REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 18, 2001 — The upcoming year is taking on a definite theme at Microsoft. Call it the next chapter of .NET, the company’s roadmap for enabling software and services over the Internet. At Microsoft and across the technology industry, several new or enhanced products scheduled for release in 2002 will build on .NET, allowing a wide range of customers to better realize the potential in their businesses, in the office and at home.
For Microsoft, 2002 arrives on the heels of an historic year that saw the release of Windows XP, the fastest, most secure, accessible and powerful operating system in its history, as well as Office XP, the most significant update ever to Microsoft’s decade-old Office suite of productivity applications. Along with the release of Xbox, Microsoft’s first gaming console, the trio of product launches set the table for a true “Digital Decade” that will revolutionize the way companies do business and how people around the world communicate, learn and play.
For software developers in 2002, Visual Studio .NET will provide the tools needed to build Web services based on eXtensible Markup Language (XML), while a forthcoming suite of developer tools will help make speech a common way to receive and exchange information with Web or telephone applications.
Windows .NET Server will provide a foundation for developers to build, run and manage Web services, and allow businesses to develop and deploy a broad range of enterprise-scale applications. For small- and medium-sized businesses, Microsoft Great Plains Business Solutions will launch the division’s first products that incorporate .NET technologies, Dynamics and eEnterprise Release 7.0.
Many knowledge workers will experience .NET services on the Tablet PC, the evolution of todays fully functional laptop computers. These next-generation laptops will combine the power and features of a standard PC with the convenience and mobility of a pen and paper, including the ability to capture and reuse handwritten or spoken notes.
Besides products helping to deliver on the promise of .NET, other newsworthy Microsoft product and technology highlights expected for 2002 include:
Consumer momentum for Windows XP this holiday season is expected to grow into the enterprise market as businesses realize the benefits of the increased reliability, dependability, simplicity, security, wireless enhancements and real-time communications in the new operating system.
The first commercial deployment of the Microsoft TV Advanced platform by a major cable operator in the United States.
Release of the Xbox gaming console in Japan and Europe, along with games and devices specially tailored for these markets.
The next generation of the Windows Media Technologies platform, codenamed “Corona,” with major improvements for users, businesses and developers
In conjunction with its hardware and software partners, Microsoft will introduce the first Tablet PCs, devices created to redefine mobile computing. They will offer the power of a standard PC, run an enhanced version of Windows XP Professional (Windows XP Tablet PC Edition) and provide multiple ways to input information.
To enhance mobility, Tablet PCs will offer extended battery life, high-resolution screens and support for wireless networks — and weigh as little as 2.5 pounds (1.1 kilograms) — about half the weight of today’s typical laptop. Tablet PCs will allow users to enter information by writing on the screen with a pen-like stylus or by speaking into the device. Users will also have the option of typing. All models will come with a keyboard, some built-in, others detachable.
“The Tablet PC represents a giant step in the evolution of the laptop,” says Kelly Berschauer, product manager for Tablet PC. “It’s a full-function PC that can be used in more aspects of your day. You can choose how you enter information or interact with applications: handwriting quick notes at meetings, typing longer documents or spoken words when your hands are full.”
The handwriting capabilities will allow users to easily and quietly take digital notes during meetings or other occasions when a paper and pen are traditionally used. All digital ink is stored for later use, is fully searchable and can be added to other documents or programs. It also can be converted to text.
Scheduled for release during the second half of 2002, Tablet PCs will support the standard features of all existing Windows applications. Many software vendors will extend their applications to take advantage of unique Tablet PC capabilities. Microsoft will add handwriting and other TabletPC functions to Office XP through an add-on, which is scheduled for release when Tablet PCs hit stores.
Tablet PCs also will include the complete .NET Framework, providing enhanced access to .NET technologies and services.
Visual Studio .NET
With Visual Studio .NET, Microsoft expects to redefine software development. “Visual Studio .NET marks the beginning of the future of XML Web services,” says Eric Rudder, senior vice president of the Developer Platform and Evangelism Division at Microsoft.
Visual Studio .NET offers developers a comprehensive set of tools for creating XML Web services. It also includes the .NET Framework, a development environment built on industry standards that supports multiple programming languages. This will allow developers to be more productive, Rudder says, because they won’t have to learn new languages or technology or be locked into using only one language when creating XML Web services. Perhaps most importantly, developers will be able to continue to get value out of existing investments, software and skills.
In October, Microsoft issued the release candidate of Visual Studio .NET, marking the final milestone in a beta process that included more than 2.5 million developers, a record for Microsoft. The final product is scheduled to arrive in stores during the first quarter of 2002.
Windows .NET Server
Microsoft designed Windows .NET Server as the foundation of its platform for XML Web services. In doing so, the company combined the reliability and scalability of Windows 2000 Server with built-in support for XML and the Microsoft .NET Framework, the core technologies of .NET. It also added other new features, including expanded communications and collaboration services.
“With native support for XML and the .NET Framework, the Windows .NET Server Family is a tremendously powerful development platform,” says Cliff Reeves, vice president for the Windows .NET Product Management Group. “It builds on all the strengths of Windows 2000 Server and provides a solid foundation to develop and host the next generation of XML Web services.”
The Windows .NET Server Family comprises:
Windows .NET Web Server to speed up and simplify development, deployment and hosting of Web sites, services and applications
Windows .NET Standard Server to meet the needs of small businesses and departments of larger businesses with file and print needs
Windows .NET Enterprise Server to handle business-wide computing needs, applications tailored to specific industries and e-commerce transactions.
Windows .NET Datacenter Server to provide the highest levels of performance and reliability for a variety of tasks, including database functions, online transaction processing and enterprise resource planning.
New Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) services will allow businesses to develop real-time communications and call-center applications. Also, new file-recovery technology will allow users to view the contents of network folders as they formerly existed and restore files without the help of a system administrator.
Release 7.0 Microsoft Great Plains Business Solutions
In summer 2002, Microsoft Great Plains will release a far-reaching update to its software suite. Along with incorporating .NET technologies, Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics and eEnterprise Release 7.0 will offer new features for multinational businesses and incorporate Microsoft bCentral online services.
“Our economy is increasingly connected, and it’s our vision at Microsoft Great Plains to help businesses prosper in this environment,” says Tami Reller, vice president of global solutions at Microsoft Great Plains. “These upcoming releases are tied to this vision. Along with making it easier to conduct business across borders, they blend Internet and desktop solutions to allow businesses to complete everyday tasks faster and more efficiently.”
Companies doing business globally will be able to easily convert between currencies in ledgers; track and account for costs associated with global transactions, and more easily track and translate their correspondence to the languages of their customers.
Microsoft bCentral online services will be integrated into the new releases in two bundles, one for retail businesses and the other for service-based companies, and will allow businesses to more efficiently handle many tasks, such as sending statements to clients, online scheduling and e-commerce transactions. The .NET components will include a new onscreen desk, allowing businesses to create customized screens catered to the needs of different employees. The desktop will also incorporate Microsoft Great Plains e-business applications that allow employees to revise their own records and personal information.
Speech Technologies for .NET
There’s more to Microsoft’s .NET strategy than Web services. The company also wants to ensure that users can perform a full range of tasks on any type of computing device. One way Microsoft plans to do this is by “speech-enabling” the Web.
In 2002, Microsoft will release two developer tools that enable Web and telephone applications to speak to users and understand spoken messages and commands. A beta version of the Microsoft Speech Technologies for .NET software development kit (SDK) will be available in the first half of 2002 and will be released to manufacturers in the second half of the year. A beta version of a Microsoft server for enabling speech applications is scheduled for the second half of 2002.
“We are committed to providing leadership in enabling speech access to Web applications and services,” says X.D. Huang, general manager of Microsoft Speech Technologies for .NET. “Our Web developer tools and the .NET platform will create the infrastructure needed for making speech access to applications on the Web a reality.”
The tools are based on Speech Application Language Tags (SALT), a new specification currently under development by a consortium of industry leaders, including Microsoft. SALT, which will be submitted to a standards body for ratification next summer, contains extensions to existing markup languages, such as XML, hypertext markup language (HTML) and xHTML. Applications written with SALT extensions will allow the exchange of spoken content and commands via telephones and devices such as PCs, Tablet PCs and cellular phones with graphical user interfaces (GUIs). “SALT is the key,” Huang says, “for making speech a mainstream way of interacting over the Web.”
Microsoft expects strong holiday sales of Windows XP and new computers with Windows XP to set the stage for a new wave of adoptions in the new year, particularly among businesses and other enterprise-scale operations.
One way Windows XP meets the needs of enterprise customers is by offering native support for new wireless and security technologies. Windows XP is the first operating system to offer such support for Wi-Fi wireless networks — the most popular wireless LAN standard in the world — and IEEE 802.1x mobile security standards. Native support means that Windows XP automatically configures a computer’s network interface card, identifies wireless networks within range and connects to networks.
Wi-Fi allows workers to take their laptop to meetings or other workstations without closing down and restarting applications or losing connection to the workplace network. IEEE 802.1x gives workers the piece of mind to know their information is safe, thanks to its multi-tiered encryption, says Jim Cullinan, Windows XP lead product manager.
“Wireless networks are one of the newest ways to increase worker productivity,” Cullinan says. “Windows XP provides businesses the technologies needed to efficiently and safety take advantage of these capabilities.”
Cullinan says Microsoft remains committed to improving Windows XP in 2002. The company will continue to partner with others in the technology industry to ensure that Windows XP enables the best end-to-end computing experiences — by offering hardware and software makers the opportunity to develop compelling solutions. Microsoft also plans to continuously update the compatibility of third-party products with Windows XP via the Windows Update Web site, which can be accessed at www.windowsupdate.com or from the Windows XP Start menu.
“Windows XP is the best operating system ever, and we will continue our work with the industry to further improve and simplify the experience for users while providing the best end- to-end computing experiences,” Cullinan says.
Microsoft TV Advanced Platform
Television viewers in St. Louis will begin using their TV sets in 2002 in ways that most never thought possible. They’ll begin shopping and surfing the Web, and receive and answer e- mail, instant messages, and streaming audio and video from their TV sets. All of these services will be made possible by set-top boxes powered by Microsoft TV.
Charter Communications, the nation’s fourth-largest cable operator, will be the first major U.S. cable operator to deploy advanced interactive services using Microsoft TV Advanced client software. Charter plans to begin deploying the service during the first half of 2002, and will use Microsoft TV software in more than 1 million set-top boxes.
“Charter’s decision to select Microsoft as its primary strategic partner for interactive TV underscores the benefits of Microsoft TV’s open, scalable platform and the ease of integration of its content and services,” says Jon DeVaan, senior vice president of the TV Division at Microsoft.
The Xbox console set sales records following its North American launch in November, including records for the best-selling video-game console launch (topping 100,000 consoles a week and 1 million total to date) and best-selling game-title launch (Halo) on record. Now Microsoft looks to break more records with the launch of its future generation game console in Japan and Europe.
Xbox will hit store shelves in Japan on Feb. 22, along with a controller and portfolio of games designed for the Japanese market. The European launch is set for March 14, and will also be accompanied by the release of games tailored to the market. The staggered launch schedule provides Japanese developers more time to produce games, says Xbox spokesman James Bernard. To ensure Microsoft can meet demand in Europe, it will be the first console maker with a manufacturing plant in Europe, Bernard says.
One thing that won’t be different about the launches in Europe and Japan is the Xbox itself. The console marketed in both regions will offer the same muscular specifications as the one in North America. Along with a built-in hard disk — something no other console offers — Xbox offers a 233MHz, Nvidia-made graphics processing unit (the Xbox GPU) and Xbox media communications processor (Xbox MCP), a custom-designed Intel 733 MHz central processing unit (Xbox CPU), 64 megabytes of total memory and 256 audio channels. Combined, Xbox specifications make it three times more powerful than any other gaming console.
“The North American launch exceeded even our expectations,” Bernard says. “Now we hope to build on that momentum to create a worldwide fever pitch for Xbox.”
Microsoft designed the next version of the Windows Media Technologies platform to lead the third generation of audio and video streaming on the Web. Codenamed “Corona,” the new platform introduces Fast Stream, which provides broadband PC users with “instant-on, always-on” streaming, effectively eliminating buffering, as well as home theater-like audio and video, says Will Poole, vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Digital Media Division.
“For streaming on the Web to reach its full potential it needs to overcome today’s limitations and provide a true broadcast-quality experience,” Poole says. “Corona will deliver on this promise, providing businesses the technology they need to develop and deliver Web-based digital media services — and make money doing it.”
Poole says Corona also will provide a cost-effective platform on which to build businesses that offer streamed audio and video content over the Web and for enterprises to utilize streaming to improve internal communications. Corona will allow businesses to insert ads on the fly and offer lower bandwidth costs due to advances in its compression technology. It also will offer double the server scalability, compared to the current version of Windows Media, Poole says.
The first of the Corona deliverables, Windows Media Services in Windows .NET Server, is already available for beta testing. The remaining technologies include new versions of Windows Media Player, new Windows Media Audio and Video codecs, a new Windows Media Encoder and a new Windows Media Software Development Kit (SDK). All will be available for beta testing early next year.