Microsoft gears up for Windows .Net

Microsoft is set to release a third beta version of its next big operating system, this time for servers.

Microsoft is set to release a third beta version of its next big operating system, this time for servers.

Opening the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates said this month would see the release of the third beta version of Windows .Net Server. This is the successor to Windows 2000, which is just beginning to gain acceptance in the corporate market.

Microsoft has done little to promote the new software and some analysts say Windows .Net has not attracted the same attention as its desktop counterpart because few customers will see the need to upgrade.

The operating system's release, which is expected in the next six months, comes as corporate customers struggle with the move to Windows 2000.

"It's clear from our survey data that users are still trying to adopt Windows 2000," said Dan Kusnetzky, an operating systems analyst with IDC. "The more likely outcome is that Microsoft will release Windows .Net and companies will buy small quantities of it for test purposes and continue with their Windows 2000 roll-out."

Gartner analyst Tom Bittman wrote in June that "Windows .Net should be considered a branding change, not a fundamental technology change".

Microsoft argued that Windows .Net would share the same operating system kernel as its predecessor, but would do more, particularly with XML Web services.

New features in Windows .Net address some of the issues that customers have had with Windows 2000, said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group. These include the ability to maintain the software remotely and install it more easily. Windows .Net will also have the .Net framework and the Passport authentication service built in, enabling easy adoption as Microsoft unveils more .Net technology.

Most importantly, Windows .Net will be more secure than its predecessors, said Microsoft and Enderle. Gates explained at Comdex how the software would ship with all of its "bells and whistles" turned off in the default settings.

"That has been a problem with previous products from Microsoft," Enderle said. "The out-of-the-box products had a bunch of holes. The end result was there were a number of breaches. Microsoft is now taking no risks, and making it secure out of the box."

Windows 2000 was vulnerable to security breaches because many of the more advanced features included with the server operating system were activated the minute the software was installed. Because many customers never used some of those default features, it left the software vulnerable.

"In the past, Microsoft has always chosen a balance point that was more on the side of ease of use and less on the side of security," said Kusnetzky. He added that the latest features - which aim to increase the ease of use - could leave the software open to security risks.

Read more on Business applications