Developers offered e-blurred Microsoft direction

Developers looking for where Microsoft wants them to go tomorrow received a taste today, but scant detail.

In a somewhat understated example of Microsoft's typical pre-launch hype, the company yesterday detailed the philosophies behind its new .NET strategy.

To nail it on the head, .NET is the philosophical and technical platform on which all Microsoft's future product development is based.

In fact, the company is already talking about the future platform on which the current raft of Windows 2000-based server, PC and development products are based.

It's what Pat Helland, Microsoft's software architect, described as Microsoft's response to the evolution of the "wild wooly Web" and its impact on software design.

Helland made a number of key assumptions about the impact the Internet will have on the future of computing, in particular the influence it has on software design.

The computing model introduced in the 1990s has given us autonomous computing, where individuals have the ability to access "loosely coupled" solutions or services on the Web.

The issue, according to Helland, is developers must firstly understand how their software is constructed in this paradigm, then look to Microsoft for the tools that make Web-based software easier and faster to deploy.

Also implicit in Microsoft's outlook for the development of enterprise computing is the assumption that XML and HTML will form the basis of all Web data transactions. And according to the charismatic Helland, the primarily Microsoft-designed XML will work as a good transmission protocol because of its inherent simplicity.

"XML is simply a cool way to turn trees of data into ASCII and back again," he said.

The attitude represented here is an important development in Microsoft's thinking.

In a world where B2B, B2C, and enterprise application integration (or HST, "Hooking Shit Together" as Helland would prefer), are driving market forces, Microsoft has discovered a new found confidence in its ability to tackle the Internet.

In particular, it believes the .NET strategy will help crush the likes of Oracle, as more developers trust in the development behind products such as SQL Server 2000 above the alternatives.

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