Microsoft Unveils Net-OS Initiative

Thursday, June 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates unveiled a sweeping new initiative on Thursday aimed at transforming the company's operating systems and software products into services for people to access through the Internet.

The initiative, called Microsoft.NET, will allow computer users to access data from an array of devices, including personal computers, handheld organizers and cell phones.

``The impact of the Internet has been spectacular to date, but the pace of innovation will accelerate over the next five years,'' Gates said. ``Our goal is to move beyond today's world of stand-alone Web sites to an Internet of interchangeable components where devices and services can be assembled into cohesive user-driven experiences.''

Gates did not immediately say what the time frame for introducing the new services would be, or what they would cost.

Microsoft's strategy is twofold. First, the company will take its popular software products, such as the Windows operating system, Microsoft Office and the Microsoft Network online service, and make their features readily available over the Internet.

Thus, with Office.NET, Microsoft's proposed online business software service, a user could write Microsoft Word documents and integrate them with Excel spreadsheets or other Microsoft software, all through a Web browser on a handheld organizer with a link to the Internet.

The user later could access the same documents from a different computer, since the material is stored in a central computer and accessible anywhere over the Web.

Microsoft Network Web sites and services will become MSN.NET, and will continue to offer such services as free online e-mail, bill paying, appointment management and instant messaging. These services will be integrated with Windows.NET, Office.NET and a suite of tools that customers can use to build their own products.

Microsoft will also try to lure its partners and third-party software products to the Microsoft.NET platform by creating tools for making other Internet-based services. Such services could be customized for individual or corporate use.

Microsoft is only the latest entrant into the market for Web-based services. Oracle Corp. has invested heavily in providing similar services to corporations, while Sun Microsystems Inc. will unveil a Web-based office software suite by the end of the summer.

Some analysts have said that the kind of integration needed to make Microsoft.NET a reality could run afoul of the company's antitrust battle. Microsoft is fighting a court-ordered breakup in appeals court after a federal judge found that it previously broke antitrust laws.

There are also a number of proposed restrictions on Microsoft's business practices that, if upheld, could severely hamper the company's progress on Microsoft.NET.