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May 30, 2002—In this issue:
- Selling the .NET Vision 2.0: Heading to the Top of the Food Chain
- Are the Best Things in Life Available on Reasonable and Non-discriminatory Terms?
- Nextech 2002
- Immediate Access To T-SQL Solutions!
- Event Highlight: Microsoft TechEd 2002 Europe
5. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Better Support for Your Customers
6. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, news editor, [email protected])
In my March 7 commentary "Selling the .NET Vision,", I explained that Microsoft faces problems in selling .NET to consumers because the .NET technology is so nebulous and ever changing. In fact, consumers will never see much .NET-oriented technology unless companies other than Microsoft decide to adopt the technology as well. So at this week's Microsoft CEO Summit, a yearly event that Microsoft holds, the company decided to pour it on a bit thick with lavish receptions, futuristic product demos, and other showcases for insider information. The results, interestingly, were almost immediately positive.
This year's CEO Summit is the sixth Microsoft has held, and the lucky 100-plus chief executives who attended the event were treated to a lamb and salmon extravaganza at Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates's $100 million Lake Washington mansion, which no doubt played a big part in getting them to openly and excitedly embrace virtually every Microsoft technology coming down the pike. Most were particularly excited about the upcoming Tablet PC devices—which are essentially laptops with convertible screens that users can flip over to use the device as a tablet—probably because all of the attendees walked away from the event with prototypes to use over the summer. But while Gates obviously would have taken any positive feedback the CEOs could provide, he was most obviously interested in selling .NET. And his opening speech to the CEOs—the only part of the event open to the press—focused mostly on this topic.
.NET, Gates said, is a $10 billion "bet-the-company" strategy that will fundamentally change the way Microsoft and the rest of the computer industry sell software services while also overcoming the limitations of today's software model. But in the 2 years since the company began pushing the technology, precious little of .NET can be seen working today, and most related products and services—.NET Passport, MSN Messenger, and Windows Messenger, for example—existed before .NET was even invented. Even more troubling, of course, is the resistance customers have shown toward Microsoft's various .NET projects. Microsoft has scaled back the strategy for .NET Passport several times, and the company recently abruptly cancelled its most ambitious product plan—.NET My Services (formerly code-named HailStorm)—after none of Microsoft's partners elected to adopt the technology. The company is now restructuring .NET My Services to be more palatable to those partners, but the resulting product will barely resemble Microsoft's original plan.
Gates said that the company has learned from these public stumbles and agrees now that .NET's infrastructure should be based purely on open standards and not require Microsoft servers or proprietary technologies, a change that would let companies control their own users' data. "It's a scary thing because if only one company goes down this road \[of noninteroperable proprietary solutions\], it's really a dead end," Gates said. "This year is the first year I can say for sure that the leading companies have decided this is the approach and they are going to build around this for rich interoperability."
Speech over, the CEOs headed off to mingle and presumably exchange information about the Microsoft technologies that their companies have adopted. Microsoft made a few CEOs available to the press, but this group was obviously handpicked and had little of importance to impart. But given the bubbly, effusive praise heaped on .NET during the event, Microsoft clearly hit a few high notes and maybe sold some important people on the technology. If Microsoft can get just a few other companies to "bet the company" on .NET, the technology might have a fighting chance.
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2. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES
(contributed by Christa Anderson, [email protected])
I've spent a lot of time in Dot-Tech Perspectives discussing how .NET applications are intended to communicate by using the proposed Global XML Web Services standards. What I haven't discussed is how those standards can potentially affect the people using them—specifically, how we're paying for them.
Paying for them? Yup. The mechanisms that you're using to read this column online or have this electronic newsletter delivered to your mailbox didn't fall out of the sky; someone (or a lot of someones) developed them. The same is true for the Global XML Web Services we've been exploring for the past several months. However, although you don't pay a license fee to use HTTP or SMTP, you might pay to use Web services, albeit indirectly. Whether you pay depends on what the companies that develop those mechanisms decide to do.
Let's do a little background. Members of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) can submit documents, which the W3C calls Submissions, to be made part of the public record. Submissions aren't official proposed standards but rather publications offered by W3C members. A Submission includes the terms under which W3C members have access to the technology that the Submission describes. That access can be either on a royalty-free (RF) basis, or on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms (RAND), to use the usual proposal wording, and each company with intellectual property in a Submission specifies the terms under which it's offering the technology. For example, Ariba might want to leave open the possibility of receiving royalties for its intellectual property in a particular technology, whereas Compaq might expressly allow companies that implement its intellectual property in the same technology to use the technology without paying royalties.
W3C Submissions aren't "official" proposed standards but might address usage guidelines should the information the Submissions contain become standards. And there's the rub, to coin a phrase—even if a Submission as it is proposed is RF, the owner of the intellectual property that the Submission documents can state that the property will be available on RAND terms if implemented as a standard. As a consequence, developers or companies who follow the standards could be charged for using them. Not punitively charged to favor certain companies (or so I interpret the "nondiscriminatory" in RAND) but charged nonetheless. Because the logistics of charging consumers on a per-usage basis present horrific obstacles, the cost would most likely go straight to developers.
I don't suggest that companies shouldn't be able to make money off intellectual property. But in the case of Global XML Web Services, the standards are proposed alternatives—they don't lock you into one way of doing things. If you don't like one of the Web services options, you can pick another. But if companies such as Microsoft and IBM propose protocols to be used as standards and also patent those protocols, then they can charge companies who try to comply with the standards for using the standards. Yes, individual companies could develop their own ways of implementing Web services—but at the cost of standardization. The W3C is working on a patent policy that would recommend only technologies that are available on an RF basis (that's the plan for now, anyway), but the consortium's working group is still determining how to accomplish this.
If Web services standards do become available only on RAND terms, the range of Global XML Web Services choices will be limited—no question about it. That situation will probably also drive up the price of .NET-compatible software by increasing development costs and reducing competition. It's hard to imagine a royalty dispute blowing .NET out of the water entirely, but making companies pay to follow standards certainly isn't going to help adoption. Perhaps companies that charge fees for using Global XML Web Services standards should send a check to Tim Berners-Lee.
You can go straight to the source and read some W3C Submissions and the W3C's Patent Policy Working Group Royalty-Free Patent Policy at
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July 1 through 5, 2002
Microsoft TechEd 2002 Europe—the premier Microsoft conference for developers, systems architects, IT professionals, database administrators, and systems engineers—is heading to Barcelona in July. More than 250 technical sessions will be presented by top Microsoft speakers and industry experts from the United States and Europe. Hands-on labs will help you deepen your knowledge. This year's conference focus will be on the Windows .NET Server family, Microsoft BizTalk Server 2002, and the other .NET Enterprise Servers.
For other upcoming events, check out the Windows & .NET Magazine Event Calendar.
5. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Carolyn Mascarenas, [email protected])
Epicor Software, an e-business software solution provider, announced Clientele Customer Support 8.0. With Global XML Web Services and other features from the .NET architecture, Clientele Customer Support 8.0 helps your company provide better customer service. As part of the Clientele CRM.NET Suite, Clientele Customer Support 8.0 uses native Web services and XML to make integration with external applications easier. For pricing, contact Epicor Software at 888-937-4267.
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