Simon Moores ponders the confusing history of Microsoft's .net and concludes that these days it looks more like .not.
Forgive me, but I’m trying to remember what .net is. No, not Visual Studio.Net but Microsoft’s .net, "The" .net, which I remember so confused us all when it was first announced.
I remember trying to explain it on the television news one warm July 2000 evening and failing miserably. “It’s big”, I told the BBC’s John Moylan, “the biggest thing since Windows”. “Yes, but what is it?" he asked. "Is it a product or an operating system?"
“Well, it’s both,” I said. "But it’s really clever plumbing. Gates says that 'the Microsoft .net platform is the infrastructure and tools to build and operate a new generation of services'. It’s the next ‘big thing’ for the company and between you and me, I haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about and I’m not sure that they have either.”
Today of course, .net is, or was, many things. It’s now a "Microsoft .net Connected" logo and that’s where it’s likely to meet its end, because, after all, .net served a purpose by confusing the heck out of everyone at the time of its arrival and was a masterful ploy given the delicate legal situation that surrounded for Microsoft at the turn of the new millennium.
“Is this suggestive of a new attempt at expanding your monopoly, Mr Gates?” the judge might ask.
“Certainly not, Your Honour," Bill might reply. "We’re building a future around services and .net, which in layman’s terms involves connecting our next-generation Windows and XML stuff to internet stuff until such a time as everything is stuffed with .net”.
In all fairness, by last year, Microsoft had paved the way for a new generation of PDAs and smart phones with a blizzard of television advertising that illustrated how things might look in a connected world.
More recently, IBM has fought back with its own, very funny TV advertising, such "The Time Machine" and others, which sweetens the truth and tells us that universal connectivity is still very much work in progress and that in Europe you’ll still need an adapter for your universal adapter.
So as .net becomes increasingly .not and Windows goes back to being, well, just Windows, what’s my verdict on Microsoft’s dot?
I’ll have to give it eight out of ten for annoying Sun Microsystems, just as Sun was busy trying to run off with the period in .Com. And I’ll have to give the Microsoft marketing team enormous credit for taking a concept that they clearly didn’t understand at the time – they told me so –turning it into what was both a credible strategy and a New Age religion of sorts, one that had businesses all over the world prepared to write cheques for.
It all goes to show that this industry is 40% technology, 10% innovation and 50% PT Barnum's Circus show.
What's your view?