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What Can Microsoft .NET Accomplish For You?

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Explore the power, the vision, and the capabilities of this new initiative through this in-depth look at the .NET platform.
This chapter is from the book

Introduction to Microsoft .NET

In the computing world, change is inevitable.A challenge of any programmer or IT professional's job is to keep up with the constant changes and developments in technology. As a business manager or decision maker, understanding technology and its impact on your business can be just as difficult and frustrating. However, changes in technology are most often for the best. As computing technology continues to develop, the foundations of that technology can change to accommodate new developments and new needs in the marketplace.After all, only a few years ago few people even knew what the Internet was. Today, it is a pervasive part of our world, business, and personal lives.

The Microsoft .NET initiative is a new undertaking. It embraces many existing ideas and philosophies, but Microsoft provides the technology that enables the .NET initiative to become a reality. In this chapter, you gain an overall perspective of the .NET initiative—what it means to the Internet and the world of computing technology.

Defining .NET

To begin our exploration of .NET, we should establish a working definition. Because .NET is more of a platform than a single product, the way it is defined can be diverse and somewhat problematic. The easiest way to view .NET is to define it in terms of an application framework. .NET provides a framework for which applications can be built; it determines how applications access functions with systems and networks. .NET provides a platform on which Web solutions and services can be built, a platform free of restraints and, technically, free of Microsoft Windows itself. The result? .NET is a way to build applications and services that function independently of a platform. It is a way to build communications between diverse systems and applications as well as integrate many devices into this communication.

At first glance, you may ask, "Who cares?" After all, the Internet is an incredible media that has enabled e-commerce. While this is true, a different look at the Internet and e-commerce is necessary. The Internet provides effective e-commerce solutions today, but it is important to examine the model of the Internet. When you really think about it, the Internet functions on a client/server model where clients must interact with servers to view data. Browsers were developed to interpret HTML code and render the Web page to the user. Basically, browsing and Internet use is a static exercise. You can enter information into databases through your browser, but for the most part, you have no control over using or manipulating information. You must interact with Web servers and their databases, and various Web applications are often not compatible. If you use different Internet access devices, such as a PC or a cell phone, use for those devices is different. The devices do not integrate well, even on the Internet. From a business perspective, much of e-commerce's technology leaves existing systems behind, a costly and difficult problem.

The .NET initiative is designed to help us move to a friendlier, more integrated Web—a place where applications and business processes can interact with each other freely and without program and platform restraint. In short, .NET wants to make Web information easily accessible and usable on any device and on any platform, and it wants to help server and application systems seamlessly communicate and build distributed Web computing to make the Web a more interactive place between Web Services, applications, and clients.

How will Microsoft accomplish this lofty goal? Obviously, through products and services that consumers purchase. Exactly how the .NET goal will be realized is still in question, but Microsoft is busy developing tools and strategies to make .NET a reality. .NET can be implemented through the .NET framework and tools, or through building blocks and services such as Microsoft Visual Studio.NET. Microsoft is also gearing up its partners and developers who will create additional products useful in .NET implementation. Microsoft Windows XP will be the first operating system designed to start introducing glimpses of the .NET initiative.

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