The .Net framework Microsoft, aims to make it easier for developers to create applications which will work across different Microsoft platforms. This is achieved by having developers create their applications for the .Net environment itself. They are then executed via a virtual machine called the Common Language Runtime environment.
The services provided by the .Net framework are: memory management, common typing, development frameworks, class libraries and language interoperability. Memory management refers to the fact that all computers are equipped with a fixed amount of memory. This is divided into Read Only Memory (ROM), which is memory which can not be over-written and Random Access Memory (RAM), which is available for active use. Because there is a limit to the amount of memory any computer can physically hold, software developers typically need to specify how each of their programmes will manage the portion of it which is allocated to them by the operating system. In the .Net framework however, this is all managed by the CLR.
A type is a property assign to a programming construct. Types are usually created by means of a collection of rules called a type system. In essence they are broad descriptions of what any given part of a computer programme can do or be. Usually type sets are written in different ways depending on the programming language being used, but in the .Net framework, there is one common type system, which can be used by all languages. Development frameworks are computing libraries created by Microsoft to help developers work more effectively and easily. They are targeted at specific development areas such as data access or service-orientated applications.
If programming can be thought of as the art and science of turning complex human language into simpler language that computers can understand, then class libraries can be thought of as hugely useful phrase-books, which spare developers the need to translate common terms each and every time they want to use them. Language interoperability goes one step further and means that developers can write in their preferred computer language and use the .Net framework essentially to translate it, so that it can be taken forward by developers who prefer to use other languages.
The main alternative to the .Net framework is Java, which also uses the idea of a virtual machine to allow developers to create one programme which will work across a variety of platforms. Java has two key advantages over Microsoft’s .Net framework. Firstly it is a much smaller download. Although this may be of no direct impact to developers, both the .Net framework and Java rely on end users downloading the software to their machines. Even in today’s world of broadband, there is a significant difference in the download speeds for .Net and Java. More importantly, the download size directly relates to the size of the application. Java has a much smaller footprint than .Net, which means it makes fewer demands of the hardware. This is a great advantage in today’s world of mobile devices. Secondly, .Net supports only Microsoft platforms, whereas Java is designed to support any platform, including Android and iOS, which is again a key benefit in today’s environment.
While Microsoft’s .Net is an impressive work of software engineering, it’s size and the fact that it only supports Microsoft’s platforms means that overall Java arguably is the better choice.
In many ways, the .Net framework has been created in response to the development and expansion of Microsoft. Although the company began life in 1975 and made its mark with the legendary MS DOS Operating System, it has now moved through multiple versions of its flagship Windows Operating system as well as owning the Xbox gaming console and taking steps to establish itself in the mobile arena with the Surface tablet and a range of Windows-based mobile phones. This is all in addition to its applications software, such as its famous Microsoft Office suite. Microsoft built its reputation as the solution of preference for the business world as well as for home users, on the basis of ease of use and reliability. It's broad user base has attracted developers to its platform, which in turn benefits Microsoft as a wide variety of potential applications is attractive end users. Over time, however, the expansion of Microsoft's product offering has created challenges for developers as the different platforms have different requirements, in some cases to a significant degree. The .Net framework was created so that developers could once again start to treat Microsoft as a whole, rather than having to decide which of its platforms to support and which to sideline.
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