REDMOND, Wash., June 22, 2000 — Today at Forum 2000, Microsoft announced a new generation of software, called Microsoft .NET, that will enable every developer, business and consumer to benefit from the powerful combination of a variety of new Internet devices and programmable Web services that characterize the Next Generation Internet. Melding the best of computing and communications, and based on Internet standards such as XML and SOAP, Microsoft .NET helps advance the Internet’s transformation from HTML-based presentation to programmable XML-based information. By giving customers the Web the way they want it, Microsoft .NET services, products and tools will give businesses the power to engage seamlessly and securely with customers and partners, and provide consumers with an integrated, secure and easy-to-use Internet experience.
PressPass spoke with Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer to find out what this new platform means for Microsoft’s overall strategy, and to clarify what it will bring to businesses, consumers and independent developers.
PressPass: Why is Microsoft creating this new platform?
Ballmer: I spend a lot of my time talking to customers, and they’re always asking me how they can take full advantage of the opportunities out there on the Internet. Corporations tell me that their Web sites aren’t doing enough for them, that they want to interact more productively with their partners and suppliers. They tell me they don’t have the systems they need to make that happen efficiently and easily, and that their employees often have a hard time finding the information they need. Small businesses say that they want an inexpensive, painless way to take advantage of the Internet. Developers tell me it’s too hard to make applications work well together over the Web, and that they’re writing the same code over and over again just to do really basic things. And consumers just want a simple, unified way to access the Internet and manage the increasing number of devices they use that are connected to the Internet.
We realized that we’re in a great position to make all this happen. We’ve got the experience building platforms, driving industry standards and supporting the developer community. We’ve got the patience to build a platform over several years, backed up by a solid long-term vision and a massive commitment to research and development. We’ve already got the fundamental building blocks in place to make this a reality, and we’ve got the smart, talented people needed to make it work.
PressPass: How is the Next Generation Internet different from today’s Internet?
Ballmer: Today’s Internet has a lot in common with the old mainframe computing model, where information was locked up in centralized servers and users relied on them for everything. It’s hard for today’s Web sites to communicate with each other in a meaningful way, or collaborate to provide broader, deeper services. It’s even harder for users to customize their online experience, or create a “personal information space” to edit, analyze and share information.
Today, people have to adapt to technology. We believe that technology should adapt to them. Industry standards like XML and SOAP unlock information so it can be organized, manipulated and programmed, then displayed on any kind of device or system, any way you want it. A platform built around these standards will put control of information back into the hands of the people that need to use it. Microsoft .NET products and services are totally focused on achieving that goal.
PressPass: What new benefits will this bring to knowledge workers, businesses and consumers?
Ballmer: Microsoft .NET means that knowledge workers will be able to create, browse, edit and share information using one simple interface, and they’ll also have powerful information-management tools at their disposal — no matter where they are or what device they’re using. And because their documents will be structured with XML, that information can be easily found and used throughout the company or on the Internet. Businesses of any size can use these same tools to communicate and share information seamlessly with their suppliers, partners and customers, and they’ll be able to create rich distributed services that integrate with their legacy systems, their customers’ applications and services, or any resource on the Internet. All this will help them seize new and profitable opportunities on the Internet and run their business more efficiently.
Consumers will enjoy an integrated, secure and easy-to-use Internet experience that will encompass everything from the PC all the way down to handheld devices and smart credit cards. Their information will be available and usable across sites. For instance, every consumer will be able to store all their health information online and easily take control over who has access to them. They’ll have access to all the information they need online or off, greater customization and personalization, and zero management. Instead of having to install updates and new features, or backup their information themselves, that will all happen automatically and transparently.
PressPass: What can Microsoft’s partners and independent developers look forward to doing with Microsoft .NET tools and services?
Ballmer: Microsoft .NET offers some amazing opportunities for developers and partners. Microsoft .NET offers an entirely new set of development tools, designed for the Web from the ground up. They cover all the bases, from client to server to Web services. They give developers the opportunity to build rich new services entirely from scratch, or to build them on top of the core Microsoft .NET building block services. They can subscribe to these services “off the shelf,” and focus on writing code that differentiates their product. The next generation of Visual Studio, which will ship later this year, will bring the Visual Basic “drag-and-drop” paradigm to Web services development, allowing developers to automate the development of rich services and make them available on any platform that understands XML.
All these benefits are incredibly valuable to corporate IT professionals, who want to build and manage Web-based services at “Internet speed,” but need to support large, complex networks and thousands of knowledge workers. They need management tools that help them maintain and support everything from a farm of servers to thousands of handheld devices. They need reusable code and automated development tools to create rich, customizable services without sacrificing manageability and security. And they need to bring it all together, across multiple business systems, inside and outside the company. The Microsoft .NET building blocks and tools will make all this possible, for the first time.
PressPass: Will Microsoft .NET help consumers and businesses keep their information private and secure?
Ballmer: The goal of Microsoft .NET is to give people control over when, where and how their information is accessed and presented. That’s what privacy and security are all about, so these principles are at the center of everything we’ll do. Microsoft .NET identity services will build on Passport and Windows authentication technology to give developers the power to include personalization and privacy in their applications — anything from simple authentication and identity to wallets, smart cards and biometric devices. The rich management capabilities of Microsoft .NET will give corporate IT managers even more control over who can access sensitive information — building on the rich management and security features in our products today. And consumers will have unprecedented control over where their personal information is stored and who gets to see it.
We’ve already laid the groundwork for this, with the Kerberos support and advanced manageability features of Windows 2000 and support for Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) technologies in subsequent versions of Windows.
PressPass: How do you plan to roll out Microsoft .NET?
Ballmer: Starting this year, everything we do will revolve around Microsoft .NET, focusing on three major areas:
The Microsoft .NET platform is the infrastructure and tools to build and operate a new generation of services; a .NET User Experience for rich clients;.NET building block services; and .NET device software to enable a new breed of smart Internet devices.
Microsoft .NET products and services include Windows.NET, with a core integrated set of building block services; MSN.NET; personal subscription services; Office.NET; Visual Studio.NET; and bCentral for .NET.
Building on these platforms, products and services, a vast range of partners and third-party developers will have the opportunity to produce corporate and vertical services built on the .NET platform.
PressPass: How does this fit into Microsoft’s current strategy?
Ballmer: Microsoft .NET is a major shift for our company. We’re incredibly excited about the future of the PC, and we’re excited about what our customers are able to do with Windows 2000 and Microsoft Office. Our server business is going strong, and MSN keeps getting better and better. Microsoft .NET will build on this success. This is a long process, much like the transition from MS-DOS to Windows. We’ll continue to offer and support our existing platforms and applications, including versions of the Windows platform without .NET services, and in the long term the majority of our products and services will evolve into subscription services, delivered over the Internet, that will give users greater control, transparent installation and backup, and unprecedented customer service. It will take a long time but we’re committed and patient enough to make it happen.