The .NET Framework was designed with several intentions:
Interoperability - Because interaction between new and older applications is commonly required, the .NET Framework provides means to access functionality that is implemented in programs that execute outside the .NET environment. Access to COM components is provided in the EnterpriseServices namespace of the framework, and access to other functionality is provided using the P/Invoke feature.
Common Runtime Engine - Programming languages on the .NET Framework compile into an intermediate language known as the Common Intermediate Language, or CIL; Microsoft's implementation of CIL is known as Microsoft Intermediate Language, or MSIL. In Microsoft's implementation, this intermediate language is not interpreted, but rather compiled in a manner known as just-in-time compilation (JIT) into native code. The combination of these concepts is called the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI), a specification; Microsoft's implementation of the CLI is known as the Common Language Runtime (CLR).
Language Neutrality- The .NET Framework introduces a Common Type System, or CTS. The CTS specification defines all possible datatypes and programming constructs supported by the CLR and how they may or may not interact with each other. Because of this feature, the .NET Framework supports development in multiple programming languages. This is discussed in more detail in the .NET languages section below.
Base Class Library - The Base Class Library (BCL), sometimes referred to as the Framework Class Library (FCL), is a library of types available to all languages using the .NET Framework. The BCL provides classes which encapsulate a number of common functions, including file reading and writing, graphic rendering, database interaction and XML document manipulation.
Simplified Deployment - Installation of computer software must be carefully managed to ensure that it does not interfere with previously installed software, and that it conforms to increasingly stringent security requirements. The .NET framework includes design features and tools that help address these requirements.
Security - .NET allows for code to be run with different trust levels without the use of a separate sandbox.