From: Rohit Khare (Rohit@KnowNow.com)
Date: Fri Jun 23 2000 - 09:05:54 PDT
Posted at 10:48 p.m. PDT Thursday, June 22, 2000
.Net initiative is close to all Microsoft, all the time
BY DAN GILLMOR
Mercury News Technology Columnist
TALK about integration. The Microsoft.Net (pronounced dot-net)
initiative is the ultimate merger of the Windows operating system,
Microsoft's other core products and just about everything else --
including the Internet itself.
It's monumentally Microsoft-centric, far more than necessary. It's
also a move in the right direction, if you have accepted that the
Internet has become the most important computing platform of all and
that software is morphing into Net-based services.
But despite the temptation to think so, it's probably not another
thumb in the eye of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson --
though some at Microsoft might have considered that a beneficial side
Much about .Net is impressive -- notably Microsoft's well-telegraphed
embrace of the Internet as the principal technology platform of the
future, and its welcome nod to open standards in certain respects.
Some of the demo-ware shown during the unveiling, such as several
nifty software development tools, showed that the company's engineers
haven't suffered from any apparent depression during the recent legal
There was no mistaking the deepest thinking behind the company's most
ambitious strategy announcement in years. Oh, so-called ``partners''
will be permitted to provide some services on the Microsoft Net, but
one company intends to control everything that matters.
Anyone who doubted the company's intention to use its desktop
monopoly as leverage in the next generation of computing just isn't
paying attention. The .Net platform isn't all Microsoft, all the
time, but it's close.
Despite some share-the-wealth rhetoric from Steve Ballmer,
Microsoft's chief executive, the overall message seemed clear enough
to me: You won't be required to use Windows and other Microsoft
products, but if you don't, you'll fall irretrievably behind the
That will be just fine if Microsoft is truly moving toward a platform
where its desktop monopoly doesn't give it an unbeatable lead. The
company's enthusiastic adoption of the Extensible Markup Language, or
XML, an open standard for describing and displaying things on the
Internet, seems like a good sign in that regard. So does its
endorsement and planned use of another standard called SOAP, the
Simple Object Access Protocol, a tool for moving XML around the Net
on different kinds of computers and among various applications.
But Microsoft's prosperity has largely been a function of dominance
-- made possible, in large part, by its control over key technologies
into which other companies must plug their own products. That leaves
many people, including me, wondering whether there's a catch in
Microsoft's pledge of openness in these emerging Web rules of the
road. Maybe the company is telling the absolute truth, but
third-party suspicion has been well earned.
Some of what we saw is years away, at best. Microsoft is famous for
its expansive announcements that somehow don't materialize.
The executives who paraded before the large audience of reporters and
analysts also made extravagant assumptions about customers'
willingness to take Microsoft's lead on such crucial matters as
security and privacy. To put it mildly, the company has never been a
paragon in either category.
Given Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's breakup order -- currently on
hold -- the executives' repeated use of the word ``integration'' was
Although they're not pursuing the .Net strategy merely to annoy the
judge or other people who support a breakup, the longer they continue
on this course before a final ruling from higher courts, the less
effective any breakup will become. At some point, Microsoft might be
able to sneer, ``Go ahead, take the operating system away from the
rest of the company. We don't care.''
Do they ever sleep here in Redmond? Sometimes I wonder.
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