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September 19, 2002—In this issue:
- .NET: The Next Macintosh, or Just Active Desktop 2005?
2. .NET NEWS AND VIEWS
- Office 11 Beta Begins
3. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES
- Introducing UDDI 3.0: Changes to the Information Model
- Real-World Tips and Solutions Here for You
- New! News, Tips, and More to Keep Your Network Humming
- Event Highlight: Connections .NET Tour
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Stress-Test Your .NET Web Applications
- Submit Top Product Ideas
7. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, news editor, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The resistance to Web services and subscription software in general, and to Microsoft .NET specifically, seems to never end. Why are computer users so stuck in today's outdated computing model that we can't see the benefits of moving toward a distributed, interconnected environment in which the sum is greater than the parts? What the heck happened here?
Let's step back a bit. In the early 1980s, Apple Computer pioneered the use of simple graphical OSs with the Lisa computer, which was quickly overshadowed by the even simpler Macintosh. The early Macs had tiny 9" black-and-white screens and shipped with so little RAM that the underlying OS was all but useless. But these machines triggered a renaissance of sorts, one that we're still unwittingly participating in today, almost 2 decades later.
That renaissance is so-called desktop computing, in which users employ a mouse and keyboard to interact with a PC that displays an interface based loosely on a physical desktop. Thinking of this bizarre desktop metaphor--which we blindly accept as if it actually makes sense--always reminds me of early personal information manager (PIM) applications, which graphically resembled our old day planners, complete with on-screen tabs and ring binders. Or the early phone-dialer applications, which included graphical telephone handsets and onscreen phone-style touch pads that users could click with the mouse. We roll our eyes at products like these today. Why doesn't the equally outdated PC desktop elicit the same response?
To be fair, products such as the Mac and Windows have at least attempted to abstract the desktop. Users interact with an interface called a desktop, as well as with virtual file folders and documents. But these entities don't graphically resemble their real-world counterparts (and we can be grateful for that: some UIs actually have attempted to graphically duplicate actual desks). But when the desktop-based UI went mainstream in the 1980s, most users' machines at best had dual 3.5" disk drives that offered less than a megabyte of disk space. The elite few had tiny hard disks. In both cases, the desktop metaphor made sense because of the limited computing resources available.
Flash-forward to 2002, and the computing power we have at our fingertips has increased exponentially. However, the UI we use remains largely unchanged. Sure, it's prettier. But we still use the outdated desktop (although Windows XP goes a long way toward melding a task-based interface with the desktop). We won't make any significant improvements in productivity until we leave the desktop metaphor behind, and the reason we must do so has less to do with increased PC storage space than with the world outside our office window.
We live in an interconnected world in which more resources exist outside your PC than on its hard disk. The problem we face is that the supporting structure we need to bring all the elements of our interconnected world together doesn't exist yet. We can get breaking news, up-to-the-second weather reports, and the latest sports scores at the click of a mouse. We can publish and subscribe to online electronic calendars and access our desktop files remotely. And we can interact with people on the other side of the globe, in realtime, by using everything from text-based chat applications to graphically rich multimedia games with blazingly fast action. The elements are all there.
And yet, mindlessly, we boot up our PCs every day, load Windows, and launch desktop applications, just the way we did in 1985. The OS and the applications we run offer small "hooks," Band-Aid-like add-ons that provide some interaction with services on the Web. And we've taken baby steps, such as Microsoft's failed Active Desktop and Internet Explorer Channels, to try and shoehorn the new paradigm into the desktop metaphor. But like the text-based DOS applications of the late 1980s that incorporated mouse support, those products were too little, too late.
And that situation mirrors where we are with .NET. The .NET technologies offer a new way of working, a new way of accessing information, and a new way of computing. The situation is confusing and different, and it scares people, although many often can't explain why. As I've discussed in .NET UPDATE before, however, the biggest problem is that Microsoft and the companies that support .NET technologies have done little to demonstrate why and how .NET can make life better. They've been touting the future for 2 years, with little to show for it.
My hope for .NET is that Microsoft will deliver something tangible and useful, such as Apple did with the first Mac--something that makes people question why they're stuck in the past. Because if .NET does just the same old thing, then it will be nothing more than the next phase of desktop computing. But I believe .NET is more important than that. Unfortunately, Microsoft has produced too little in the way of concrete innovation to back up my statement. I still feel like a .NET apologist.
Maybe everything will change with Longhorn, the next Windows release, due in 2005. I've heard whispering about amazing full-motion video-based UIs, database-backed storage schemes, and more pervasive hooks into cyberspace. But, exciting as all that sounds, Longhorn still looks a lot like a desktop OS to me. I hope Microsoft is thinking beyond the desktop. Windows needs to be a Web services consumer above all, an OS that doesn't get in the way of our data, wherever it might be stored.
Or maybe we'll simply glide along with our desktop and folders, while Microsoft adds more .NET hooks until Windows becomes an unwieldy Frankenstein's monster of functionality, with parts culled from various unrelated technology and fused together in a way that sort of works but doesn't necessarily make sense. I hope that's not where .NET is headed, I really do.
2. .NET NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, email@example.com)
Microsoft has alerted potential testers that beta testing for the next version of Microsoft Office, code-named Office 11, will begin shortly. The beta will include Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Access, FrontPage, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Scribbler, which is designed for Tablet PC devices, along with a hosted SharePoint Team Services Web site for "exploration and use" during the beta time period.
"Our goal is to have a targeted group of testers willing to actively participate and provide useful feedback to our development team," the company wrote in a beta invitation it distributed on September 3. "Please carefully consider your willingness and ability to test Office 11. Your feedback will be critical to the success of our product. Regular and consistent participation throughout the program is expected."
Microsoft has already publicly announced the Office 11 release schedule, setting mid-2003 as the target availability date, which coincides with Exchange 2003 Server's release. Office 11 will include native support for XML data formats and tighter integration with Microsoft .NET services.
3. DOT-TECH PERSPECTIVES
(contributed by Christa Anderson, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Let's continue our examination of new features in Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) 3.0. In version 3.0, UDDI's information model has changed to include new data structures and elements, making directories more flexible in the way they categorize and present data in the registry--and thus making searches more flexible as well.
More Granular Searches
The bindingTemplate element contains technical descriptions of Web services in a UDDI registry and describes the Web services' network location (URL) settings and parameters. In UDDI 3.0, the categoryBag structure can contain a list of categorizations that describe a specific aspect of the bindingTemplate element--for example, to categorize bindingTemplate as "production," or "France," or "gadgets." The categorizations within categoryBag apply only to a particular bindingTemplate, not to other technical descriptions of Web pages. In other words, whereas in earlier UDDI versions applications could search a registry according to the technical information in bindingTemplate, in UDDI 3.0, applications can search for a categorization within categoryBag's technical description--thus facilitating more granular searches.
The categorizations in categoryBag are effective because UDDI 3.0 supports complex categorization, a standardized set of codes that identify countries or products. Categories can identify single elements (e.g., showing that a certain entity supports selling power supplies) or groups of elements (e.g., showing that a certain entity supports selling power supplies to buyers in the United States).
Separation of Metadata and Data
Because UDDI 3.0 supports digital signing of entities (as I discussed in the August 8, 2002, .NET UPDATE) and uses metadata to generate digital signatures, this version of the specification needs to be able to separate metadata and data. To do so, UDDI 3.0 includes a new data structure, operationalInfo, which stores the date and time of data creation or modification, the identity of the node that has custody of the entity, and (optionally) the identity of the data's owner.
Support for Multiple Overview Documents
Technical Models (tModels) describe UDDI entries; applications can more easily find the data they need by using tModels. An optional part of the tModel is the overviewDoc element, which describes how applications should use the tModel. UDDI 3.0 supports multiple overviewDoc elements, making it possible for one tModel to contain multiple descriptions to apply to various situations.
Enlarged and Enhanced Schema
The UDDI 3.0 schema is enhanced to define syntax requirements, which decrease the likelihood of syntax errors. Users can also now customize the UDDI schema by developing extensions to it. Doing so isn't a complication-free process--anyone who develops extensions will need to build in support for registries and users who aren't set up to use the extensions. Also, if you move entities into registries that don't use the extensions you develop, you might need to modify or delete the extensions. However, in UDDI 3.0, you can extend the schema.
International Language Support
UDDI 3.0 supports internationalized character sets and languages. Other capabilities exist to support internationalized searches.
Improved WSDL and Redirection Support
UDDI 3.0 supports a new useType attribute to the accessPoint, overviewURL, discoveryURL, contact, address, email, and phone elements. Depending on its value, this attribute can point users to external Web services at a particular URL, invoke a Web Service Description Language (WSDL) document within the entity, send users to another location in the UDDI registry, or even send users to a hidden location to let them use a particular service without necessarily knowing where the attribute is redirecting them.
You can learn more about the UDDI 3.0 specification at
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EVENT HIGHLIGHT: CONNECTIONS .NET TOUR
The Connections .NET Tour is coming to Microsoft's Redmond campus in October for a special 1-day event. Come learn from the best and attend sessions from the ASP.NET, Visual Basic .NET, or C# .NET tracks. After your day of learning, meet Microsoft .NET architects for a high-powered question-and-answer session.
For other upcoming events, check out the Windows & .NET Magazine Event Calendar.
6. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Carolyn Mader, email@example.com)
Red Gate Software released Advanced .NET Testing System (ANTS) Enterprise Edition, software that predicts a Web application's performance under a multiple-user load. The software can test .NET Web applications and XML Web Services for load and scalability. ANTS Enterprise Edition lets you test your Web applications with hundreds to hundreds of thousands of simulated users under the same conditions your actual users face in the real world. You can test Web sites and services early in the development cycle; you can also simultaneously test with other processes in the development cycle. ANTS Enterprise Edition starts at $5000. Contact Red Gate Software at 866-498-9946 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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