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July 25, 2002—In this issue:
- Did Apple Out-.NET Microsoft with .Mac?
- Microsoft Preps New 64-Bit Windows Products
3. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES
- .NET Applications: Project Management for Shipbuilding
- Energize Your Enterprise at MEC 2002, October 8 Through 11, Anaheim, CA
- Real-World Tips and Solutions Here for You
- Event Highlight: XML and Web Services Connections
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Create Workflow Across Systems in the Enterprise
- Submit Top Product Ideas
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, news editor, [email protected])
Although the two companies traded roles a long time ago, the widely held belief that Apple innovates whereas Microsoft copies continues to linger. In reality, Apple sat still for most of the late 1990s while Microsoft moved its customer base to a modern OS family, pushed Web-OS integration, then began to replace the tired OS desktop metaphor with a logical task-based approach. Apple has been playing catch-up ever since, and even a casual look at the Mac OS X feature set reveals more than a passing resemblance to features Microsoft first made popular in Windows. Even Apple's high-profile "digital hub" strategy was launched a day after Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates announced a similar push for Windows at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
No matter. Apple's current OS, applications, and services are top-notch and, for the first time in a long time, thoroughly modern. Under CEO Steve Jobs's tutelage, this relatively tiny company has done a great job of keeping up with, and in some cases even surpassing, the Joneses (read "Microsoft"). Last week, at Apple's biannual Macworld trade show, Jobs introduced new initiatives for the Mac user base, including a new Mac OS version (code-named Jaguar), a new iMac version with a 17" wide-screen display, and a new line of iPod portable music players. One of the most interesting announcements centered on a new set of services Apple calls .Mac, a name that even Jobs admitted during his keynote address was "inspired" by .NET.
.Mac delivers features that Microsoft has only been promising to deliver with .NET, including a regular subscription charge. However, Apple's strategy differs from Microsoft's in several important ways. Chief among these is target audience. Whereas Microsoft sees .NET affecting each of its important customer markets (e.g., enterprises, developers, home users), the company's strategy with new products has been to first seed developers, then get businesses to sign on, and finally target consumers. Although Apple's target markets overlap somewhat with Microsoft's, Apple's strategy tends to target consumers first, as well as key markets such as creative professionals and education. Therefore, .Mac is aimed solely at consumers. For $100 a year, .Mac customers receive the following services:
Even for Apple's most loyal customers, the move to subscription services comes as something of a shock. Before .Mac, the company offered a less impressive array of services dubbed iTools for free to anyone who owns a Mac. As of September 30, 2002, however, any iTools customers who haven't upgraded to .Mac will lose their iTools accounts and, more important, any data they might have stored on iDisk. Apple is offering a one-time $50 upgrade to these users to smooth the transition to .Mac.
Cost aside, Apple is delivering on a Web services vision that Microsoft is still only making promises about. ".Mac does what others have tried and failed to do—make Internet Services a seamless extension of your computer," Jobs said during his Macworld keynote address. "It has never been easier to store, publish, share, or communicate on the Internet." And the service is only going to get better. In addition to the iCal sharing feature, Apple plans to add AOL-compatible Instant Messaging (IM) through its iChat application, as well as photo slideshow publishing and sharing functionality in the near future. Users who need more storage space can upgrade: Apple is offering .Mac users additional Mac.com email addresses and iDisk storage space, each with a yearly subscription charge. Smart.
As a Mac user who used Apple's iTools services, I was taken aback when Jobs originally announced .Mac, mostly because the jump from free to $100 a year seemed pretty steep. In contrast, Microsoft has slowly been moving premium MSN Hotmail features into its subscription-based MSN Extra Storage service—a move that, at first glance, seems less grating to users. But in retrospect, Microsoft's slow move to subscription services, particularly with Hotmail (and the soon-to-be-introduced MSN 8 client, which I'll discuss in an upcoming .NET UPDATE), seems a bit underhanded. The gradual changeover induces Hotmail users to wonder what functionality Microsoft will remove from the free service next. And what about 6 months from now: Will the free Hotmail service even exist?
Apple, however, has staked its claim to subscription services in a more upfront fashion; rather than simply ceasing to provide a free service, the company has discovered how to make money by providing valuable services to its customers. So rather than complain about the cost—after all, the $50 upgrade price is reasonable—I've decided to subscribe to .Mac and see how the service works for me. A year from now, I'll base my decision to upgrade on the value I get from the service, as well as on what new features appear in the coming months. If the service and its improvements are compelling enough, I'll keep subscribing.
Most important, perhaps, is that Microsoft might learn something from this surprising turn of events. Maybe the time has come for the company to start looking to Apple for inspiration once again. .NET is a great idea, but if .NET Passport and a continually handicapped email service is all Microsoft can produce after years of talking about its Web services initiative, the company will begin to lose customers in large numbers. And that situation leaves an opening for competitors such as the Liberty Alliance Project, Yahoo! mail, and, yes, Apple.
2. .NET NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition (LE) 1.2, an update to Microsoft's 64-bit Windows Server product and part of the Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) family, will ship later this month, the company said this week. Microsoft has optimized this new version for Intel's Itanium 2 processor, which began shipping Monday.
"The 64-bit Windows Server versions help us provide higher-scale solutions," said Bill Veghte, corporate vice president for the Windows .NET Server Group, at a recent .NET Server reviewer's workshop. "For example, we can move up to 256GB of RAM on Itanium 2 systems, and the \[64-bit version of\] Datacenter supports 32 processors." Windows LE is essentially a preview version of Windows .NET Advanced Server 64-bit Edition, which will ship late this year. The current LE naming convention for the preview version denotes that the products currently are available only through select PC and server makers, Veghte said. The final version will be available to any PC or server maker that sells Itanium 2-based solutions.
3. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES
(contributed by Christa Anderson, [email protected])
Thanks to everyone who has sent examples of their .NET applications. (If you'd like to submit an example, send a description of what you're doing and why you used .NET to do it—please don't send the actual application. I can't do much with the latter.) Because some readers have requested that I leave their company's name out of the story, I'll mention the industry the applications were built for, but not the company name or application name.
Our first example is a Web-based project management application for a shipbuilding company. This application was designed for commercial and military ship life-cycle serving through the building, servicing, and decommissioning phases. These projects require and generate a vast amount of information, including schedules, invoices, progress reports, and vendor coordination data. The projects aren't the work of a single company, but can include input from multiple contracting teams that are geographically separated from one another as well as from vendors and customers.
The application needs to be able to create and manage diverse kinds of information from a variety of sources and make it easy for all parties involved to coordinate their efforts. Some degree of platform independence is also a key requirement because the people running the application might do so from a PC or a mobile device such as a Pocket PC. And because the US government is a customer, the application has to comply with US government budgeting, timetable, and security standards.
The shipbuilding company hired a third-party firm to perform a Rapid Economic Justification (REJ) analysis of the application project to determine how best to accomplish it. The results of this analysis suggested that building the next version of this process-tracking application as a .NET application would confer several advantages. .NET's integrated development environment would reduce development time immediately and later (as developers added features to the application) and would reduce developer training time by letting developers use the same tools to build applications for different viewing platforms, rather than having to code separately for wireless mobile devices and PCs. This shortened development and training time would reduce the cost of the application and improve revenue by reducing time to market by an estimated 19 percent, as compared with other development methods.
Of course, cost reduction isn't the only reason to use the .NET Framework to build the application. Using XML-based Web services eases integrating the vendor, partner, and customer systems throughout the life of the project. Support for the .NET Compact Framework, a subset of the desktop .NET Framework, lets the application relatively easily support both PCs and mobile devices without requiring a lot of extra work. Because all the application's users have an identical view of the data regardless of the company they work for or the client device they use to run the application, they can access realtime project management and analytical information without having to exchange files or wait for translation. The application uses ASP.NET WebForms and Web Controls. The WebForms execute on the server for better performance and can generate Dynamic HTML (DHTML) code that's appropriate to the client browser and that Web Controls detects. As a result, the application uses the same code regardless of the display platform but displays only information that the client's browser can handle.
In short, the application developer went with .NET to more easily coordinate input and output among a large and diverse group of people who might not all be using the same kind of application, and to reduce development time immediately and down the road by reusing code. .NET makes the application more useful and makes it available quickly.
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6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Carolyn Mader, [email protected])
Teamplate announced Teamplate for .NET, .NET Framework-based business-process workflow software that interconnects desktop users, applications, and databases across a traditional or virtual enterprise. The software interconnects people, processes, and technology by letting nontechnical users participate in design, development, and deployment. For pricing, contact Teamplate at 403-668-6300.
Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Do you know of a terrific product that others should know about? Tell us! We want to write about the product in a future What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions to [email protected].
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