Microsoft spreads .Net support

Microsoft Corp. will unveil new software next week that will allow Web services created using its .Net technology to run on computers that use operating systems other than Windows, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer (CEO), said in a speech here Monday evening.

"We'll make some announcements Monday where we'll have ways for people who are not running on top of a Microsoft platform ... to implement our .Net services," Ballmer said, speaking at a dinner hosted by Silicon Valley non-profit group The Churchill Club.

Asked if the operating systems supported will include Linux, seen by some as a competitor to Windows, Ballmer replied that they would.

"Do we have a way for people who host Web sites on Linux to build on (.Net)? Yes we do. That's not to say our overall strategy is not to get those Web sites over to Windows, but we will provide a way for those Linux servers to use .Net," Ballmer said.

Last year Microsoft announced its .Net initiative, which has been seen as an effort to breathe new life into the company, as the focus of computing moves beyond PCs and towards services that can be accessed from any type of device. The effort relies heavily on XML (extensible markup language), and includes applications and tools for creating Web-based services for consumers and businesses that will be rolled out over two years or more.

Microsoft has said before that .Net will run on platforms other than Windows. Indeed, that's likely to be an essential requirement, since many large Web sites are based on versions of Unix or Linux. One thing not clear yet is whether .Net will work as well with other software platforms as it will with Windows.

"We do not tell people that the only way to embrace .Net is to rip everything out of there" and replace it with Windows, Ballmer said.

The Microsoft CEO was reluctant to provide details about next week's announcement. The company has scheduled a press conference for Monday at its Redmond, Washington headquarters.

Something else new Microsoft will discuss next week is Hailstorm, which Ballmer described as "a set of XML services" for tasks such as authenticating a user's identity and checking calendar information -- tasks which themselves could contribute to more complex services. Microsoft has said it will offer a .Net version of Passport, its online user authentication service, to act as one of those building block services.

"All Windows XP users will get a Passport," Ballmer said, implying that the service will be bundled with the new operating system, formerly known as Whistler and is expected later this year.

Asked whether applications written in Java will work with .Net services, Ballmer said he can finally answer that question after Microsoft settled last month its long-standing lawsuit with Sun Microsystems Inc., Java's creator. Sun had accused Microsoft of creating an "impure" version of Java that worked best with Microsoft's own operating software.

"We will embrace Java, the programming language, as a full member of the .Net suite of tools," Ballmer said. The company is enabling developers to write Java applications that interoperate with .Net., he said.

However, he acknowledged, "Some people will point out that it won't be pure Java. That's right, it will be Java to write .Net applications, rather than J2EE."

J2EE, or Java 2 Enterprise Edition, is the latest version of Java from Sun. As part of its lawsuit settlement, Microsoft gave up its right to use newer versions of Java as they are released. Sun, meanwhile, announced its own Web services initiative last month, dubbed Sun ONE (Open Net Environment), which draws heavily on Java and has set the stage for a Web services battle between the two companies.

The next 12 months will be a busy time for Microsoft as it seeks to flesh out its .Net strategy. Besides the .Net additions to Windows XP, Microsoft will launch a new application development platform for creating .Net services; a new version of its Pocket PC handheld computer software; and Stinger, its software for smart phones, Ballmer said.

In addition, Microsoft is in conversations with "people who don't use Microsoft operating systems about embedding some of the same .Net technologies in their platform, to let them move forward," he said, without elaborating.

This was Ballmer's second speech of the day in Silicon Valley. Addressing a computing conference taking place nearby Monday afternoon, he explained how XML will become the "lingua franca" for building Web-based services. By evening he had hit his stride, and his trademark booming larynx showed little sign of wear.

Asked whether he was disappointed that the world has yet to see a real HAL, the menacing yet highly intelligent computer in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," Ballmer made an unlikely confession.

"In the spirit of frankness and directness of the 21st Century, I never saw the movie," he said. "To most people at Microsoft, HAL stands for hardware application layer."

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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