During the dotcom boom we and others saw the need for a standards based computing architecture to take true advantage of the potential of the Internet, to take us beyond the publishing metaphor that the browser provides. To this end, a small team from Microsoft began working with XML technologies.
Key to this model is that application integration be a forethought not an afterthought. True value is produced by the "sum of the parts", not the parts themselves. This computing model is generally referred to as Web services, with the W3C acting as the custodian of many of the standards that make it possible. .Net applications fit into this Web services model making them 100% compliant and cost-effective to create.
At the outset we knew .Net had to be inclusive in nature, not only in terms of working within the Web services model but also with existing applications and drawing upon the existing skills of developers. At the heart of .Net is what is know as the Framework - an architecture which does away with a lot of the complexity previously associated with building distributed applications with a common runtime, thus delivering the programmer with a highly productive environment.
Secondly .Net provides the developer with an unparalleled choice of languages against a single runtime - approximately 25 languages at present - everything from Microsoft's VBNet and C# to Cobol, Fortran, Java (yes, this is not a typo) and experimental languages such as Mondrian and Eiffel.
Web services is the computing model that the IT industry is converging around. Some vendors such as IBM and Microsoft have anticipated this and are well placed; others have not and have lost their leadership status.
Finally, the specifications and soon the reference implementations of both C# and core parts of the .Net runtime, have been submitted by Microsoft to the ECMA (European Computer Manufacturers Association) standards body for acceptance as open standards, a tangible indication of the change within Microsoft.
Want another view? Read what technologies Peter Joseph, director of corporate strategy at Novell EMEA, thinks will win the battle to deliver Web services >>