(Perhaps I should grow a beard and wait another fifteen years before blogging this :-)

Fujitsu have been doing some fantastic work on language support that has been underappreciated by Microsoft, and they've just released a new version of their COBOL compiler for .NET. NetCOBOL integrates so well with Visual Studio .NET that once installed you'll think it's one of the languages we shipped with the shrinkwrapped product.

I've been really impressed thus far with the quality of their compiler and the integration with Visual Studio .NET – I often use it as a demonstration to show people how it really doesn’t matter hugely which language you use to target .NET applications as they all generate IL.  

The latest release integrates fully with VS.NET 2003, and can generate web services, ASP.NET applications, Windows Forms applications - you name it! There’s full IntelliSense and designer support as well as the ability to use the standard VS debugger. They've even produced an implementation of the IBuySpy Store written in 100% COBOL: click here to see it running! New in this version is the ability to generate verifiable code - a major obstacle that these guys have overcome. Huge kudos to them for achieving this with a traditional language like COBOL. Finally, they also have an extension called NetKicks which makes it possible to port traditional mainframe CICS applications to ASP.NET - how cool is that?!

It's worth having a look at this, just to see the quality of support for third-party extensions to VS.NET, even if you don’t plan to use it as your main day-to-day programming language!

As a related side-note, we've just revamped our VSIP program, which provides an SDK and associated tools to allow deep integration into the VS.NET IDE. Most importantly, we've lowered the entry fee from $10k to $0, so it's now available to everyone - yippee!