Microsoft Execs Discuss Next Generation Web

SEATTLE – At Developer Days ‘99 last month, Microsoft Corp. chairman and CEO Bill Gates promised that his company will work to make it easier to build applications that take advantage of the Internet’s next generation.

Two days earlier, at a press conference in San Francisco, company president Steve Ballmer described the next generation of the Web as its third generation.

In the first generation of the Internet, TCP/IP, FTP and Gopher were important because the Web was about connectivity. The Internet hadn’t been opened up to consumers and end-users.

Next came the generation of browsers and Web pages. This is when the Web opened up to consumers, providing content that people look at and use. It was, and still is to some degree, a fairly fixed form.

In the third generation, the Web will be more customizable; the technology, from a developers standpoint, will enable software to be a service.

"In this third generation of the Internet, I think developers become even more critical," Ballmer said.

The new applications that developers will build for the third generation of the Internet will require that several elements come together: solid tools, data management and interoperability with other applications.

To make it simple to build applications that combine these elements, Microsoft is offering products in each of these areas.

The company is working to keep Visual Studio up to date so developers can take advantage of the latest Windows products and is planning to provide an update called Version 601. Version 601 is designed to include easier installation and management, COM+ and support for clustered applications.

Gates says the company’s goal for SQL Server is to integrate it into the Windows environment to make it a database for which developers can build applications that will run on numerous devices -- from notebooks to the high-end clusters necessary for major e-commerce Web sites.

For interoperability, there is the BizTalk Server and SNA Server. BizTalk is based on XML, the Internet exchange standard that enables interoperability. SNA server, a new version of which -- named Babylon -- Microsoft is working on, is the connection to mainframes, so companies can interact with that data, as well.

Building applications for the third generation of the Web, though, will be more complex than merely connecting all these pieces.

"The challenges that users face when they're administering these type of applications really have to do with getting a handle on all the bits and pieces," says Garth Fort, a product manager at Microsoft.

AppCenter Server may be the solution. AppCenter Server, which will help manage Web applications, is moving into beta testing this fall. AppCenter is a set of deployment and management tools that will help administrators manage and administer Web server farms through a single console, as if it were a single entity.

Much like the Windows DNA 2000 strategy Ballmer announced in September (see story in Sept. 22 issue, page 1), the new building blocks for applications that Gates discussed are based on Windows 2000 and promote the company’s new mission of anytime, anywhere access to information.

"Developers can write their applications for Windows 2000 without concerning themselves with terminal services, but have their apps deployed to any type of device," says Jeff Price, Windows 2000 group product manager at Microsoft.