Microsoft strives again for the corporate developer

For whatever reason, Microsoft was curiously quiet—at least as quiet as a $25 billion software behemoth can be—for many months following the close of its antitrust trial last year. But in the last couple of months, there's been some renewed anti-Microsoft fervor and more and more hype out of Redmond about a slew of next-generation products to be unveiled through the rest of 2001.

This spring, Microsoft officials initiated a public debate on the open source movement with long-time proponent Richard Stallman, and has seen re-energized opposition from the so-called Project to Promote Competition and Innovation in the Digital Age (see ".NET attacked,"), which charges that the new Microsoft offerings will stifle competition with other software suppliers.

No matter how one looks at it, the products coming out of Microsoft are important—there's a new version of the Office suite with a new corporate licensing plan (see "Office XP: Is 'X' for 'XML'?"), the next generation of the Windows operating system and, key for developers, the .NET phenomenon that brought Web services to the world of buzzwords.

The rain of Microsoft's next generation products, which started this spring with the unveiling of Office XP in New York, will continue this fall with the shipping of Windows XP to PC manufacturers. At the same time, components of .NET (and the renaming of several tools to include the .NET moniker) will take place through the rest of 2001.

In this issue, we take a look at Microsoft's plans for the fledgling .NET, described humbly by the software giant as the next-generation Internet. Microsoft insiders also say .NET levels the playing field vis-à-vis Java, whose "write once, run anywhere" promise has attracted the attention—and dollars—of most corporate development operations during the past couple of years.

To date, industry observers have had a difficult time defining .NET, as mixed signals come out of Redmond.

In the cover story ("Can .NET keep cross-platform promise?,"), veteran industry watcher Tony Baer examines the key .NET promises that have come from Microsoft officials so far—multi-platform support, security advantages and, most important, its incorporation of XML-based Web services into the development environment. He also looks at the so far little-discussed effect of .NET on Visual Basic programmers. With .NET, the VB toolset becomes a pure object-oriented technology, and will force developers to fully use object-oriented development techniques.

This story is an important primer for development managers debating whether to include the new Microsoft technology in their stables of development tools. Over the years, Microsoft has tried hard to capture the hearts and minds of IT developers—a vital requirement for providers of enterprise software—with mixed success. Is .NET the answer? Stay tuned.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.