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Microsoft to Release SP1; Announces .NET Strategy

Buried in a press release about Windows 2000 sales (expected to top 3 million by tomorrow) comes the news that Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Win2K is expected to ship this summer. The document gives few details about just what SP1 will contain, except for the tantalizing hint that it "features easier and more robust mechanisms for applying service packs." The press release also reports that SP1 will be "rigorously tested." I'll have more about SP1 as soon as additional information is available. You can read the full release here.

The other big news is (of course) Microsoft's announcement last week about a new .NET architecture (formerly known as Next Generation Windows Services). The .NET architecture includes a slew of new initiatives that will affect future versions of Win2K Professional and other Microsoft OSs and applications. The most significant developments for end users include a new user interface (called Universal Canvas) that blurs the line between OS and applications, integral digital media support, new privacy-enhancement technology, and a new "Dynamic Delivery System" for seamless installation and updates.

Under the hood, the .NET architecture is based on XML, which does for data structures what HTML did for data presentation. This approach means that data and applications can exist in a location-independent manner on the Net and be accessed by anyone connected to it. It sounds very much like an extension to the Internet as a whole of Win2K Server's Active Directory (AD).

So far, Microsoft has implemented .NET technologies only for demonstrations. A senior Microsoft programmer tells me that Microsoft is only now beginning to evangelize .NET to programmers. To make the technology work, programmers will need to significantly change how they write applications. Today, data is stored in a variety of tables, databases, and free-form files located locally or on a server. Getting the full benefit from the .NET architecture will require that these be replaced by standardized XML data structures. And in what may be the biggest break with past practice (and the biggest obstacle to getting this concept broadly accepted), Microsoft wants to establish a single standard for common field names, such as phone numbers and addresses.

Will this .NET strategy succeed? The potential benefits are hard to argue with: Imagine having to type in your phone number only once, and from then on having it automatically entered into Internet forms and the like. But it raises huge privacy concerns (which might explain why Microsoft pledged to add more privacy support to future versions of Windows), and by blurring the line between OS and applications, it's pretty much the exact opposite of what the Department of Justice (DOJ) wants Microsoft to be doing. For more about the .NET strategy, click here.

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