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What Hailstorm did next: Allchin offers some pointers

You don't need Passport, for instance...

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Last month Microsoft pulled the plugs on Hailstorm, aka .NET My Services, after failing to find partners willing to trust the company with their data. Hailstorm was kind of important to the whole .NET strategy, and one could therefore wonder about what was left of the latter after the former was gone, but it wasn't gone as such - it was just back in the labs for serious revision.

And yesterday, Microsoft exec Jim Allchin came up with quite a lot of useful information about what had been happening in these labs. Although it came to light during the trial proceedings, it's unlikely to get much publicity because it doesn't have any obvious relevance to them. It has been more or less established that Microsoft is not going to be able to roll .NET My Services out to consumers in this rev, and therefore it must retrench in order to get it accepted in business. This is basically what Allchin was talking about.

Asked about the current status of .NET My Services, Allchin responded: "It's in a little bit of disarray. We're -- we basically aren't working on it the same way as we were in the past We produced some prototype that we gave out at our Professional Developer Conference, and the feedback of that as well as the feedback from corporations, were that they wanted this technology within their own intranet."

That's not exactly what we'd heard about .NET My Services, but there's overlap. Given that the major financial outfits weren't prepared to play ball, Microsoft had to figure out something else to do with it. So the company stops pitching it as a broad Internet service and pitches it to corporate customers instead. Magically, those customers begin to demand its availability "within their own intranet."

Jim explains further, somewhat incoherently: "And so that technology is the original vision of where it may have been on the Internet is being repurposed to be able to address with what customers told us and we're going to be able to provide this level of technology within a corporation so they'll buy products from us that may have this technology in it. But, frankly, it's in the middle of a fairly significant analysis and review. We got feedback both from the business model as well as the technology that we needed to go back to the drawing board on it."

We think that boils down to more or less what we said in the first place, with the possible addition that Microsoft is still trying to figure out how to sell the thing. But next we get on to what Microsoft is prepared to sacrifice in order to keep the business customers in the tent. Asked if Passport is going to be a requirement for companies using .NET My Services 2.0, Allchin answers: "No, not at all."

Which is interesting. In which case, how will they do it? "They can do it totally within their company," says Allchin. "They can set up an authentication system within their company. They could set up what we call a present system. An example would be that within Microsoft, if I wanted to talk with someone through a video, say, on the PC, or an instant message conversation I wouldn't have to go to the Internet. And, admitted, I'm working on some new technology that let's me do this."

That doesn't give us any kind of picture of where Allchin thinks we're going, but it's clearly somewhere else, possibly including a serious concession on authentication, and not where we thought we were. He continues to focus hard on the corporate net, no Internet line:

"But we're going to end up being able to offer that technology to businesses so that they don't have to go out to the Internet. Certainly not to a Microsoft site. Frankly, not to anybody's site if they don't want to."

Which is something of a retrenchment. And what do you do then? "And the other part of our vision is we want to federate, which is a fancy term which means to go from a business out to the Internet and then have that be able to talk to yet other businesses. So if you needed to share a document between businesses you would be able to federate your world with a world in the sky, if you will, on the Internet to another business, but that place in the sky doesn't have to be at Microsoft. In fact, it's going to be, depending on the country you're in, it may be the government, it may be separate private companies that set up these sites. So our focus is to make sure that we have the products so that corporations can do this within their own premise."

Now, we're not entirely sure what Jim has in mind here, but we think we hear the sound of wheels being reinvented. ®

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