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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Microsoft Corp has delayed a set of planned online services for consumers - named .NET My Services - in response to growing concern over security and lock-in to Windows,

Gavin Clarke

writes.

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said yesterday it has delayed .NET My Services so it can introduce new features. The features will enable organizations to host their own services and protect consumers' personal data. Microsoft did not give a date for launch.

Microsoft admitted .NET My Services has been delayed following a report in The New York Times. That newspaper said there had been resistance from partners who did not want Microsoft to come between them and consumer users of .NET My Services.

News broke as Microsoft attempted to evangelize Windows developers to build .NET products and services during its TechEd 2002 Conference in Louisiana, New Orleans. Away from the event, company executives blamed hostility to .NET My Services from competitors over who would own personal data of consumers that used the services.

Despite a concerted campaign, Microsoft has failed to silence concern about what happens to consumers' personal data stored in its Passport online authentication service. Passport is used to authorize access to .NET My Services, and information entered in Passport's 13 data fields is held centrally by Microsoft.

Microsoft announced a set of 14 .NET My Services during a highly publicized media event in March 2001. The company attracted a handful of partners to the event, who signed up to Hailstorm and presented demonstrations and proofs of concept. Partners included American Express Co, Click Commerce Inc, Ebay Inc, Expedia Inc and Groove Networks Inc.

Among the 14 services announced a the event by Microsoft were MyAddress, an electronic address book; My Profile, which includes name, nickname and special dates; and MyInbox, which includes items such as e-mail and voice mail.

American Express demonstrated a Notifications and Payment service and Dirk White, director of the American Express interactive group, said: "American Express feels that we can provide real value to our customers using this technology. And for the consumer we believe that we can create a secure, private shopping experience."

Twelve months later, though, none of the partners have launched .NET My Services-based offerings. Indeed, partners have been incredibly cagey, even downplaying participation in work with Microsoft during conversations with Computerwire. American Express is reported to have expressed concern that the Microsoft brand will displace its own under any such service.

A Microsoft spokesperson said feedback asked Microsoft to support federation out of the box, be able to run in the enterprise and to support the addition of new services.

He said Microsoft is now building the Infrastructure for customers to run the services themselves. He was unable to say what this infrastructure consisted of, but added while federation and support for multiple operators had been planned in later versions these would now appear in initial offerings.

"What we have done in response to the feedback is to shift our priorities to make sure the technology we deliver is the technology customers want," the spokesperson said.

Microsoft's concession over federated services is a massive loss of face to rivals. Liberty Alliance Project, due to deliver a set of specifications for secure online authentication, supports a federated model where organizations and consumers are able to retain control of personal data - instead of a single company. The group is backed by Microsoft's Palo Alto, California-based rival Sun Microsystems Inc.

A spokesperson for Sun said yesterday: "[This] seems like a pretty clear indicator of industry support for a federated network identity standard allowing companies to manage and control their most important asset - their customer data."

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