Companies planning to adopt Microsoft's .net strategy face the prospect of retraining their software teams in a new programming model which may quickly become redundant.
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At its Professional Developers' Conference in Orlando last week, Microsoft unveiled the .net framework, a replacement for the popular Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC) used by Windows programming teams to build applications. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said the framework would remain part of Microsoft's strategy for five to six years.
However, Simon Moores, chairman of the Microsoft Forums user association, said, "Five years is an extremely long time in IT. Microsoft faces challenges from Linux and Symbian and risks being split in two by the US Department of Justice."
Moores said that while software project teams do need to keep up-to-date with their programming skills, moving to an entirely new platform with the .net framework is too much to ask.
Training courses, which cover programming architectures such as the existing Windows DNA architecture, tend to be more complex than pure programming language courses. "A language is easier to learn than a framework," explained Bill Walker, technical director at QA Training. This could put pressure on IT departments looking for skills in the .net framework.
As yet, Microsoft has not announced a new training curriculum for Microsoft certified professionals encompassing .net technologies. But later this week in Atlanta the company is expected to brief staff on the training programme surrounding the .net vision.
Phil Cross, developer marketing manager at Microsoft, said, "It is key for us at Microsoft to put in place training curricula for the .net framework."
Microsoft thinks of the .net framework as a new programming model which provides a template for building Internet and extranet-based software services within the .net strategy.
Gary Barnett, director of research for North America at analyst group Ovum, believes the .net framework will have a significant impact on the way Windows project teams develop applications. "The MFC [programming model] was never intended as an Internet technology. The .net framework is for users who want to build Internet applications."
The Visualstudio.net development tools suite, which includes .net framework, has been slated for release in 2001.
Computer Weekly comment
In IT, evolution is better than revolution. It looks as though, with the .net framework, Microsoft is asking the software programming community to adopt a new way of working and discard the skills it has learned in Windows programming over the past five years.
This is revolutionary. It is a big risk and Microsoft is certainly in no position to ask users for a leap of faith. How can they be expected to trust a company whose future lies in the hands of the US appeals system? The Microsoft .net strategy may have to be fundamentally altered should Bill Gates lose.