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NGWS Morphs into Microsoft.NET

REDMOND, Wash. -- Microsoft Corp. put specifics behind the long-promised Next Generation Windows Services today, promising a package of client interfaces, servers and Web-based services the company is billing as Microsoft.NET and saying it will deliver beginning next year. Underscoring the importance of the strategy, Gates said, "It’s a bet the company thing. We are putting our resources behind .NET."

Microsoft outlined a plan to use its market position in desktop clients, personal productivity applications, handheld operating systems, browsers and servers to build Web-based megaservices that would allow seamless access to data across PCs, handheld devices, tablets and digital phones both online and off. At the same time the services and back-end servers would provide a more robust infrastructure that could handle business transactions far more complex than the relatively simple online transactions conducted digitally today.

Microsoft unveils the strategy under the shadow of the anti-trust remedy, which would split the company into an applications company and an operating systems company. Aiming to build on its influence across a wide variety of technologies, Microsoft.NET is highly dependent on Microsoft moving forward as one company. Microsoft already delayed the announcement by three weeks to avoid having Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s remedy dilute the message.

Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect, was unabashed in declaring the broad strategy is similar to what Microsoft has done in the past, actions that have gotten the company into legal trouble. Microsoft.NET will do for wireless devices what Microsoft’s Windows did for PC sales, Gates said. The new devices need NGWS, he contended, "the same way that the PC really required one platform."

Gates did acknowledge the series of demonstrations and roadmaps outlined today sounds similar to the edge-of-the-possible scenarios Microsoft has previewed in the past. This time, he told journalists and analysts gathered at Microsoft headquarters for the announcement, is different.

"A lot of what we’re going to talk about today we’ve been looking at for a long time," Gates said. "The underlying technology and the ability to make all of those things concrete is now quite clear. "

Key technologies include XML, the Windows 2000 server technologies, and SOAP.

"XML is the very fabric underlying all of this," Jonathan Perera, director, Microsoft Knowledge Worker Services, said during the presentation.

Beyond Microsoft’s available technologies, Gates pointed to existing industry trends that he says make Microsoft.NET realistic.

"We’re assuming that Broadband becomes more pervasive," Gates said. "We’re also very bullish on wireless." Another development essential to .NET is widespread adoption of smart card technology. "Passwords are the weak link today in terms of security," Gates said.

On the client side, Microsoft.NET introduces a "Universal Canvas," a kind of XML-based browser that allows users to edit documents, browse the Web, display spreadsheet tables and manipulate spreadsheet formulas all in one application.

Version 1.0 of Microsoft.NET is due next year, with Microsoft.NET servers to come the following year or later.

Microsoft points to its Passport service as the first of the megaservices it will offer in Microsoft.NET. Another three to four megaservices will be rolled out next year, company officials said.

Analyst Dan Kusnetzky with IDC (www.idc.com) says Microsoft’s goal is to "lead people back to needing services that only Microsoft can provide." - Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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