SAN DIEGO – Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer admitted he borrowed heavily from Redmond’s new ad tagline – Do More With Less – for the theme of the opening keynote address of last month’s TechEd 2004.

The mantra “amplifies the pressure we think you’re under,”

Ballmer told a packed house. While there’s a growing application backlog, there’s still pressure to keep IT costs down. He lays the blame for that at the feet of the Y2K ramp-up and the dot-com bubble – two costly exercises for which the business side of the enterprise felt they got nothing. Growth in IT spending is stabilizing, but pressure for new projects is still outstripping that growth.

Microsoft is taking a lifecycle approach to the development value proposition, and that will be manifested in it’s release next year of Visual Studio 2005 Team System, he said. The new VS is a suite of tools aimed at better integrating the development and deployment/management functions of the IT organization, including process management tools, point-and-click validation that code will work in a deployment, static analysis and load-testing tools.

Paulla Bennett, manager of the IT services department for the York Region Board of Education in Ontario, found this promised integration compelling.

“School boards are at the mercy of whatever funding envelope comes down,” she said. With no guarantee of resources on the IT side, students and teachers come first – infrastructure development isn’t a funding priority.

Having the disciplines of coding and validating integrated is “a very powerful tool,” she said.

Kieron Quigley of Edmonton’s Northern Alberta Institute of Technology focused on Ballmer’s announcement of The Microsoft Office Information Bridge Framework. IBF uses XML and Web services to allow Office applications to draw on enterprise data – “a fantastic conduit” for pulling in data from SQL and database servers, Quigley said.

“Being able to pull that into the workflow is going to be a challenge,” he said.

It’s part of Microsoft’s strategy to build a general purpose framework on top of .Net to make the platform and its applications extensible, Ballmer said – for example, using Exchange to build a collaborative backbone. He positioned it as a unified development platform for the entire application life cycle: a strong, interoperable platform for developers, scalable management and deployment tools and end-user accessibility, mobility and collaboration.

IBF will be available in July.

Ballmer also announced the availability of Web Services Enhancements 2.0, an add-on to Visual Studio .Net to ease development of applications that draw or provide Web services.

In conjunction with IBF, it makes Office a smart-client front end for access to XML Web services, he said.

For example, said Rebecca Dias, Web services product manager for Microsoft, a smart tag in an e-mail header could link the sender’s address to related account information.

We’re going to see more of this cross-application integration in the long-awaited Longhorn version of Windows, with common data access across SQL Server, Exchange and other server applications.

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