Focusing on the Web

Cliff Saran speaks to Paul Maritz, vice president and strategist at Microsoft, about the company's plans for the future

Cliff Saran speaks to Paul Maritz, vice president and strategist at Microsoft, about the company's plans for the future

Microsoft's slogan is "Where do you want to go today?" But with the launch of Windows 2000, it seems the software giant has nowhere else to go.

Maritz says Microsoft will continue to evolve Windows, "to get Windows [to] do what it does better." Among the improvements on the horizon are further developments to make Windows easier to use and a continued drive to lower the cost of ownership.

One of the strategies within Microsoft is a drive to evolve its application architecture based on the Microsoft DNA (distributed Internet architecture). In essence, DNA provides building blocks for Internet-enabled applications based on the Microsoft BackOffice suite.

For the future, Maritz says, "We will build on DNA to focus on the way applications are structured." Maritz sees a move to highly distributed computer systems with, "discrete applications interacting over the Internet."

"I am looking forward to large scale business components being readily available." For instance, users would be able to connect their own applications over the Internet to components in Sap or other business packages.

For this to happen, Maritz believes there is still some work to do on the XML standard, which will provide the necessary glue to link components together. "Potentially we need to evolve XML standards to define data such as items in a diary." It may take a while, but Maritz is confident that such standards will evolve.

One Internet technology Microsoft does not appear to be focused on is Java, in the light of its on-going legal battle with Sun over licensing of Java technology. For Maritz, if Microsoft lost the Java case, it could spell the end of Java support in Microsoft products. "If we lost [the case] it would mean we would no longer be able to innovate in Java," he said. But, for Maritz - and Microsoft - Java is just a programming language, and the language of the Internet is XML, not Java.

"Technology should not cleave to any individual language," he added. "The standards for e-business will be XML."

If both Microsoft and Sun had a vision of the Internet as a sea of homogenous objects, Maritz believes the vision has changed. People are looking to connect information with XML.

One area of contention among users, particularly those who use developer tools, is the quality of Microsoft technical support. So how does Microsoft plan to address this issue.

"Ultimately we need to build better products," says Maritz. "We've worked very hard to get Windows 2000 right."

Specifically on the question of software developers Maritz says: "We want to improve our technical support through MSDN [Microsoft Developers' Network]." The MSDN is a subscription-based service offering developers a regular library of CDs containing technical articles, example source code and the MS Knowledgebase - an online library of technical questions and answers.

The MSDN, according to Maritz, is close to an open source movement in that plenty of software developers participate in a community and there are "millions of lines of source code" available for free.

As to whether Microsoft would be likely to get involved in Linux and open source, Maritz says, "Microsoft would potentially participate in the open source community." But he stresses that there is no question that Microsoft would give away any core technologies such as the Windows kernel.

Microsoft will soon be releasing an early access version of its BizTalk framework, a set of XML working specifications and the BizTalk server software for linking disparate IT systems using XML. Maritz says the BizTalk server includes tools which provide basic workflow, allowing users to specify how XML messages are interpreted and forwarded to different IT systems.

BizTalk is likely to be one of the major themes at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference running in early July. The next version of Visual Studio, the company's development tool suite, has been scheduled for release at the conference.

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