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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

.NET My Services

Microsoft has also announced that it will offer a slew of core services under the name of .NET My Services. .NET My Services is a collection of basic services aimed at giving users a more complete, seamless software experience. As powerful as Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Organizer, and other Personal Information Manager software are, these PIMs often lack the capability to easily and consistently share the data they manage and work with data generated by other solutions. Just consider trying to share your calendar with your favorite online travel agency. Consider personal digital assistants (PDAs), for example. If you are like millions of others using a PDA, you probably have felt the frustration of synchronizing your work or home PC with your PDA. Although software and hardware exists solely to facilitate synchronizing your data, it takes a conscious and concerted effort to actually do it—and sometimes the result isn't what you expect.

Having a repository for all your data that you can easily access from any application at any time with ease and efficiency would solve this problem.

Microsoft Passport takes a step toward solving this problem by providing one unified location to store your personal data. It falls short in that it currently is limited in functionality to user authentication and basic wallet functions. Furthermore, it does not adequately address the challenge of accessibility from any device.

User-Centric Services

.NET My Services is a user-centric collection of services aimed at giving you, the user, control of your data and empowering you to use that data to make your life easier.

.NET My Services are designed as services that are accessed by your application or Web portal. Before Microsoft codenamed these services as "HailStorm," they were known as building block services. This is because .NET My Services-are designed for inclusion in Microsoft and third-party solutions that then make these services available to you—they really are building blocks for developers.

For example, consider for a moment that you have a scheduling conflict with an appointment in Chicago. Using a .NET My Services-enabled application offering the .NET Calendar service, you can make that decision simply by going online, checking the .NET My Services-empowered travel Web site for the airline schedule, choosing the most convenient flight and letting the service cross-check your schedule for any conflicts. If none exist, the ticket could be seamlessly booked using your credit card, which is made available using the .NET Wallet service contained.

Meanwhile, a .NET My Services application can update your personal calendar with the flight details and e-mail a confirmation to your favorite mail account (as specified in your personal preferences). This scenario might certainly extend to booking a hotel and rental car based on certain pre-determined criteria.

These types of service solutions—Web services—are a large part of the .NET vision, and .NET My Services is an amalgamation of Web services that go a long way towards delivering the vision.

Note

.NET My Services are meant to be included by third-party solutions—be they Windows applications or Web solutions. As an end user you do not subscribe to Microsoft for the service but to your solution provider, who includes one or more of the services.

The Services of .NET My Services

.NET My Services will offer many of the personalized information management and organization features in the aforementioned example. The following are the initial service offerings1:

  • .NET Alerts (Formerly myNotifications)—Provides subscription announcements/alerts, reports, management, and routing.

  • .NET ApplicationSettings (Formerly codenamed myApplicationSettings)—Provides settings for applications.

  • .NET Calendar (Formerly codenamed myCalendar)—Provides such time- management functions as setting tasks and scheduling appointments.

  • .NET Categories—Provides the means to create personalized categories so that you can group information.

  • .NET Contacts (Formerly codenamed myContacts)—Offers address and contact management, similar to an contacts in Outlook.

  • .NET Documents (Formerly codenamed myDocuments)—Think: Universally accessible, secure hard drive for document storage.

  • .NET Devices (Formerly codenamed myDevices)—Used to contain device settings and capabilities.

  • .NET FavoriteWebSites (Formerly myFavoriteWebSites)—Provides a universally accessible way to store, retrieve and manage your favorite URLs and other Web identifiers. Your bookmarks will be available no matter which computer or device you are using.

  • .NET Inbox (Formerly codenamed myInbox)—Similar to online mail today but offers more generic message management for e-mail, voice mail, faxes and more.

  • .NET Lists—A service for creating general purpose lists. For example, a shopping list or a "to do" list.

  • T Locations (Formerly codenamed myLocations)—Electronic and geographical location and rendezvous.

  • .NET Presence—Online, offline, busy, free, which device(s) to send alerts to.

  • .NET Profile (Formerly codenamed myProfile)—Name, nickname, special dates, picture, address.

  • .NET Services (Formerly codenamed myServices)—Services provided for an identity.

  • .NET Wallet (Formerly codenamed myWallet)—Receipts, payment instruments, coupons, and other transaction records.

For these services to work, it should be obvious that some kind of way to store and authenticate your identity is required. The basis of user authentication in .NET My Services is Microsoft Passport. Microsoft's decision to use Passport as the entry point most likely is a tried and true Web service (even in its original incarnation, which was not based on open standards) that already has a large installed base of users.

Another reason one might imagine Microsoft chose Passport is that it is well known. Considering .NET My Services will face a degree of adoption resistance, like any new technology or product, using an widely known and accepted service as a springboard makes marketing sense. If you trust Passport to handle your on- and offline identity, as well as the personal information that facilitates shopping the Web, it is likely that you will also trust a Web address filing cabinet service from the same service provider.

The current previous incarnation of Passport maintained a personal information profile that included your name and address, and optionally account information for your credit card(s). These services make logging into Web sites a snap and shopping more convenient. While Passport retains its role as an authenticator, Microsoft has also broken out its subcomponents as individual services that you can integrate into your solutions: .NET Profile; .NET Location; .NET Wallet; and .NET Services.

Possible Effects of the .NET My Services

The services of .NET My Services provide basic building blocks for snapping together—more like tying together—user solutions centered on managing personal information and providing a user-centric experience. These services are aimed at e-commerce sites and other businesses with an on-line so that they can make their customer's experience more enriched. While .NET My Services appear more consumer oriented many of the services certainly can be used in a corporate environment. Also, given Microsoft's recent increase in enterprise-related development, it is only logical to expect them to eventually tailor .NET My Services to more specific business user requirements.

What can you expect from using .NET My Services and other Web services?

The idea of treating software as a service marks a significant departure from today's development models. On the one hand, Web services present an enormous opportunity for businesses because existing "know how" is locked up in isolated, system-centric solutions. Companies can still leverage Web services without giving away all their data. By making various aspects of their existing solutions Web-accessible, companies can make them available to their developers and users. For instance, your company or team might need to produce a new application that happens to have some feature overlap with an existing system. Given the resource and time costs involved in building software, why spend the time and money to redevelop a new solution when you have one that delivers some of the functionality you need? Perhaps you have heard of the saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." .NET not only makes building new Web services easy, it also facilitates exposing existing programs/parts of programs as Web services.

If you want to expose a Web service, say via the Internet, you must manually do so. So, by turning pieces of your applications into Web services you can then expose them for use, in a restricted way, to other solutions! If you are an IT manager involved in overseeing the migration of a Unix solution built in 1985 by the previously acquired company in the ungodly time frame of six months you may be drooling here, and with good reason! Certainly making your application accessible, either in part or in its entirety, is a means of migrating a solution. Chapter 10, "Migration Paths—From Anywhere to .NET," discusses migrating your solutions using.NET in more detail.

Obviously, the capability to turn existing code into Web services and then use them over the Internet or through the intranet to create new streams of revenue or simply as a means of reusing existing solutions will make a deep impact. One of the perhaps less obvious ways Web services will affect you, your development team, and your customers is the mental shift that has to take place. Creating software as a service is not fundamentally different but requires additional thought and consideration. Foremost is that services take components to a higher level. Most software components are self-contained and define certain functionality that they expose through APIs (or interfaces). These components are based on any given technology, say COM/COM+ for sake of argument, and as such "fit in" to a specific system or framework. In other words, they are building blocks but not universal ones.

Web services, on the other hand, are universally accessible, so nothing can be assumed about their use. They are isolated, result-oriented services that can be called from any operating system and whose results can be used in any fashion whatsoever. In a sense, they contradict with the rest of the object-oriented .NET platform in that consuming Web services is really function-oriented.

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