Microsoft has unveiled the ideas behind its next generation of software and services, the Microsoft .NET platform.
The .NET brand replaces the previous working title of Next Generation Windows Services (NGWS) and includes software for developers to build more integrated Internet experiences as well as power a new breed of smart Internet devices. Microsoft also announced plans for new products built on the .NET platform, including revamped versions of the Windows operating system, Windows DNA servers, Microsoft Office, the MSN network of Internet services and the Visual Studio development system.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who in January also became chief software architect in order to devote himself fully to this effort, says that the new releases will break down today's barriers between "digital islands" - computers, devices, Web sites, organisations and industries - to help realise the full potential of the Internet.
Gates says: "Our goal is to move beyond today's world of standalone Web sites to an Internet of interchangeable components where devices and services can be assembled into cohesive, user-driven experiences."
He underscored four key principles guiding the new .NET platform, including improved user experience for conrol and privacy, ease of use, adoption of standards, particularly XML, and the delivery of an integrated business development platform.
"Today's Internet experience can be confusing and difficult, with a jumble of applications, Web pages and devices, none of which work with one another on your behalf," Gates says. "With the emergence of standards like XML, we now have the opportunity to revolutionize the way computers talk to one another on our behalf just as the browser changed the way we interact with computers."
In support of this, Visual Studio 7.0, a new version of the developer toolset, will provide high-productivity support for XML-based Web service development.
The .NET building blocks will be based on a new family of developer services that run across standalone machines, in corporate data centres and across the Internet. Services will bring together elements of Windows technology with Internet-based Microsoft services such as Passport, Hotmail, MSN Messenger and MSN Communities.
Different instances of these services will cooperate and exchange information through a process called federation, says Gates, which will enable organisations to decide whether to run their own infrastructure or host it externally without compromising their control or access to services across the Internet or when offline.