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New Promises That Come with .NET

by
04/08/2002

The following is a speculative editorial highlighting the emerging trends in Microsoft's unfolding .NET strategy, platform, and products.

Are there new promises that come with .NET? Time will tell, but as 2002 unfolds, it's becoming more evident that Microsoft's .NET programming and Web services platform will be interoperable with operating systems other than Windows. While Web services are naturally interoperable, the .NET programming framework is not, at least in the current release of Visual Studio .NET. Recent developments, however, such as the delay of Windows .NET and the recently released CLI project, Rotor, are indicators that Microsoft is at least considering a real, significant strategy shift.

Windows .NET Server

Windows .NET Server -- currently in early beta releases -- is Microsoft's next-generation server-side Windows OS, which will support .NET Windows application and configuration functionality. Additionally, Windows .NET Server may include a Linux and/or BSD-type kernel. My hunch is that Microsoft is initially leaning toward BSD, given that its shared source CLI Rotor project is using FreeBSD.

Microsoft is the player, with potential third-party investments in and support from Corel and Apple, as well as some other market players in the Linux and BSD space. Also worth noting: Microsoft's current partnership with Apple, which is set to expire at the end of the month, may be renewed. This could mean the limited or full availability of .NET for the BSD-based Mac OS X+. For Microsoft, these partnerships signal a potential strategy shift. Additionally, Microsoft will still have the support of its current primary distributors and vendors: HP-Compaq, Dell, and Gateway.

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Windows .NET Server is key to Microsoft's continued server-side Windows market share growth. There's more than a 50% probability that Microsoft's final version of Windows .NET Server will have a BSD kernel; this is similar to what Apple did to get its Mac OS X adopted by a wider audience, including the open source community. If this occurs, this would certainly mean a larger server-side Windows OS market share, which would then open new distribution channels for Visual Studio (VS) .NET and other .NET-related products and tools.

Visual Studio .NET

VS .NET is an integrated development environment (IDE), or suite of tools, for building, at this time, Windows-based applications. VS .NET includes Visual Basic .NET, Visual C# .NET, Visual J# .NET, and Visual C++ .NET. VS .NET also encompasses these other programming languages from the .NET Framework and the Framework Class Libraries: ASP.NET, ADO.NET, JScript.NET, .NET IL Assembler, and the various built-in Web services plug-ins to SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI.

VS .NET is the viable programming development platform for Windows OS, both server-side and client. Windows developers who develop and use Web services find that VS .NET gives them a simpler alternative, or bridge, to some of the more complicated aspects of XML necessary for Web services development.

The success of Visual Studio .NET is primarily based on the leadership of Microsoft and the adoption by Microsoft's primary Windows OS distributors. Microsoft's most important distributors are the ones that lead in marketshare with their hardware sales. Beyond Windows, VS .NET as a product doesn't really have a significant following. However, specific aspects that exist in VS .NET may be used and incorporated outside of Windows.

Near term, expect to see VS .NET marketshare reflect at least the current marketshare for Windows NT and other server-side Windows OSs. For 2003 and beyond, the fate of VS .NET is tied to two possibile developments:

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  • Microsoft includes BSD as part of Windows .NET Server OS. This would give Microsoft a chance to convert BSD users into .NET developers. Long-term, VS .NET may also have access to the Linux and other open source OS platforms.
  • Rotor may be included in upcoming releases of VS .NET, which would provide a more interoperable CLI for VS .NET developers looking to develop C#-, ASP.NET-, or VB .NET-based applications for Windows and BSD operating systems.

When .NET does realize its promise, developers will really have a choice between .NET and J2EE.


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