Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is strutting the .Net stage exuding all the confidence of old. He's giving a good impression of a man who believes that competitive threats such as Sun+Java, open source, the US Department of Justice et al have all been vanquished and continued Microsoft domination is assured.
The degree of difficulty in winning continued world domination on the back of .Net looks as tough as sinking the black after it's bounced off six cushions. This tough shot includes re-engineering the entire software stack from database to server to desktop.
There are also little challenges like busting the current market confusion and bringing along a VB development community leery of the harder more structured VB .Net environment while fighting off tools competitors BEA, Sun, IBM and Macromedia.
Milestones will include the .Net Server due next year as the foundation XML Web services offerings including a new SQL Server - codenamed Yukon - SharePoint Team Services and the Greenwich Real Time Communications Server. On offer now is .Net Server RC1 (Release Candidate 1) which indicates that Microsoft is working to address key enterprise concerns in security, reliability and performance. The .Net Server RC1 carries support for the CLR (Common Language Runtime), .Net Framework, UDDI, DIME (Direct Internet Messaging Encapsulation) and Web services standards from organisations including OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). Jim Allchin, group vice president of the platform described RC1 as "secure by default".
Mixing up the picture is the open-source community's push to bring .Net tools to Linux and Apple Mac OS X through project Mono. One aim is having any pure .Net application written under Windows easily portable to Linux. Microsoft is developing an alternative version of its .Net building blocks to run on a version of the Unix operating system.
Microsoft is also running sideline plays in the enterprise application market with acquisitions such as business software developer Navison. It remains to be seen whether applications pumping out of this buy show up on many shortlists. Perhaps more telling is the creation this month of a single consulting organisation called Microsoft Worldwide Services with about 12,000 employees.
Continued domination? Hardly assured, but looking a bit more likely now than it did a couple of years ago. Some critics will be peeved.
Editor in chief.