Microsoft will release test versions of some forthcoming Web-development tools, as well as clarify its strategy for adding application-modeling to its software portfolio, at its TechEd Developers conference this week.

At the show, which begins Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft will release beta 2 of Silverlight 2, the second full release of Microsoft's application-development and delivery platform for Web-based multimedia. Microsoft released the first version of Silverlight last September to compete with Adobe Flash.

The company also will reveal more information about an ambitious project, codenamed Oslo, for adding application-modeling capability across its software - including its Visual Studio developer tools and System Center network-management software - to help organizations create and deploy service-oriented architectures (SOAs).

New technologies and development directions aside, TechEd this year is probably more notable because it is where Microsoft founder and Chairman Bill Gates [cq] is scheduled to make one of his last public appearances before going part-time at Microsoft.

Gates, who is scheduled to keynote Tuesday morning, will abandon full-time duties at Microsoft at the end of June to focus on his work with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropic organization he founded with his wife.

The Silverlight 2 beta, which will have a GoLive license so developers can immediately use it for deploying applications, includes Microsoft's .NET development framework, giving developers the ability to handle both managed code and Web-development code from within the environment, said Jon Perera, a Microsoft general manager.

Developers also can begin using Expression Blend, Microsoft's Web-design tool, to begin working with the Silverlight 2 beta, the company will unveil at the show.

Another Web-centric technology Microsoft will reveal and give developers a preview of at TechEd is an in-memory data caching technology codenamed Project Velocity. The technology allows data from a database to be made available at the Web-development tier in a Web server, giving an application quicker and more efficient access to data, Perera said. This will improve the performance of Web-based applications, he said.

Eventually, Microsoft plans to integrate the technology from Project Velocity into its ASP.NET Web-development environment and the .NET framework, Perera added.

Microsoft has been guarded with specific information about Project Oslo, which it discussed first publicly last October. On Tuesday the company will reveal that one of the first steps of the project will be to add visual modeling to its Visual Studio development environment, Perera said.

For example, in the next version of Visual Studio Team System, codenamed Rosario, from Oslo may surface as visual modeling capability for application architects, he said.

Microsoft also will unveil that it is working with partners and the industry group the Business Process Alliance to come up with the modeling language for Project Oslo, a move that suggests the company will not create its own proprietary language but instead will work with standards such as BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) that already exist.

Perera stopped short of saying that Microsoft will create an open-source or open-standards-based modeling language, but he did say that "customers are looking for an open and extensible modeling language," and mentioned Microsoft's recent trend to be more transparent about its technology in general will continue.

Microsoft is holding its North American TechEd conference in two parts this year as opposed to the one conference it usually holds, with a focus on developers this week in Orlando. Next week the company will hold the conference for IT professionals.