RealTime IT News

Microsoft Unveils New Platform

Microsoft Corp. Thursday shrugged off the ominous legal cloud that has been following it for more than a year, rolling out its next generation of software and services.

The Microsoft .NET platform is the software giant's highly-anticipated play to bring the Internet into more homes via constellations of smart devices and Web sites.

The new family of Microsoft .NET products and technologies replaces the previous working title of Next Generation Windows Services and includes software for developers to build next-generation Internet experiences as well as power a new breed of smart Internet devices -- handheld computers and cell phones.

Presiding over Forum 2000, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who in January also became chief software architect, repeated his pledge to develop software that breaks down barriers between computers, devices, Web sites, organizations and industries -- to better realize the full potential of the Internet.

At the heart of the initiative, Gates said the .NET platform seeks to break new ground in terms of using Internet standards such as XML, which exchanges data, to link systems together. Software applications would also be dispensed via the Web rather than relying on PC-based centrality.

"Today's Internet experience can be confusing and difficult, with a jumble of applications, Web pages and devices, none of which work with one another on your behalf," Gates said. "With the emergence of standards like XML, we now have the opportunity to revolutionize the way computers talk to one another on our behalf just as the browser changed the way we interact with computers."

Gates outline specific features of the new technology:

  • .NET User Experience -- Universal Canvas XML-based compound information architecture, natural user interface, integral digital media support, privacy-enabling technologies for management and control of personal information
  • .NET Infrastructure and Tools -- Visual Studio 7.0, a new version of the world's most popular developer toolset, will provide support for XML-based Web service development, including the 50 percent of the world's developers who use the Visual Basic development system
  • .NET Building Block Services -- Includes identity, notification and messaging, personalization, schematized storage, calendar, directory, search and software delivery.

Microsoft also announced plans for new products built on the .NET platform, which will include features from Microsoft Windows operating system, Windows DNA servers, Microsoft Office, the MSN network of Internet services and the Visual Studio development system.

President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer talked about how his firm's new product and services suite is different than the rest of the Net.

"Today's Internet has a lot in common with the old mainframe computing model, where information was locked up in centralized servers and users relied on them for everything," Ballmer said. "It's hard for today's Web sites to communicate with each other in a meaningful way, or collaborate to provide broader, deeper services."

"Industry standards like XML and SOAP unlock information so it can be organized, manipulated and programmed, then displayed on any kind of device or system, any way you want it. A platform built around these standards will put control of information back into the hands of the people that need to use it. Microsoft .NET products and services are totally focused on achieving that goal."

Though Microsoft called its announcement the most important in years, the titan is not the first to think of creating such e-services. Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. have already begun rolling out similar Web-based services.