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Inside AppCenter – the march away from COM

The three phase plan...

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With only around 10 per cent of so-called secure Web sites being created with Windows NT, Microsoft is concerned that it is at present the Web site dunce. Last week, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer made his pitch to change that. Ballmer has to pay homage to Gates in his speeches. This time it was an obeisance to what Gates had been calling mega-services for some years, but which are apparently "re-usable building blocks on the Web or reusable Web services". The transubstantiation of this idea of Gates, to be delivered "next year", is a new product to be called the "Applications Center Server" for business process integration. It is supposed to provide host integration services, with BizTalk creating the applications, and the next version of MS Commerce Server (previously called Site Server) providing the XML. Ballmer did remark that he didn't think that Microsoft would be the only deliverer of these "standard reusable" building blocks - the sub-text of course being blocks that work only with Microsoft products. It's worth recalling that there was once a time when Microsoft had suggested that in componentising its Office suite, it might be possible for developers to provide alternative components. In the event of course, Microsoft did not really want this, and never provided any APIs to make it realistically possible. Picking up the ball, MS vp Paul Maritz said that the second phase of the Microsoft announcement was aligned around the W2K Datacenter and Windows DNA 2000. He and a sidekick claimed to show that in combination with old-hat Microsoft products like Visual Studio 6, then 10,000 to 11,000 concurrent users could be served more than 3 billion pages a day. This was compared with Yahoo, which was said to serve around 450 million pages/day (which was interesting since Yahoo had said 310 million the same week). Of course it would have been more impressive if a real user with real data had achieved this, but there was no mention of the real world. There was a stumble during the presentation when the use of the performance monitor console was quickly skipped, giving rise to some suspicion about what was being claimed. The third phase, Maritz said, was unlikely to have Java at its centre, interacting through Jini services. For Maritz, the future model starts "with Internet standards as its premise, and it builds on that". Maritz admitted that Microsoft was "in the midst of a very fundamental effort to reform the services that we offer to developers, in particular to evolve our COM object models to take this into account. What this means is that in the future, as we evolve COM, the native way that COM objects interact with each other will be through XML messages over an HTTP transport." This should allow interoperability with existing COM architecture, but it does sound as though there will be something of a discontinuity in the future. Microsoft envisages using XML for interoperability, but whether that will be two-way interoperability remains to be seen, and invites suspicion. A Maritz minion gave a demo in which XML was a core part of VB, and the audience laughed when it was described as "miraculous". What was shown was the passing of XML by VB between a Web page and a business object. It looks as though Microsoft is trying to go along the road behind the OMG. ® Analysis - Inside AppCenter Windows becomes the Internet platform How pure is IE5's XML? The march away from COM

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