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Microsoft's Mountain man sees Jobsian past in .NET

Like NeXTSTEP. But 'open'

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Why? The rise of open systems and web services that didn't exist ten years ago and that let companies connect. Microsoft helped in this, through its work on XML and AJAX. Also, social computing was an idea that's been brewing for some time and is now being driven by Facebook.

Of course, not even XML or web services can help if the fundamental business idea behind a startup is flawed. Lewin talks of one start-up he worked with during the dot-com era that he won't name, which wanted him to do what he laughingly calls "unnatural acts of business" with giveaways for growth. Funny, that sounds like the kind of thinking from just a few years back, with attempts to find ways of turning free and open-source code into gold.

The companies like eBay and Amazon that survived the dot.com era were built on what Lewin calls fundamental business tenets such as trading or logistics - things that already worked in the offline world. "Just because there's a browser available, doesn't make it a great business," he said.

There's a new ferocity in the Valley today, with a race underway to sign partners and developers to a new generation of platforms - the cloud and mobile. Some of the names have gone since the last race finished, while the winners from that competition are sticking around for a second try.

For Lewin, at least, Microsoft is working in a more interoperable world while - partly thanks to Lewin's 34-year history in the place - his employer's not quite the outsider it was nearly ten years back. ®

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