Active VRML brings 3D animation to the Internet.

In a series of announcements during December, 1995, Microsoft described products and technologies designed to integrate PC and Internet platforms. More than 20 products and technologies were introduced, ranging from an integrated Web browser for Windows 95 and Internet-based business applications to interactive Internet games.

The following were among the highlights of the announcements:

  • Beta testing of the Microsoft Internet Information Server, the Web server for Windows NT Server, began in November, 1995. Microsoft expects it to be available during the first quarter of this year. The server, code-named Gibraltar, is designed to be a reliable and secure platform for publishing and applications development. The initial release won't support Blackbird-style publishing, although this feature will be supported in a subsequent release. The Server does support an ODBC connection, letting you program queries to any ODBC database into your Web pages. While the beta test is still in operation, you can request a free copy over the Internet at the Web page at http://www.microsoft.com/infoserv.

  • Computer Associates and Microsoft announced they will Internet-enable their co-branded, integrated product that manages NT-based servers. CA plans to provide security and network and systems management for the Internet infrastructure with CA-Unicenter/ICE (Internet

    commerce-enabled). Currently, CA and Microsoft offer an integrated product that includes CA-
    Unicenter and NT Server, SMS, and either Microsoft SQL Server 6.0 or CA-OpenIngres. The companies announced that they will work together to make this product Internet-enabled by adding components from CA-Unicenter/ICE and Microsoft Internet Information Server.

  • Visual Basic Script, an Internet scripting language based on VB, was announced by Microsoft. Visual Basic Script is designed to create active, on-line content on the Web. It allows developers to link and automate a wide variety of objects in Web pages, including OLE objects and applets created using the Java language from Sun. OLE objects are supported by a variety of tools from Microsoft and more than 80 third-party tool vendors. This cross-platform subset of VB will be provided as part of the Microsoft Internet platform and will be licensed at no cost to application, browser, and tool vendors creating Internet solutions. Microsoft will propose Visual Basic Script to the W3 Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as an open Internet scripting-language standard. Visual Basic Script will be a freely licensed proposed specification available to the entire Internet community. In addition, a source reference implementation will be posted on the Internet to allow third parties to implement it on other platforms.

  • Microsoft brings interactive 3D multimedia animation to the Internet with Active Virtual-Reality Modeling Language (ActiveVRML). The new technology employs an innovative approach to media integration that adds value to existing formats and is practical at typical modem speeds, Microsoft reports. ActiveVRML builds on the Microsoft DirectX initiative to take advantage of the power of today's multimedia hardware. It is optimized for authoring and playback on personal computers and allows content authors to deliver unprecedented 3D multimedia effects on the Internet. Microsoft is offering ActiveVRML as an open industry specification and has submitted it as a VRML 2.0 proposal to VRML industry working groups. Content authors will be able to embed their current VRML models inside ActiveVRML, as well as image, sound, and video files in standard formats. Microsoft has distributed the beta version of ActiveVRML to select developers and users. The company will seek industry comment and participation to help shape the specification through design reviews and public presentations at industry events. Upon completion of the specification, Microsoft will make the source code for the reference implementation of the ActiveVRML animation engine publicly available and redistributable under open licensing terms. The company expects the reference implementation to be available in mid-1996. Microsoft plans to offer ActiveVRML support for multiple platforms, including NT, Windows, and the Mac by incorporating it into the company's Internet Explorer Web-browsing software.

  • Microsoft proposed an Internet Code Safety Initiative to the top 150 software companies in the world. The digital signature initiative is intended to provide a safer environment for executable code on the Internet. To address concerns about potentially malicious code or viruses, this technology will enable users to verify that a program is free of third-party tampering, according to Microsoft. Browsers will be equipped with the ability to automatically download applications from a list of vendors approved by the user. If the author is not on the user's pre-approved list, the browser can display the signature of the executable code and allow users to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the download. Microsoft plans to propose the Internet digital signature specifications to the W3C and the IETF as an open Internet standard. The technology will be an open, proposed specification available to the entire Internet community.

  • Microsoft and Spyglass jointly announced that Spyglass is supporting the Windows-based Internet platform, a broad range of open technologies detailed at Microsoft's Internet strategy conference, to enhance its cross-platform client and server products for the Internet. Spyglass will enhance its popular Spyglass Mosaic Web browser with support for OLE Controls, Visual Basic Script, and the W3C HTML extensions. Spyglass will also include support for key Microsoft server technologies, such as secure transaction technology (STT) and private communications technology (PCT), in its Spyglass server software for UNIX and NT.

  • Microsoft and Oracle announced they are collaborating on Internet development and publishing technologies. Under the agreement, the companies are cross-licensing technology to deliver standard scripting and programming features in their respective Internet software products. Oracle will license Visual Basic Script from Microsoft to include in its Mac and Windows-compatible Oracle PowerBrowser products. Microsoft will license Oracle PowerBrowser OCX software and distribute it to Microsoft's third-party developer customers for their use. With support for OLE Controls, Oracle PowerBrowser OCX is the industry's first embeddable Web browser. ISVs will be able to use and redistribute Oracle PowerBrowser OCX free of charge and without royalty.

You can view more detailed information on Microsoft's home page on the Web at http://www.microsoft.com/windows.