Micro Focus said Monday that its Net Express software, used by about 28,000 developers at 5,000 sites to write Cobol apps that run on Windows and Unix systems, will ship as a plug-in to Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net suite of tools next June. An early adopter program will start in December. Technical integration between the Microsoft and Micro Focus products will let Cobol developers gain the benefits of Microsoft's .Net Framework, which includes performance benefits; a single set of APIs for Windows, Web, and mobile applications; and the ability to publish components as Web services.
"We're trying to make Cobol as easy to use as C# and Visual Basic," says Tony Hill, chairman and CEO of Micro Focus, a privately held company with about $100 million in annual revenue. In addition to Net Express, Micro Focus' other main product is Mainframe Express, which lets developers write mainframe apps on a PC.
Micro Focus also will join Microsoft's Visual Studio Integration Program, which has about 90 software vendors including Compuware, Crystal Decisions, Fujitsu Software, and Rational Software, says Dan Hay, a lead product manager at Microsoft. Micro Focus plans to ship a version of its Net Express product that includes a bundled version of Visual Studio .Net, for $3,700 per seat. Micro Focus competitor Fujitsu Software already ships a tool that compiles Cobol code to run in the .Net Framework.
Micro Focus also is trying to win business in the minicomputer market. On Tuesday, the company plans to release a version of its Server Express software, used to compile and deploy apps written in Cobol, for IBM's iSeries computers.