Now we've got LINQ to SQL, to DataSets and an entirely new thing called entities. That all sounds interresting, but confusing too. I'd really like to know what Microsofts take on O/R mapping is. How will we create persistable business objects in the future? Will the border between data and functionalty be removed as in other O/R mappers, or will we continue to use 3rd party tools if we want this kind of developer experience?

Will future 3rd party ORMs be able to build on the Entity functionality? Or on the provider model that comes with it?

Things have been announced and dropped. We all remember ObjectSpaces, the talk about WinFS providing ORM features, and lately it seemed that DLinq would provide at least basic ORM capabilities in addition to querying. Now, entities seem to offer an abstraction that makes good sense within ORM as well. Several comments suggest that some people at MS don't seem to think too high of ORMs anyway, so - what's the story?

I'm not just wondering. Knowing what you are planning to do would help us finally making some overdue decisions about our own architecture. (I should add that I'm aware that things may change, I'd still be happy to learn where you are expecting to go.)

Give us the big picture!