.Net blurs line between apps and web, says Gates

At Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference here today, Bill Gates further expounded on the internet-based .Net web services initiative the company announced last month, saying the new strategy will blur the line between applications and websites.

During his keynote speech at the developers conference, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect said the next two releases of the Windows operating system will include parts of the .Net framework -- a process that will kick off the company's plan to turn its server software and applications into a set of online computing services.

"Today, we have the worlds of applications and websites, and we think of those as two separate worlds," Gates said. "With .Net, those become one thing. Some websites will be richer applications than others, but essentially everything that was an application becomes a website."

Microsoft is billing .Net as a vehicle for software developers to use in creating Windows-based web services that could run across multiple systems with XML technology as the glue. The framework is due to include a revamped user interface and a layer of middleware that will use computing resources on both clients and servers -- something Microsoft officials are calling the "rich client" approach.

The .Net plans, which were only outlined in sparse detail prior to this week, are attracting heavy interest at the conference here. Paul Maritz, group vice president of platforms at Microsoft, opened the conference yesterday with a speech that showcased an upcoming .Net-enabled release of the company's Visual Studio development tools.

Gates said the next version of Windows, code-named Whistler, is due out by mid-2001 and will include web authentication capabilities and other .Net features. Blackhawk, the next scheduled operating system release after Whistler, will include more profound changes to the Windows user interface plus a set of agents that filter changes to applications, he added.

During his keynote, Gates also announced the availability of Internet Explorer 5.5, a web browser upgrade that he said includes refinements in speed, user features and interactivity.

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