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Foundation Services

Microsoft also envisions that providing a compelling user experience to consumers is important for the success of Internet as a communication bus. To this effect, Microsoft plans to release some foundation or building block Web services. Software vendors can leverage against these foundation services. With time, Microsoft intends to release more such foundation services.

The first set of foundation services are being released as a product called Microsoft .NET My Services. Table 1.2 lists these services.

TABLE 1.2. Microsoft .NET My Services

Name

Description

.NET Address

Billing, shipping, and other addresses

.NET Profile

Name, picture, and so on

.NET Contacts

Electronic address book

.NET Location

Electronic and geographical locations

.NET Alerts

Send and/or electronic notifications

.NET Inbox

E-mail and voice-mail storage

.NET Calendar

Appointment management

.NET Documents

Users can store, share, and back up important files

.NET ApplicationSettings

Application settings

.NET FavoriteWebSites

List of favorite Web sites

.NET Wallet

Credit card information, coupons, receipts, and so on

.NET Devices

Settings for various personal devices

.NET Services

List of services provided

.NET Usage

Usage report for the preceding services

A common theme behind Microsoft's foundation services is that the user information is stored at a central place and can be retrieved anytime, anywhere. These foundation services open the door for developing innovative software applications. For example, using .NET Calendar, a scheduling application at your doctor's Web site might be able to access your Web-hosted calendar to see when you are available, schedule an appointment at an appropriate time, and remind you using .NET Alerts (on your PC, pager, or any other notification device) when the appointment is approaching. As a Web service is based on open standards, the scheduling application can be developed for Windows, UNIX, or any other OS.

The foundation services are built around user identity. Microsoft provides a user authentication service called Microsoft Passport that deserves special attention.

User Authentication Service

Consumers do their Internet shopping on many Web sites. A common problem that they face today is that they are asked to enter account information, such as user name and password, on each Web site they visit because each Web site maintains its own database of customers.

Microsoft Passport promises a solution to this dilemma. Rather than signing up for an account on every Web site, the user signs up for a Passport account, either through www.passport.com or through related services like Hotmail (every Hotmail user automatically has a Passport account). The user can choose how much information to store in the MS Passport account—from a simple user name and password to a complete wallet with credit card information, shipping and billing addresses, and more.

Using Microsoft's single sign-in (SSI) service, a Passport member can use one sign-in name and password at all participating Web sites. Passport sign-in names are tied to individuals and not computers, members can access Passport sites from a wide range of devices.

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