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Clearly, the .NET initiative holds considerable promise for being a catalyst of growth for the ASP industry. There is one missing piece of the puzzle, however. No matter how good this new infrastructure is, and even if it's installed at many customer sites, external applications are still missing. Applications tend to lag behind infrastructure technology because they are frequently written to least-common-denominator operating environments. This could have the effect of slowing down .NET-based adoption and deployment because non-.NET platforms are likely to remain in the mix for a long time to come—including Windows NT, UNIX, and Linux, to name just a few. The good news is that on the client side, it is likely that browsers will abstract application needs away from the core operating system.

In addition, Microsoft claims the .NET strategy will enable mobile, embedded, and other next-generation clients to participate in a network, even if they are not running a Microsoft operating system. If this proves true, it will be perhaps the very first time that Microsoft has launched a technology initiative that doesn't inherently favor Microsoft platforms. The industry is waiting to see evidence that this actually is as transparent as portrayed. Of course, this sounds too good to be true, and most observers will not believe it until they see it for themselves.

What also requires a leap of faith is that Microsoft expects its platforms to be successful because they offer compelling solutions, not because users are trapped on them due to proprietary lock-ins. Sounds great, but it is not clear how non-Microsoft client and server systems can truly fulfill a strong role in an .NET environment because they don't natively support Active Directory and can't run Visual Studio-generated applications or Microsoft infrastructure software.

Just like other Microsoft technologies, the preparations are made for you as you upgrade, whether you need them or not. Of course, if you decide to explicitly exploit .NET, it may accelerate your upgrade and purchase process. However, it's still too early to start worrying about that problem. First, let's see if .NET is ready and open for business.

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