.NET UPDATE, November 14, 2002

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(below COMMENTARY)


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November 14, 2002—In this issue:

1. COMMENTARY

  • The Next Battleground: Mobile Devices

2. .NET NEWS AND VIEWS

  • ViewSonic Announces First Windows Powered Smart Displays

3. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES

  • Getting a Handle on Web Services

4. ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • How Can You Reclaim 30% to 50% of Windows Server Space?
  • Planning on Getting Certified? Make Sure to Pick Up Our New eBook!

5. NEW AND IMPROVED

  • Create Scalable Communications Applications
  • Submit Top Product Ideas

6. CONTACT US

  • See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

1. COMMENTARY
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])

  • THE NEXT BATTLEGROUND: MOBILE DEVICES

  • When Microsoft launched .NET a few years ago, the company promised that the technology would answer complaints customers had made about earlier interoperability software and also supply a platform on which developers could build Web services. Compared with COM, COM+, and the alphabet-soup-like sea of acronym-laden technologies that followed those specifications, .NET is far more elegant, and built on open standards. But like much existing technology, the era in which .NET was conceived is rapidly passing. As a result, .NET has had to change with the times, and its future success will depend upon how easily it continues to change.

    Web services, in many ways, are a bust. From a theoretical standpoint, most people agree that local applications are more powerful when they can access remote services. For example, a word processor with a built-in dictionary is a powerful tool, but a word processor that can connect to a live, always-updated dictionary is even more powerful. The problem with Web services is that they aren't an end but rather the means to an end. No one is particularly interested in purchasing Web services. What people can rally around, however, are more powerful applications.

    Microsoft understands this reality. That's why the company now offers its consumer-oriented Web services through MSN's online service: Consumers can grok the benefits of an online service fairly readily, but ask them to subscribe to an online calendaring service and they'll give you a blank stare. For the enterprise, Microsoft is adding Web services to many of its products, including an update to MSN Messenger software that ships this week. The day is quickly coming when the phrase "Powered by .NET" will carry some meaning.

    For .NET, one market that will increase in importance is mobile devices. Microsoft has always envisioned .NET as a cross-platform solution, and one of the reasons this technology exists is because the company saw the industry moving from the general-purpose PCs we use today to a wider variety of specialized hardware that spans multiple categories. For example, one day, smart connected refrigerators will be able to automatically order a gallon of milk or a carton of eggs when stocks of those products dwindle. In the near term, however, non-PC computing devices will primarily exist in the form of Tablet PCs, PDAs such as the Pocket PC, smart cell phones, and other similar devices. These mobile devices are always connected. In many ways, they are simply smaller versions of our PCs.

    To support mobile devices, Microsoft offers developers the .NET Compact Framework, a beta toolkit based on Windows CE .NET (formerly code-named Talisker) that simplifies developing or porting applications and services to Pocket PCs and other devices. The .NET Compact Framework is surprisingly powerful. One of its neatest features helps developers port PC applications to smaller devices by using a "degradable" UI that adapts to the devices. So, you might run such an application on a standard PC with full functionality but experience slightly more limited capability on a Pocket PC.

    Currently, the .NET Compact Framework is in beta, and Microsoft will ship the beta 2 release with the first major Visual Studio .NET upgrade, code-named Everett, in early 2003. Everett will let developers create mobile applications and services in C# and Visual Basic .NET. Microsoft is preparing a host of target devices to take advantage of this generation of software, including new Pocket PC devices, new Windows Powered Smartphone 2002 devices, and Windows Powered Smart Displays (formerly code-named Mira, which are based on Windows CE .NET). But the .NET Compact Framework's big limitation is that it targets only Microsoft platforms.

    And here, naturally, is where the competition comes in. Sun Microsystems' Java technology has lately made inroads in mobile devices, especially smart cell phones — an interesting situation because this market more closely mirrors Java's original vision as an OS for specialty set-top boxes than does the technology's relegation to Web applets in recent years. Companies such as Symbian and Nokia are using Java, not .NET, on the most popular smart cell phones that are currently available, making some analysts wonder whether .NET is dead in the water. And a recent defection by one of Microsoft's most important Smartphone partners, the UK-based Sendo, to Symbian and Java casts further doubt on the software giant's chances in the mobile space.

    But I wouldn't count Microsoft out just yet. As the company has shown time and again, it can respond quickly to changing market needs. Microsoft knows that if .NET is to be truly successful, it can't be a technology that runs only on Microsoft platforms. If ensuring .NET's success means porting the .NET Compact Framework to the Palm OS or other mobile platforms, I suspect that's exactly what Microsoft will do.


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    2. .NET NEWS AND VIEWS
    (contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])

  • VIEWSONIC ANNOUNCES FIRST WINDOWS POWERED SMART DISPLAYS

  • On Tuesday, ViewSonic unveiled its line of Windows Powered Smart Displays (formerly code-named Mira), which use Windows CE .NET (formerly code-named Talisker)technology to wirelessly connect a smart display panel to a PC located elsewhere in a user's home. The effect is similar to that of a cordless phone, allowing the user freedom to roam around the house and access the PC from anywhere in the house.
    http://www.wininformant.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=27267

    3. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES
    (contributed by Christa Anderson, [email protected])

  • GETTING A HANDLE ON WEB SERVICES

  • As some of you know, I've attended Citrix iForum, Citrix's server-based computing show, for the past several years. I like the show. The technical content improves each year — not that I always get as much time for breakout sessions as I'd like — and the show gives me a chance to talk to people who are interested in server-based computing: product managers, systems engineers, customers, vendors, and analysts.

    Server-based computing is expanding into the .NET space. Last week, at one of this year's iForum's evening events, I chatted for a while with Jim McGrath, Citrix's senior product marketing manager for Web products. Because of Jim's close work on Citrix NFuse Elite access portal server, I figured he'd be a good guy to talk to about how the Web services portion of .NET figures in Citrix's plans for the future.

    I began by asking Jim about Citrix's plans for Web services. He rolled his eyes. "I'll tell you what. When I ask two customers what Web services are and they say the same thing, I'll know it's time. Until then. . ." Then he shrugged. We talked a bit more and worked out that Jim didn't view the situation as he originally implied; Citrix is closely linked to Microsoft, and Microsoft is strongly interested in developing a working .NET architecture. (Also, as Citrix's chief technology officer — CTO — Bob Kruger pointed out, you really can't develop software according to what users want right now — you need to anticipate what they'll want in the future.) However, Jim isn't alone in his sense that people aren't really sure what Web services are. While at Windows & .NET Magazine LIVE! in Orlando, Florida, 2 weeks ago (I've had a busy couple of weeks), I fell into conversation with one of the XML-track presenters, and he said pretty much the same thing: Although Web services are a subset of .NET, the two are not synonymous, and getting people to understand that can be difficult.

    I'm happier with a concept if I can see it in practical application, and I don't think I'm alone. It would be easier to understand Web services if we could grasp them not just as technology (as we've been doing by looking at Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration — UDDI — in this column) but also at the application level. What does a Web service application look like?

    One example is the medical Web service Clinical Context Object Workgroup (CCOW), which performs a kind of next-generation OLE by taking user input at one point and populating related applications with the same information. If you're not familiar with CCOW, however, you can see other Web services in action if you're using Windows XP. Suppose someone sends you a .pdf file, but you don't have Adobe Systems' Adobe Acrobat Reader installed. When you try to open the file, it has no current file associations. In this situation in Windows 2000, the File Types dialog box would open, and you'd choose an application to associate with the .pdf file from a list of applications already installed. (If you didn't have Acrobat Reader currently installed, you wouldn't be able to open the .pdf file.) When asked to open a file of an unrecognized type, XP opens a dialog box that offers you the choice of either opening the familiar File Types dialog box or taking a new option: looking online for an appropriate application to associate with the .pdf file. Click the button to browse online, and you'll see a collection of applications that support .pdf files, from which you can install Acrobat Reader.

    That's a simple example of a Web service, but it's an illustration that works. In Dot-Tech Perspectives, I started reporting about current .NET implementations in July but have devoted the last six columns to UDDI 3.0. Next issue, I'll resume looking at some ways you're using .NET today.

    4. ANNOUNCEMENTS
    (brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

  • HOW CAN YOU RECLAIM 30% TO 50% OF WINDOWS SERVER SPACE?

  • Attend our newest Web seminar, brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and Precise SRM, and discover the secrets. Steven Toole will also advise you about how to reduce storage growth and backups by 30% and how to reduce storage administration by 25% or more. Space is limited for this important Web event, so register today!
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  • PLANNING ON GETTING CERTIFIED? MAKE SURE TO PICK UP OUR NEW EBOOK!

  • "The Insider's Guide to IT Certification" eBook is hot off the presses and contains everything you need to know to help you save time and money while preparing for certification exams from Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and CompTIA and have a successful career in IT. Get your copy of the Insider's Guide today!
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    5. NEW AND IMPROVED
    (contributed by Carolyn Mader, [email protected])

  • CREATE SCALABLE COMMUNICATIONS APPLICATIONS

  • Pronexus released VBVoice 5.0, software for creating scalable and extensible computer telephony (CT) solutions. Incorporating the power of Visual Studio .NET, VBVoice 5.0 provides a GUI for call flow design and lets developers incorporate speech recognition technology and take advantage of Voice over IP (VoIP) technology in their applications. Pricing starts at $1200 per developer seat. Contact Pronexus at [email protected]
    http://www.pronexus.com

  • SUBMIT TOP PRODUCT IDEAS

  • 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 .
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    6. CONTACT US
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