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Packing as many buzzwords as possible into a single news announcement might prove you're "on message" but won't disguise the fact your strategy lags every major player in town.

And so to Microsoft's Oslo, a project spanning planned server and tools products announced Tuesday using at lest eight well-worn industry acronyms and subjects du-jour. Oslo was announced at Microsoft's fifth SOA and business process conference in Redmond, Washington.

Counting down Microsoft's buzzword bingo, Oslo will - according to the company - take "SOAs", "software plus services" and "composite applications" into the mainstream. Oslo will also provide a "unified platform" for "integrating services" and - using modeling - help developers bridge the "blended" worlds of "on-premise and off premise" projects and deliver "cross-boundary collaboration".

The one important thing missing from the Oslo pitch was a release date for the planned products, which are clearly being penciled in for delivery once the current clutch of planned new server and tools software are out the door next February. One report (PDF) has Oslo at sometime in 2009.

That means Microsoft's server and tools will slip even further behind important rivals IBM, Oracle, SAP and even tiny BEA Systems in middleware.

Microsoft plans a new version of BizTalk Server - BizTalk Server "6" - that will use web services to develop, manage and deploy composite applications. Accompanying this is the completely new, BizTalk Services "1", which will feature messaging, identity and workflow for hosting composite applications.

The Microsoft .Net Framework "4" will see further development using Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) while Visual Studio 10 will make "significant strides" in cradle to grave management of an application using models.

Pulling that lot together, Microsoft said Visual Studio 10, BizTalk Server 6 and Microsoft System Center "5" will share the same, new metadata repository to manage and deploy models.

To give you an idea of how attainable all of this is, here are some facts worth considering.

The current Visual Studio release cycle is around three years, and Microsoft has yet to launch Visual Studio 2008 - that's due next year. That puts Visual Studio 10 at some point in 2011. On the .NET Framework, which ships around the same time as Visual Studio, Microsoft is gearing up to release version 3.5 with Visual Studio 2008, meaning you can expect .NET Framework 4 in the same year as Visual Studio 10.

On models and repositories, Microsoft has a lot of work to do.

Microsoft's last great push on model-based development was on Software Factories, part of the company's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) with Visual Studio 2005 Team System (VSTS) in 2005. To our knowledge, and judging by the lack of news from Microsoft, Software Factories have not set the mass-market alight as Microsoft predicted prior to launch.

The important ingredient here is the repository, as this would - theoretically - allow code assets to be stored, summoned and reused. Aside from the fact this is exactly the same "collaboration" rhetoric Microsoft used when introducing VSTS Foundation Server, is the question of how Microsoft's models would scale or work in this dynamic world. All Microsoft said is Oslo would move "from a world where models describe the application to a world where models are the application."

Also, there is no word on whether Microsoft plans to build or buy the repository the new servers and tools will share. Either way, Microsoft is late on both accounts. It's behind the land rush of recent years that has seen IBM, Oracle, SAP and BEA either purchase or build their own systems - with varying degrees of success.

Naturally, Microsoft could short circuit development through a purchase. In that case BEA would be the best and most available candidate given its purchase of Flashline in August last year, and the fact it's now touting itself and has turned down Oracle.®

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