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Why Is .NET Important?

Microsoft's .NET initiative pervades all aspects of computing. From your operating system and Web browser, to the servers that run the Internet, down to handheld devices, phones, and radios—.NET has a story. Microsoft's ambition is to change the way we develop, access, and interact with Internet applications. Given this, it's easy to see that .NET is important to anyone who accesses information electronically.

Because .NET is so far-reaching, its importance is defined differently for different audiences. This section explores each audience and outlines .NET's importance to each group.

Microsoft

Microsoft wants to sell more software. It wants to be on the servers that run Internet applications all the way down to your VCR (UltimateTV). To realize its goal, Microsoft has assembled some of the brightest minds and poured untold billions into research, all culminating in a bet-the-company strategy—.NET.

.NET facilitates Internet services. Of course, an Internet service is software and the world's largest software company will do more than simply facilitate their creation. Microsoft intends to aggressively participate in the creation, hosting, managing, and providing of Internet services to businesses and consumers. One need only try Microsoft's Passport technology, or peruse bCentral or MSN to get a glimpse of how the company is focusing on becoming the Internet's software services provider. After all, who better to leverage Microsoft's products than Microsoft?

For more information about some of the products just mentioned, visit the following Web sites:

.NET excites developers. Microsoft knows that to gain the loyalty of developers is to sell more products. For example, when a developer writes Microsoft-centric code, that code is deployed on Microsoft servers. When a company deploys Microsoft server software, it requires Microsoft-trained IT staff to support, extend, and manage that software. One can see how the Microsoft brand can spread within a company; it starts with one developer and one project.

The only way to win over developers, however, is with a killer product. .NET is the killer product. It gives developers choice and power. It allows them to build applications, not write repetitive routines (more on this in a minute). It provides tools that allow software to interoperate across platforms and indeed encourages heterogeneous systems. Whatever the business need, Microsoft's pledge is that Microsoft's technology will support it.

The new services paradigm creates new product niches. The massive amount of data flowing between applications requires extensions to current systems and products. And, of course, Microsoft is filling these gaps with new offerings and .NET revisions of current products.

.NET is also Microsoft's counter to technologies such as Java and movements such as open source. With products such as C# and participation in Internet standards bodies such as the one that ratified SOAP, Microsoft intends to position the company as an innovative and integral member of the software community. In doing so, Microsoft will be combating Sun's Java and operating systems based on Linux. The company wants to prove that its method of research and innovation creates a more compelling computing model for business and end users.

Developers

.NET puts developers in control. It allows them to choose their language and their project paradigm—even their development environment is completely customizable. Developers are no longer forced to compromise or make trade-offs in lieu of productivity. In the past, if developers chose an easy-to-use syntax such as Visual Basic, they compromised features and speed in their applications. No more. In .NET, all languages are created equal.

.NET allows developers to build applications. The vast majority of today's developers are writing business applications that have at least some Internet component. Currently, to do routine tasks and ensure things such as security and scalability, many programming hours are wasted writing repetitive code. With .NET, these things are built-in. Developers can construct their applications from .NET code libraries. They are free to focus their efforts on solving business problems (or going home before midnight), instead of working on the plumbing of their systems.

.NET is done right. As application developers first and authors second, we have first-hand knowledge of the tools. The .NET tools and environment are a joy. Developers will see increased productivity and enhanced capabilities.

Project Managers

A project manager is anyone who has to answer to both users and upper management on the state, status, or feature-set of a piece of software. These people are on the front line of software development. They are the ones who face a transfer or are fired when the development team goes a year offtrack and a million dollars over budget.

.NET promises to help address the challenges faced by project managers. Applications can be delivered in shorter timeframes due to increased productivity and greater focus on business issues. Projects can be delivered for lower costs. Development teams can focus on solving real business problems and know that, at the end of the day, .NET helps to ensure that their code is scalable, reliable, and robust. In short, the project manager can once again become the hero.

Companies

.NET allows companies to explore new business models. Just as the Internet created new markets and sales channels, Microsoft intends software services to evolve existing business models. For example, consider a consumer products research company. Customers subscribe to the company for competitive information on all kinds of products and services. Among other data, the company collects auto insurance rate information for its clients; it may even expose this information on the Internet to attract new customers. With .NET, the company can wrap the insurance rate information into a software service that can be embedded into hundreds of applications and sold to third parties. The company now has a new revenue-generating opportunity.

.NET opens new partnering opportunities for business. As the prior example illustrates, companies can now draw on each other's expertise to make a richer offer to potential customers. For example, if I sell used cars on the Internet, I know that my customers will need insurance. I am not in the business of offering insurance, nor do I want to be. With .NET, I can find, grab, and use the insurance service, making a more compelling offer to my customers. If there is a bank loan rate service, I'll grab that, too. In the end, I've increased my sales by making it easier for customers to transact their business.

.NET promises a higher degree of communication, connectivity, and productivity. It connects employee to employee, employee to partner, and most importantly, employee to customer. Internet applications evolve from simple user forms to rich, interactive collaboration. .NET frees the Internet from the PC. It connects the Internet, cell phones, televisions, and other appliances to one another.

.NET allows companies to focus on the future without throwing out the past. Time and again, companies are told that in order to realize their new business model, they must rewrite their legacy systems. .NET is designed to extend and interoperate with those legacy systems. Companies are encouraged to use .NET to leverage their current investments and, at the same time, to plan for the future with built-in standards such as XML.

End Users

When you are shopping on the Web, it is frustrating to have to enter your address and credit card details again and again on site after site. It is nerve-wracking to have to trust that each site secures your data properly and doesn't sell it off to list brokers. .NET puts users in control of their information through centralized services. Imagine only one company knowing your private information. Imagine never retyping your ship-to or bill-to address. You authorize access to your information and a service executes secure transactions on your behalf. Imagine being notified via an alert on your cell phone that the Father's Day gift you ordered is out of stock—without having given out your cell phone number!

Ultimately, end users might never hear of .NET. It is unlikely they will realize that when they order movie tickets from their cell phones while stuck in traffic on a Friday night, they are accessing a myriad of .NET services and servers. .NET promises to empower users to communicate on their terms.

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