REDMOND, Wash., June 18, 2001 — Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect, recently wrote the following open letter to introduce the first in a new series of Microsoft white papers updating developers and Information Technology (IT) professionals on Microsofts .NET technology. The complete white paper can be found in the current issues of many leading publications for developers, IT professionals and technology business decision makers.
From: Bill Gates
To: Developer & IT Professionals
Subject: Microsoft .NET Today
What will the next generation of the Internet look like? Many of us envision an online world where constellations of PCs, servers, smart devices and Internet-based services can collaborate seamlessly. Businesses will be able to share data, integrate their processes, and join forces to offer customized, comprehensive solutions to their customers. And the information you or your business need will be available wherever you are — whatever computing device, platform or application you are using.
That vision has yet to be achieved. In many respects, todays Internet still mirrors the old mainframe world. Its a server-centric computing model, with the browser playing the role of dumb terminal. Much of the information your business needs is locked up in centralized databases, served up a page at a time to individual users. Worse, Web pages are simply a “picture” of the data, not the data itself, forcing many developers back to “screen scraping” to acquire information. And integrating that underlying data with your business existing systems — never mind those of your partners — is a costly and frustrating challenge.
Compounding this frustration is the fact that todays standalone applications and Web sites create islands of functionality and data. You have to navigate manually between Web sites, devices and applications, logging in each time and rarely being able to carry data with you. You have to keep constant track of which particular application or device or Web site gives you which level of access to which particular data. Tasks that ought to be simple — such as arranging a meeting with colleagues from partner companies and automatically updating every attendees calendar — are a nightmare. Productivity is one of the main casualties.
Solving such problems is the key challenge for the next generation of the Internet. At the heart of the solution is eXtensible Markup Language, or XML. An open industry standard managed by the World Wide Web Consortium, XML enables developers to describe data being exchanged between PCs, smart devices, applications and Web sites. Because XML separates the underlying data from how that data is displayed, the data itself is “unlocked” so that it can easily be organized, programmed, edited and exchanged between any Web sites, applications and devices. XML is a lingua franca for the Internet age. Just as the Web revolutionized how users talk to applications, XML transforms how applications talk to each other.
As developers become more familiar with XML, they are moving beyond simply using it for data. With the help of XML-based technologies such as SOAP (which enables applications to interoperate via standard Internet protocols) and UDDI (which gives businesses a standard way to describe their services and connect automatically), they are creating a new type of software that uses XML to provide Web-based services. These XML Web services are programmable and reusable, much like component software, except that they are accessible anywhere via the Internet. Programs using this model will run across multiple Web sites, drawing on information and services from each of them, and combining and delivering them in customized form to any device.
How will businesses and their customers benefit from this? Because XML Web services break down the distinctions between the Internet, standalone applications and computing devices of every kind, they enable businesses to collaborate to offer an unprecedented range of integrated and customized solutions — solutions that enable their customers to act on information any time, any place and on any device.
The power of the XML Web services model is amazing. A company offering an online electronic-payment service can expose its service to partners, so that they can deliver it as part of their own offering — regardless of what platform they are using. An airline can link its online reservation system to that of a car-rental partner, so travelers can book a car at the same time they book a flight. An online auction company can notify bidders when they are outbid or have won an auction, or could partner with other firms to offer alternative shipping, fulfillment or payment options. XML Web services help your business break free of its boundaries.
With XML Web services gaining momentum among developers as the next generation of Internet-based computing, its time to deliver a platform that makes it simpler to build these solutions and provides a reliable framework for integration and interoperability. Such a platform must be based on open standards, so it can work across all programming languages, operating systems and applications. And it must combine the power of PCs and smart devices with the richness of the Internet.
Microsofts platform for building, deploying, operating and integrating XML Web services is .NET. You can learn more about the many benefits of .NET, and find a roadmap for transforming your business to take advantage of everything it has to offer, by visiting the Microsoft .NET Web site. http://www.microsoft.com/net/