While it was important that Microsoft impress financial analysts and press with its recently outlined .Net platform, it is crucial that it obtain developer acceptance for its software-as-a-service vision.
This week's annual Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Orlando will be Microsoft's true proving ground. If developers fail to buy into Microsoft's next-generation vision, the company's plan to yet again reinvent itself around the Internet will fall flat.
At the PDC, Microsoft top brass, including chief software architect Bill Gates himself, will present to thousands of programmers the nuts and bolts of the company's pending .Net releases of its tools, operating systems and applications.
At the end of June, Microsoft officials presented the 5,000-foot view of Microsoft's .Net platform at Microsoft's Forum 2000 event in Redmond. The Microsoft .Net platform encompasses everything from the next Extensible Markup Language (XML)-enabled versions of Windows and Office to forthcoming releases of the so-called .Net subscription services from Microsoft and third-party vendors that will ride on top of Microsoft's emerging platform.
This week, Microsoft will aim to provide the nitty-gritty details of the technologies that will enable .Net to make programming for the Web as easy as, if not easier than, programming non-Webified applications.
Over the past couple of weeks, Microsoft took the wraps off some of the .Net elements of interest to developers, such as its forthcoming C# programming language and its next release of its Visual Studio development environment, due to ship next year.
Microsoft is slated to embellish on these components at the PDC this week.
The company is expected to detail its so-called .Net framework -- the environment that enables the creation, deployment and maintenance of .Net services and applications. The .Net framework is an extension of the Microsoft Component Object Model (COM) middleware that is built into Windows 2000.
The .Net framework is slated to provide developers with a complete runtime environment, featuring everything from a set of programming libraries to a multilanguage runtime engine that sounds a lot like a Java virtual machine. Microsoft is touting the framework as a sure-fire way for developers to simplify coding, as the framework allows for more object-oriented programming, complete with greater code reuse.
Integrated into the .Net framework is a new Microsoft technology called Active Server Pages+ (ASP+). ASP+ is the next iteration of ASP, Microsoft's server-side Web programming environment for Windows. ASP+ takes advantage of emerging Web programming standards, such as XML and Simple Object Access Protocol (Soap).
According to one PDC presentation, Microsoft rewrote ASP from the ground up, choosing to sacrifice 100 percent backward compatibility with previous versions of ASP to take advantage of these emerging technologies.
More previews on tap In addition to rolling out developer tools and technologies at this week's PDC, Microsoft also is expected to preview some of its forthcoming .Net systems and applications products.
The company is slated to provide a 64-bit Windows showcase, where it will put a beta version of its Windows 2000, 64-bit edition product through its paces. Microsoft and Intel are expected to demonstrate 64-bit Windows 2000 and early Windows-based Internet applications running on actual Itanium systems.
Microsoft has said it plans to ship commercially the 64-bit edition of Windows 2000 simultaneously with Intel's Itanium processor launch, which is expected before the end of this year.
Microsoft also is expected to preview a very early version of the .Net version of SQL Server (code-named Yukon). Yukon is the successor to SQL Server 2000, which is due to ship in the next month or so. Microsoft is expected to show off the ability of Yukon to store not only data, but also files, via a unified storage mechanism.
Microsoft PDC 2000 runs all week, with group vice president Paul Maritz keynoting Tuesday morning and chairman Bill Gates delivering his remarks on Wednesday morning.