RealTime IT News

.NET Developments Helping to Shape Microsoft's Future

LOS ANGELES -- Microsoft's vision of dishing up its software as a Web-based service moved closer to reality through two major advancements that were highlighted at this week's Internet World Spring conference in Los Angeles: .NET development tools and its Web-based services deployment system, Applcation Center 2000.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant's cross-licensing agreement with eBay, announced Monday, still resonated within the walls of the LA Convention Center when Internet World's exhibition floor opened to the public on Wednesday. The deal calls for Microsoft to cross promote eBay's marketplaces but also calls on eBay to be one of the first sites to support the .NET technology by offering the application program interface (API) of its commerce platform to Microsoft's developer community.

"We think this is an extraordinary ability for eBay to extend our global trading platform across the world in terms of our development tools as well as extending our e-commerce platform," eBay President and CEO Meg Whitman said during the Q&A session after her keynote speech.

True, the deal puts eBay now in direct competition with e-commerce solution providers such as Ariba and Commerce One. But even Microsoft's archrival, Sun Microsystems, concedes eBay's move to support Microsoft is part of a larger positive trend.

"The world is changing from big applications to componentized software," said George Paolini, VP of Technology Evangelism and Marketing at Sun Microsystems. "eBay's API deal with Microsoft is a good example of providing a Web service rather than an application."

But, as coveted as eBay's API is, Microsoft's .NET platform is certainly not the only environment to make these software building blocks available to its developer community. From eBay's perspective, it is apparently more excited about its opportunity to extend the reach of its marketplaces (and -- yes, of course, its brand) than it is about any revenue stream it would recognize from licensing fees.

"While there may be a revenue stream from licensing the API, the real meat here is extending the commerce platform and in fact generating revenue from listing fees, final value fees, etc.," Whitman said.

Still Microsoft officials on the show floor argue that developers are, indeed, excited about the prospects of finding eBay's API (as well as other tools) on the next-generation Visual Studio.NET for example.

"What it means is if you are developing any kind of application and you want to add commerce to the application, you can easily do this by accessing the dot.net API that eBay will expose," said Jim Skinner of Microsoft's e-commerce practice.

Meanwhile, once code has been created -- and successfully QC'd, as they say -- Microsoft still needs to contend with the difficulties of software deployment. Rolling out any element such as e-commerce, particularly at the enterprise level, has proven to be a major stumbling block for Microsoft. And Windows NT's inherit problems with creating scalable solutions has only helped highlight Sun Microsystems competitive advantage.

To this degree, Microsoft on Wednesday announced general availability of its Application Center 2000 (just don't call it AppCenter at the risk of confusing it with anything coming out of Borland.)

AppCenter -- oops, Application Center 2000 -- helps network administrators synchronize a cluster of servers and avoid what's technically known as "server drift." Through a process called "slip-streaming," Application Center users can develop a single application image to manage information on multiple servers at the same time. If you don't believe me, check out their site fo