Microsoft has announced Visual Studio for Applications (to be available in beta in Q2), a complete IDE that makes use of the Visual Basic event driven model to allow inexperienced end-users to customize core business logic running on the server without intimate knowledge of the application.
This is significant to J2EE developers because there are no such app. server neutral tools like that available on the market today.
As enteprise development tools mature, the natural trend is towards more sophisticated wizard based development environments that make it easier and faster to develop large scale applications. Microsofts VSA is significant to us developers because it will unify MS developers under MS's .NET strategy by making it easy for them to do things that may take longer to implement in J2EE without similar tools.
The good news is that even in our industry, this trend towards high level modeling / maintenance tools is growing. The last announcement here on TheServerSide about the Brokat Advisor discusses a high-level rules maintenance tool that business people can use. This tool is said to export J2EE compliant code, making it app. server neutral, but this is unconfirmed. I believe BEA has already created a fully functional high-level application-modeling tool which is integrated with their Commerce server offerings, which is of course Weblogic Specific.
The Microsoft VSA tool is expected to enter in beta in Q2 2001.
Read the press release from Microsoft
Read "Java and .Net boosted by new artillery" (discusses VSA)