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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Was Bill Gates wrong to bet the business on .NET? No, but things haven't gone smoothly he has admitted.

Two-years into the .NET program, Microsoft Corp's chairman and chief executive told a press and analysts briefing yesterday of patchy success.

"In some respects we're further ahead today than we expected and in some respects we haven't made as much progress as we expected," he said at .NET Briefing day in Redmond, Washington.

Gates also announced product plans and road maps for "phase two" of .NET. That road map includes new servers - Windows .NET Server, SQL Server, a real-time collaboration and communication server code-named Greenwich - and privacy and developer offerings.

The company's new breed of servers will be more ".NET-ready", Gates said, meaning deeper XML support. He confessed earlier server products were oversold as ".NET-ready".

Those products shipped in September 2000, just months after Gates announced .NET and saw a layer of XML added to existing functionality. The products concerned were BizTalk Server 2000, Exchange Server 2000, SQL Server 2000, Commerce Server 2000, Application Center 2000, and Internet and Security Acceleration Server 2000.

"Perhaps labeling those .NET products was premature," Gates said."[Since then] We've rolled out additions to those server products and now we have total support for XML and SOAP based capabilities."

Servers with enhanced support for XML and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) include Windows .NET Server, whose first release candidate (RC1) was announced yesterday. .NET Server includes native support for the .NET Framework, native XML and Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI). RC1 will be available to customers next week, but no final shipment date was announced.

"Windows will be one of the first products of the second phase of .NET," said group vice president for the Microsoft platforms group Jim Allchin, appearing with Gates.

Other planned server products are Greenwich, a real-time communications and collaboration server, and the next version of SQL Server, codenamed Yukon. Gates also highlighted SQL Server Notification Services for SQL Server 2002 - a system of XML-based alerts to notify individuals about new or updated data across different delivery channels.

Another element of .NET that didn't make the grade, according to Gates, were .NET My Services. Microsoft postponed their launch despite some early adoption, following hostile feedback from customers.

Blue-chip customers especially were unwilling to adopt .NET My Services, which meant handing vital customer data to Microsoft. "There were elements of this that in some ways were premature, the whole way we were doing the data model, the way we allowed other people to do the storage," Gates said.

Taking the privacy theme, Allchin demonstrated Passport privacy and consent tools, enabling users to control personal information on a site-by-site basis. Separately, web sites reported the scheduled transition to .NET passport - the new version of Passport - has been postponed to a later date. No information was available on a new date.

Additional announcements yesterday included Visual Studio.NET Everett, Visual Studio for Yukon, two versions of the Office XP Web Services Toolkit, and MSN 8.0 whose features include support for Passport, .NET Alerts and "dramatically improved" spam protection.

Despite mixed success, Gates remained committed to .NET. "The direction we announced two years ago is 100% the direction that we're driving towards with all of our increased R&D in the years ahead," he said.

© ComputerWire

*English for Americans
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