Revolution is more evolution at Microsoft

Simon Moores

Tech talk

A recent interview with Bill Gates in a leading financial publication proved as interesting as it was...

Simon Moores

Tech talk

A recent interview with Bill Gates in a leading financial publication proved as interesting as it was revealing.

Just in time for the official launch of Microsoft .net at Olympia last week, it offered a wonderful opportunity to promote the chief architect's personal vision of "where to dotnext?" - a platform from which to indignantly refute allegations that the company had acted improperly, illegally or accidentally against the interests of partners, customers, governments, nations or passing interplanetary visitors.

This was honest Bill at his best; cranky, excitable and happy to point at a pattern of government interference which started with Roswell and concluded with the Men in Black.

But why .net? Well, Sun has grabbed the dot in dotcom, dotorg conjures up visions of a jump-suited Woody Allen grappling with an "orb'"in the movie The Sleeper, and dot "thingy" didn't sound right. So in a blinding epiphany on the road to Seattle, Microsoft .net was what it had to be.

So what is it? It's really a strategy to tie disparate platforms, clients and servers together, moving data around in a far more intelligent and interactive manner than it's transfered at the moment.

Microsoft wants a software solution that will swiftly integrate the many platforms for which it writes software.

Thanks to Microsoft and all the other software companies out there, we are surrounded, even smothered, by the stuff.

So bringing it all together is really quite a good idea, particularly as we look forward to a world of multiple device types and clients hanging off the 'Grid' - which will be the next iteration of the Web.

In principle .net also represents a completely new way of looking at the future of applications and licensing from the world's most successful software giant. And yes, applications services provision (ASP) does come into the picture, although ASP is only a symptom, the tip of a much larger iceberg that is about to collide with IT.

So .net is all about subscribing to, rather than buying, applications (pay per view) and revolves around building extensions to accommodate XML, a non-proprietary language, which is seen as the new lingua franca of Internet-based transactions. The extensions part is likely to make many of Microsoft's rivals a little twitchy, as the Visual J++ argument still hasn't been completely resolved in court.

After all, what one company might reasonably consider an "extension", another views as more evidence of a borg-like assimilation of invasive open standards. So is .net something that business should be thinking deeply about today? I think the answer to that question is a firm "no".

It's important certainly but there are no immediate strategic implications that I can think of and the technology aspect remains immature.

Ironically, it is the world which is changing, and each and every software giant is grappling with the uncertainties that will accompany the promise of a world of boundless connectivity. So .net is to Microsoft what the television was to radio. An evolution rather than a revolution.

Simon Moores is chairman of The Research Group

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