SAN MATEO (05/26/2000) - With the shadow of a court-ordered breakup hanging over it, Microsoft Corp.next month will remove the shroud from its long-awaited Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) initiative, which will serve as the company's Internet-based platform for application development.
The company has described NGWS as a server-centric view of computing in which a range of client devices taps into application services via the Internet that could be running in-house or could be outsourced. NGWS will bring closer together several key Microsoft technologies and products, including its Common Object Model (COM)-based development environment; messaging; database; and vital pieces of Windows 2000, such as its file system.
The tight coupling or integration of these pieces is probably not something Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will be cheering.
"This [NGWS] raises issues across the board about their business model and about how any kind of breakup or remedy from the [Department of Justice] would affect it. It seems they are bringing together all its parts to work in a concerted way on the Internet. That strikes me as something the government is not interested in seeing them do," said Dana Gardner, research director in charge of Internet infrastructure at the Aberdeen Group Inc., in Boston.
With the Internet-focused architecture, Microsoft will further support Internet protocols. But some observers fear that through NGWS -- which will be unveiled at a Forum 2000 conference in Redmond, Washington, on June 22 -- Microsoft is trying to regain control of some standards eroded the past few years by Java and competing browser technologies such as Netscape.
"Microsoft had control with the operating system until Netscape inserted the browser in between the OS and the rest of the world. Now [Microsoft] is trying to put a layer on top of that that will lead people back to Microsoft's software," said Dan Kusnetzky, a senior analyst at IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Whether Jackson looks on approvingly or disapprovingly at Microsoft's latest grand technical blueprint -- or if NGWS gains or does not gain the software industry's approval -- may be moot. Some observers believe it will take Microsoft several years to populate the NGWS architecture with exploitative products, long after Judge Jackson's decision.
"Whatever we hear [this week] will not be part of the real world in any real way by the end of the summer. It will take years for them to fill this out," said Dwight Davis, an analyst at Summit Strategies, in Kirkland, Washington.
Will Zachmann, a vice president of the Meta Group Inc.'s Adaptive Infrastructure Strategies, in Stamford, Connecticut, and others believe that XML and perhaps Microsoft's Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), which allows businesses to link systems over the Web, will play important roles in relation to NGWS. SOAP, which is based on the XML standard, is also backed by IBM but not by Sun Microsystems.
"When Bill [Gates] and Steve [Ballmer] lay this out, I think you will see a big role for XML, and SOAP, and all that stuff now. I would not be surprised to see a lot of collaboration with IBM lurking not too far beneath the covers," Zachmann said.
Windows moves on
Microsoft has indicated some of the concepts of Next Generation Windows Services.
Windows tightly tied to Microsoft development toolsInternet-standards basedApplication services accessed via the Web, or "mega services"