.NET UPDATE, April 17, 2003


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April 17, 2003--In this issue:

1. COMMENTARY - Is .NET on the Way Out?

2. .NET NEWS - Microsoft Christens Windows Server System

3. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES - Real-Life .NET: Adding Support for the .NET Framework

4. ANNOUNCEMENTS - Couldn't Make the Microsoft Mobility Tour Event? - Microsoft TechEd 2003, June 1-6, 2003, Dallas

5. NEW AND IMPROVED - Master Visual Studio .NET - Pass Your Microsoft Certified Systems Developer Exam

6. CONTACT US - See this section for a list of ways to contact us.




(contributed by Paul Thurrott, news editor, [email protected])

* IS .NET ON THE WAY OUT? I've received several reports from sources in and close to Microsoft that suggest the software giant is getting ready to walk away from .NET, its troubled attempt to move the computer industry from monolithic desktop applications to subscription-based software services. In this issue of .NET UPDATE, I'll examine the long, convoluted history of the .NET initiative, Microsoft's many failures to get customers, developers, and partners to adopt the technology, and the various ways in which the .NET vision has changed over time. Then, I'll discuss the rumors I've heard and the ramifications these potential changes could have on .NET.

As I described in the first-ever issue of .NET UPDATE, published in January 2001, the .NET initiative began with the "Internet Tidal Wave" memo Bill Gates sent to Microsoft employees in 1995. Gates could sense that the computing industry was changing rapidly because of the Internet, and he charged the troops with adapting to this change. Microsoft would meld Internet capabilities into all its products, Gates said, and during the next several years, the company did just that. Microsoft eventually decided it would need to redesign its entire product line to embrace the standards-based technologies that would underlie Next Generation Web Service (NGWS), later (and wisely) renamed .NET.

The goal for the company was to transition to a subscription software model, similar to cable TV subscription services. One of the problems with Microsoft's sales models is that the company has peaks in its earnings reports that are tied to big product introductions, and valleys that occur when existing products have matured or the company has replaced them with lackluster revisions. To smooth its earnings curve, Microsoft embarked on a controversial (but, at the time, legal) decade-long earnings restatement project, in which the company put aside portions of its earnings in each peak quarter and applied the difference to quarters in which the company didn't perform as well. The result was an unnaturally smooth earnings growth curve, in which the company experienced double-digit growth, year over year, throughout the 1990s. Unfortunately for Microsoft, earnings reporting laws changed. Federal regulators began to examine the company's books, and Microsoft had to change the way it reported earnings.

Although the company knew it couldn't maintain its historical growth rate, it was still eyeing ways in which it could smooth out revenues and avoid the bizarre daily stock-price changes that affect most high-tech companies. One obvious way, of course, was to move to the subscription software model it had so long desired. Instead of customers purchasing Microsoft Office once every 3 years for $400, for example, perhaps the company could convince customers to subscribe to an Office service for $100 a year. Like a gigantic aircraft carrier turning slowly at sea, Microsoft moved to implement this plan. On the enterprise side, software licensing had already evolved to a subscription-like plan, so Microsoft met little resistance among its business customers until it so egregiously changed the licensing fees in Licensing 6.0 that customers revolted and the company finally had to make concessions to lower the cost.

Consumers represented a different problem for Microsoft's subscription-service scheme. Most people think that when you buy a software product, you own it--Microsoft's obscure and little-understood licensing terms notwithstanding. Explaining to an individual that the software he just purchased for $100 wasn't really his to keep and continue using proved to be a challenge that even Microsoft's unlimited marketing budget couldn't overcome. In test markets for subscription software--in particular, Office XP--consumers universally panned the idea, and the complaints compelled Microsoft to eventually provide lifetime licenses to those who had purchased a 1-year subscription fee.

Developers were another obstacle to subscription services. Although Microsoft successfully moved all its development efforts to the new .NET Framework and to updated programming languages such as Visual C# and Visual Basic .NET, the company wasn't able to hide a glaring problem: You can't easily port existing applications and services to .NET, if at all, so the environment is good only for new development. That scenario might be fine in the go-fast world of Internet development and hosting, but it doesn't help developers of mature applications, such as word processors, or businesses that aren't ready to jump on the next big thing simply because it exists. Developers almost universally praise the quality of the .NET Framework and associated technologies, but then most developers also have to maintain old code written in comparatively ancient programming languages. They're like car enthusiasts forced to drive mid-80s Ford Escorts to work.

Finally, Microsoft's .NET initiative marketing message was convoluted. From Microsoft's most senior executives to the lowliest employees (they're in marketing, by the way), the message was clear: .NET is the future. The company changed the names even of products that had little to do with .NET. I almost expected the company to announce a corporate name change to Microsoft .NET. But customers were confused by this message, particularly the part about how the best was always yet to come. And Microsoft began backing off from the .NET branding strategy by announcing the .NET Connected Logo program and dropping the .NET moniker from virtually all its products. Just this week, the company renamed its .NET Enterprise Servers to Windows Server System. I haven't seen a retreat like that since the company touted Bob as the future of user interfaces.

So now it's April 2003 and I'm hearing that .NET is dead--that Microsoft will continue downplaying both the name .NET and the technologies behind it. You can find hints all around that this ".NOT" strategy might be happening right now. The 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 (once called Windows .NET Server, by the way) contain absolutely no .NET bits at all: No .NET Framework and no ASP .NET. Exchange Server 2003, the company's next major messaging server, contains no .NET. Office 2003, the premier office productivity suite, contains XML functionality only in the high-cost business versions and contains few native .NET features. In the biggest year ever of new product introductions from Microsoft, few if any of its products promote .NET, its supposed vision for the future.

Is .NET dead, or is Microsoft simply going through yet another round of growing pains as it attempts to figure out just what, exactly, its customers want? Frankly, I'm as confused as you probably are.



* MICROSOFT CHRISTENS WINDOWS SERVER SYSTEM As expected, yesterday Microsoft announced that the company is renaming its .NET Enterprise Servers to the Windows Server System, in keeping with previously announced plans to drop the .NET moniker from most of its product names. As with the name of Microsoft's Office productivity suite, which the company renamed Microsoft Office System, the name Windows Server System suggests a comprehensive, integrated, and interoperable product line, Microsoft says, one that addresses the complexity of enterprise operations.

"There are really two primary reasons for this change," said Paul Flessner, senior vice president of the Server Platform Division. "First, we are sending a clear signal to our customers and industry partners that we have heard their feedback--that IT has become increasingly complex and costly and less able to deliver business value. With Windows Server System, we are helping them understand the value that our comprehensive, integrated, and interoperable server infrastructure delivers today, as well as making a long-term commitment to reduce IT complexity and costs. Second, by aligning the new brand with the server platform, we are clarifying that our long-term server business and technology strategy starts with Windows Server at the foundation. With this new brand, we are emphasizing to our customers and industry partners the business value of a top-to-bottom integrated server infrastructure. We want our customers and partners to know that we are working hard to ensure they are getting the best return on their investments with Windows Server System."

Flessner says that the Windows Server System encompasses all the company's business-server categories, including e-business (BizTalk Server, Commerce Server, Content Management Server, Host Integration Server), data management and analysis (SQL Server), messaging and collaboration (Exchange Server, SharePoint Portal Server, Project Server, Real-Time Communications--RTC--Server), security (Internet Security and Acceleration--ISA--Server) and management (Systems Management Server--SMS, Microsoft Operations Manager--MOM, Application Center). And, of course, Windows Server 2003 sits at the foundation of this product line.

Microsoft will begin rolling out the new product branding next week at the Windows 2003 launch and will provide further information about its server-product strategy at the Microsoft TechEd 2003 trade show in early June.



(contributed by Christa Anderson, [email protected])

* REAL-LIFE .NET: ADDING SUPPORT FOR THE .NET FRAMEWORK In "Real-Life .NET: Setting Up UDDI on a Windows 2003 Computer" (http://www.winnetmag.com/Articles/Index.cfm?ArticleID=38701), I discussed how to add Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) Services (which lets you easily publish Web services on your intranet for individuals and applications) to Windows Server 2003. UDDI Services isn't a required part of applications running on the .NET architecture, but it does make certain tasks--such as creating new applications--easier. Now I'll look at a piece of the .NET architecture that's not required to use .NET applications but that broadens support for .NET applications: the .NET Framework, specifically the .NET Framework on the client side.

.NET applications have two possible interfaces: Web forms and Windows forms. You need the .NET Framework to support both, but where you need the .NET Framework depends on which interface your applications use. Web forms are for applications that run on an application server and are displayed in a browser connecting to that server, so the .NET Framework needs to be installed on the application server (and on the development computer). Windows forms, which run on the client computer, are much more flexible than Web forms. I'll save the comparisons for another article, but if you find the idea of selectively transparent or oddly shaped interfaces intriguing, you'll like Windows forms. Using Windows forms requires having the .NET Framework installed on the client computer where the application is running.

Using the .NET Framework has a catch, though: You need to install it, and the only OS that comes with the most recent version of the .NET Framework installed won't be released until next week. .NET Framework 1.0 has been out for a while, but applications developed with Visual Studio .NET 2003 will need version 1.1 to run. (Applications written for version 1.0 of the .NET Framework theoretically work on .NET Framework 1.1 in most cases, but some differences exist between the versions. For example, version 1.1 doesn't require applications to have a manifest to display the Windows XP default UI, as 1.0 does. For a complete list of all the changes that could potentially break applications originally developed for version 1.0, see http://www.gotdotnet.com/team/changeinfo/Forwards1.0to1.1/default.aspx . For a list of changes that will prevent applications developed for .NET Framework 1.1 from running on .NET Framework 1.0, see http://www.gotdotnet.com/team/changeinfo/Backwards1.0to1.1/default.aspx.) To develop applications for .NET Framework 1.1, you obviously need to install that version.

You can tell whether .NET Framework 1.1 is installed by opening the Control Panel Add/Remove Programs applet and looking for .NET Framework 1.1 in the list of installed programs. If it's not on the list and you're using one of the supported OSs (Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows 98, or Windows NT with Service Pack--SP--6.a), then you have several choices for getting it. If you develop .NET applications, you can download the Microsoft .NET Framework Version 1.1 Redistributable Package (dotnetfx.exe) from http://microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=262D25E3-F589-4842-8157-034D1E7CF3A3&displaylang=en for inclusion with the applications you write. End users who need to install the .NET Framework can get the most recent version from Windows Update.

What are the compatibility problems for .NET Framework 1.0 and 1.1? Can you run both versions of the .NET Framework on the same computer? Some people might want to run both versions to avoid rewriting applications originally developed for 1.0. However, you can't run different versions of the .NET Framework on the same computer; Setup will tell you that the .NET Framework is already installed. And you don't necessarily need to support both versions of the .NET Framework. If you try to run a .NET Framework 1.0 application on a computer with .NET Framework 1.1 installed, the application will attempt to run. Only if .NET Framework 1.0 is installed will the application revert to the older version of the Framework. Applications written for 1.1 do require 1.1, however--they won't run on version 1.0 unless you explicitly edit their configuration files to enable them to use that version and unless they don't use any pieces found only in the 1.1 Framework.

What this discussion comes down to is that version dependence is not entirely a thing of the past; .NET Framework 1.1 and 1.0 aren't identical. However, the isolated nature of .NET applications lets different versions of applications--and the underlying framework supporting them--to coexist.



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

* COULDN'T MAKE THE MICROSOFT MOBILITY TOUR EVENT? If you were too busy to catch our Microsoft Mobility Tour event in person, now you can view the Webcast archives for free! You'll learn more about the available solutions for PC and mobile devices and discover the direction the mobility marketplace is headed. http://www.winnetmag.com/seminars/mobility * MICROSOFT TECHED 2003, JUNE 1-6, 2003, DALLAS Realize your potential at TechEd 2003, Microsoft's premier technical conference. Includes the latest in-depth sessions on the entire .NET developer-language family. Register by April 25 and save $400! http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=14023



(contributed by Carolyn Mader, [email protected])

* MASTER VISUAL STUDIO .NET O'Reilly announced "Mastering Visual Studio .NET," a book by Ian Griffiths, Jon Flanders, and Chris Sells to help developers learn about Visual Studio .NET. Chapter topics include integrating controls and components with Visual Studio .NET, macros and add-ins, and custom wizards. The book costs $39.95. Contact O'Reilly at 707-827-7000 or 800-998-9938. http://www.oreilly.com

* PASS YOUR MICROSOFT CERTIFIED SYSTEMS DEVELOPER EXAM Transcender released TransTrainer for VB .NET/Windows, a computer-based training (CBT) video for Microsoft Visual Basic .NET exams. The video provides training for Microsoft .NET Core Requirements Exam 70-306 and combines video clips of instructor-led demonstrations and examples. The video contains 7 hours of indexed and searchable topics. TransTrainer for VB .NET/Windows costs $129. Contact Transcender at 615-726-8779 or [email protected] http://www.transcender.com 6.


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