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MS teams with USWeb in major app rental play

And the announcement has got absolutely nothing to do with UFOs, OK?

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In a couple of hours time Microsoft will announce the next stage of its plan to rent applications across with Web. It has struck a "strategic alliance" with Internet services company USWeb/CKS, the general idea being that the latter will standardise on Windows 2000 and Microsoft BackOffice products, and set up application hosting systems that can then be rolled out to Web sites and service providers. Disturbingly the pair say today's announcement will take the form of an announcement of their "vision for digital business," but less visionary sources in the know tell The Register that it's actually a serious play for ASP (Application Service Provider) business, designed to establish Microsoft applications, server and BackOffice software as the de facto standard for application rental across the Web. So it's to some extent an attempt to head off Sun, which intends to 'Web-ise' StarOffice, and also a riposte to Oracle, which has been working on a rental approach to enterprise apps for some time. It also has difficult sub-texts, of course. Just the other day Microsoft was showing off something that sounded a bit like a Network Computer but definitely wasn't, because it was just for Web stuff and email, not for 'proper' apps like a PC is. But if apps are available for on the Web, then they're Web stuff, right? Tricky, but we think we mentioned this already (Microsoft to unleash MSN Web appliance. And then of course, a PR-wizard source close to USWeb/CKS tells us, there's the 'aliens ate my company's credibility' factor. The founder of USWeb, who is understandably no longer with the company, has some pretty radical views about extra-terrestrials and their influence on the IT business. You can start reading about that in UFOs claim Web CEO's scalp. Our PR wizard tells us that today's announcement is bound to generate lots of heartless coverage about little green men, rather than about visions for digital business. But we were nice - we left it to the last par. ®

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