Editorial: Betting the company on .NET

Are you ready to be dot-netted? Better be, because self described ‘caged animal' Steve Ballmer is now done with a ‘wild six months' and is ‘out of the closet', ready to pounce on you with the .Net message. They have too much fun in Redmond, don't they? President and CEO Ballmer is a big bloke, so you can be sure that his Microsoft disciples around the world will also be banging on your door with the same message.

So what is the .NET message? Chairman Bill Gates describes the strategy as analogous to the announcement of Windows (which I heard was back in 1983, preceding a launch in 1985, and eventually getting the product more or less right in 1995). Basically, Microsoft aims to convert the Internet into a platform for all manner of connected devices and services. This would be built on top of a common programming environment and provide a ‘rich' array of services which developers could call on to simplify the building of interworking applications (details on pages 10 and 12). The .Net platform would replace Microsoft's Windows desktop PC-centric design with XML-driven server-based services (such as Identity, Messaging, Calendar and XML Store) that run across many platforms and can be accessed by any client device. For end users, services will also include components of what are now shrink-wrapped software applications. Such interoperability, Microsoft insists, would enhance the end-user experience by an order of magnitude.

For developers, Microsoft claims .NET would provide opportunities analogous to the job of building applications within the Windows desktop and server environment, but with far more ambitious results.

The .NET rollout will take several years, and although Microsoft sees its role as central, it insists that industry standards and developer support will be crucial to the success of the strategy. To this end, the company plans to invest $US2 billion over the next three years to help partners, and independent and corporate IT developers build .NET services.

Nobody knows yet how well Microsoft will execute its ‘dot-net' vision and whether it will gain enough momentum to dominate rivals as it has in the Windows world. Such a scenario would not be desirable and probably not even be possible in the Internet space. Both Gates and Ballmer describe the plan as a ‘bet the company' thing, and with an annual R&D spend of about $US4 billion and enough marketing clout to annoy a lot of people, they can be sure that .NET will force its way into corporate IT thinking.

David_Beynon@idg.com.au

Editor in chief

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