Microsoft .Net will rely on XML

Microsoft .Net will rely on XML

BY PATRICIA DAUKANTAS | GCN STAFF

Microsoft Corp.'s .Net foray into the Extensible Markup Language will make information accessible to the thickest and thinnest clients, company officials say.

The term .Net refers to the next generation of Microsoft software as well as to an application development framework, said George Ray, solutions development manager for Microsoft's federal unit.

The .Net architecture's reliance on XML makes it different from Microsoft's older Component Object Model framework. Both COM and Sun Microsystems' Java use registries to log information about applications that are running. 'That's an overhead we can eliminate by using XML in the application framework,' Ray said.

Another key piece of .Net technology is the proprietary Simple Object Access Protocol, which uses XML to send requests over the Web between Windows and non-Windows applications.

The government is facing what Ray called the PC-plus era. 'You're going to have lots of PCs, but you're going to have a multitude of other devices,' he said.

Users want to tap government resources from diverse client types, and XML helps tailor the data to fit the client devices, Ray said.

'Government information technology departments will need to look at developing applications that can send results back to the client device in a way that's appropriate,' he said.

A PC displays the rich graphics of a Web page, whereas a wireless phone might be limited to a few 12-character lines of text.

.Net applications could pull data from government Web sites and seamlessly embed it in documents and spreadsheets, Ray said.

'It all comes back as XML and can be used in client applications' instead of relying on screen scraping to separate data from the Web format that delivered it, he said.

Users of .Net will develop applications faster, and the apps will scale more quickly and flexibly, Ray said. Microsoft plans to set up training programs aimed at federal users.

Late last year, Microsoft released the first two of its .Net products: SQL Server 2000 and Exchange Server 2000.

The next version of Microsoft Office will incorporate XML, Ray said. The suite, dubbed Microsoft Office XP, is scheduled for launch at the end of the month.

Last November, the company also unveiled the first beta version of the Visual Studio .Net toolkit for application developers.

On the horizon

PCs and handheld devices will become 'rich clients' with much more intelligence than today's browsers, predicted Mitra Azizirad, federal general manager of Microsoft's Government Solutions Group.

With .Net, information doesn't reside on a single server but is 'spread out in an XML cloud,' Azizirad said.

An organization experiences culture change as its applications become more tightly linked. 'It's not as much a change on the back end as you would expect,' Azizirad said. 'It's more of a change on the front end.'

And Fujitsu Software Corp. of San Jose, Calif., plans to integrate .Net capabilities into its Fujitsu Cobol development environment for Windows, chief architect Basim Kadhim said.

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