Will Microsoft .NET bring about an "open" Windows?

Component Connection

Will Microsoft .NET bring about an "open" Windows?

Unless you’ve been vacationing on another planet, you’ve surely heard plenty about XML and about Microsoft’s .NET initiative. On one hand, I see XML and .NET as largely developer initiatives. But I’ve begun to realize that all of this also has huge systems implications for you. Let me explain.

As XML gains acceptance in the corporate market, organizations face a challenge in creating applications that can quickly be modified to take advantage of new data sources. One approach is to use components. What better way to ramp up a new solution than to buy something already available and plug it into your existing infrastructure? With its loud and insistent .NET platform announcements, Microsoft has proclaimed itself a major player in XML integration.

That’s why the company has also joined the likes of IBM and Sun Microsystems in pushing the business of components. Microsoft recently launched an initiative through its MSDN Online Web site at http://msdn.microsoft.com/componentresources to act as a clearinghouse for component developers, publishers and customers. Think components still consist of little objects used to add graphing to Visual Basic programs? A $1,499 package called the EDS Investment Calculations Suite helps financial institutions determine values or rates related to CDs, IRAs, and other investment products.

So why am I bringing up components to a mostly networking crowd?

Consider the dilemma of a Microsoft break-up. As analyst David Sprott writes in a recent editorial for Interact (“the journal of component-based development & integration,” www.cbdiforum.com), it appears that “every solution under consideration includes the requirement to ‘open the Windows source code.’” Third parties want to access that code to better develop products that extend Windows. Sprott’s interesting proposal: to have Microsoft “document and stabilize the APIs” making up its OSs, and then, with the help of a cross-industry group, agree on an interface architecture that can be touched by third-parties—in other words, to “componentize” the core services of Windows. By extension, that could apply to all of Microsoft’s major offerings.

This sort of move would also enable Microsoft to hasten its move into the application services business. As an enterprise customer, we’re probably not ready yet to have our OS delivered by a provider, but I could envision our IT group offering, say, OLAP services to my workgroup without having to license and maintain SQL 2000 or employ a full-time DBA. Windows piecemeal, BackOffice on demand.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is the founding editor of MCP Magazine and the former senior editorial director of 101communications. In between world travels, she's a freelance technology writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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