Microsoft fills in more details of .Net software plan

Microsoft last week added a few more pieces to .Net, the company's still unclear vision of delivering software over the Internet to PCs and other devices.

The company announced partnerships with wireless handset and device manufacturers, and software components called HailStorm that can be delivered through those devices. It's all part of Microsoft's .Net strategy, which the company has been rolling out in pieces since June.

"They announce this over here and that over there, but it will be some time before we see the piece that links it all together and makes it work," says Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst with market research firm IDC.

HailStorm, which Microsoft describes as a set of Web services, and the new "smart" devices are two key parts of .Net. Web services that are chunks of code that can be embedded in applications or stitched together to form unique applications. Smart devices such as wireless phones, pagers and PDAs are key to .Net's promise of anytime access from any device.

"We need to be pioneers of this notion of phones that fully participate through .Net," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during his keynote address at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association annual show in Las Vegas last week. "We see it as fundamentally important to the [.Net] vision . . . to make sure that there are devices that can fully participate in a software sense in this next-generation revolution."

Microsoft announced deals with High Tech Computer, which will embed Microsoft's Stinger software into its phone handsets. Stinger, set to ship at year-end, combines PDA and phone features in one device. Samsung, Sendo and Mitsubishi have already announced support.

Microsoft also said J.D. Edwards will enable its OneWorld enterprise resource planning application to work on the Pocket PC, a Windows-based PDA platform, to allow real-time data access.

Stinger and the Pocket PC have been touted as key .Net devices.

The first set of services available to those devices is HailStorm, which is built on XML and the Simple Object Access Protocol.

HailStorm is based on Microsoft Passport, an online user authentication service, and is a set of Web-based services with catchy names such as myProfile, myCalendar, myWallet and myNotifications.

Passport provides the authentication to the services, which can be built into applications.

The services provide access to personal data stored centrally on the Internet. Any device, person or application that has implicit permission can read the data.

For example, users could let a travel agent update their calendars and send notification of the changes.

Microsoft also plans to run HailStorm as a business, serving as a clearinghouse for all the data needed for HailStorm services.

For example, the Passport data including authentication and credit card information will be stored in Microsoft data centers.

Observers were quick to raise security concerns, which have historically plagued Microsoft software.

Microsoft took great pains to say it would not mine the stored data and said users will control who sees what and when and for how long.

The services, expected to be available early next year, will be fee-based, but Microsoft did not disclose pricing.

This story, "Microsoft fills in more details of .Net software plan" was originally published by Network World.

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