world? Microsoft must explain its new strategy

Microsoft is vague on what .net really means to users

Microsoft is vague on what .net really means to users

It is important for the world's largest software firm to have a vision of how it sees the future and a strategy to deliver technology for this brave new world.

A strategy helps IT directors plan ahead by being presented with a bigger picture of the IT landscape.

But Microsoft's Forum 2000 event in Seattle last week left much to be desired. It envisaged a world of infinite bandwidth, where IT systems in businesses are linked seamlessly with customers and suppliers, where mobile phones can link into corporate e-mail and calendar systems and where computer systems never break down.

There is very little users can get hold of to build .net into their own IT strategies. Microsoft is simply recommending that users buy into the latest technologies - Bluetooth, Wap, 3G mobile networks, speech recognition, biometrics - and it is promising to deliver the cement for the building blocks of "any time, anywhere, any device" computing.

One could argue it took Microsoft until the launch of Windows NT 3.51 to create a reasonably robust graphical environment. But compared to the ambitious plans it foresees in its .net strategy, Windows NT was a no-brainer.

The .net strategy requires total commitment from users themselves. It involves 100% co-operation to buy into Microsoft's strategy in order to open up internal applications as services running across the Internet or over extranets. Without this commitment .net will not work.

So will Microsoft succeed? IT has never been a core competency of business users - IT is there to help business function more efficiently.

Providing software-based services online is a wonderful theory but who is responsible when something fails. Can Microsoft honestly expect an IT director to run a helpdesk for external software?

And what happens when somewhere in the supply chain an IT system crashes or loses a transaction?

Microsoft makes great presentations - its .net strategy looks good on the big screen at Microsoft Campus in Redmond. But can IT deliver this ambitious vision?

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