Gates' .net is long on vision but short on infrastructure

Simon Moores

Tech talk

Smoke and mirrors with lots of Plasticene holding it together. The unkindest of comments to describe...

Simon Moores

Tech talk

Smoke and mirrors with lots of Plasticene holding it together. The unkindest of comments to describe Microsoft's greatest leap since the arrival of Windows.

A fundamental shift away from products that you own on a local basis, towards services, applications that you rent or use in a virtual world where the concept of geography is largely irrelevant.

But this is, in fact, a much broader and more ambitious vision than anything that has come before. It describes a quantum-like future where the information you require leads a virtual existence and is available, thanks to the future miracle of wireless, to any wafer of silicon that happens to carry what you might come to think of as your signature or preferences.

Microsoft argues that we are living in a huge but badly lit library. Surrounded by volumes of information but not easily able to distinguish between what is useful data and what is not.

Making sense of the Web is society's next great challenge. But the Internet frequently parodies Alice in Wonderland and Microsoft's bold plan to apply a new layer of intelligence might well leave it sitting in on the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

As the supreme imitator, one might reasonably expect to find a hint of borrowed ideas in any new Microsoft announcement, frequently hidden behind a smart new acronym.

In this respect, .net, ambitious and visionary as it may be, shares much in common with Sun Microsystems' own vision of a connected world, a digital "Dial-tone" and Jini, Sun's own answer for connecting tomorrow's universe of different devices.

.Net is all about XML and almost magically connected devices. It's long on vision but still remains a little short on infrastructure.

Microsoft badly needs to inject its customers and disciples with a new sense of direction and .net represents the latest article of faith in its canon.

Java is, it appears, dead. If it is not, then Microsoft plans to help it on its way with a new, object-oriented programming language, C# which is of course C with much stronger support for XML, an open standard about to be "embraced" by Redmond.

Rather cleverly, Microsoft have submitted C# to ECMA, the international standards body that Sun refused to give Java to after first promising that ECMA could standardise it, then back pedalling furiously when it looked as if it might.

Simon Moores is chairman of the The Research Group,

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