial web services, called .NET My Services. For a fee, developers can use these services in building applications that require knowledge of user identity, etc.
New .NET-enabled non-PC devices, from cell phones to game boxes.