One of the fun things about writing a technical column is that it lets me indulge my love of exploring esoterica, but one of the dangers of doing so is the possibility of losing sight of what the .NET technology is for—that is, what people are planning to do with it, or are doing already. I got a great example a few days ago.
Some of the writers for Windows & .NET Magazine attended the Microsoft .NET Server Reviewer's Workshop near Redmond last week. After spending 3 days learning about what's coming in Release Candidate 1 (RC1) and quizzing product managers, our brains were leaking out our ears. Therefore, when the final session on Thursday ended, a couple of us stopped at the hotel bar for a glass of wine. While chatting with the bartender (er, wine steward—she corrected me on this point) she asked what we were in town for. "A reviewer's workshop on .NET," one of my friends answered. "Have you heard of it?" "Sure," the wine steward responded, "I'm using it," and she brandished her MSN belt pager.
My friend—an ubergeek if ever there was one—looked perplexed for a moment. "What's that got to do with .NET?" The wine steward fixed him with "The Look." "Passport. I'm using MSN Messenger."
Final score: Wine Steward 1; Journalist Geeks 0.
My point is not that we were resoundingly corrected by the wine steward; after all, as close to the Microsoft campus as we were, I'm not surprised either that she was familiar with .NET or that she had a belt pager. (Out here in the sticks, where I live, that WOULD surprise me.) Nor is the dubious future of Passport really the issue—I don't know what's going to happen with .NET Passport in the next few months, and I harbor suspicions that Microsoft isn't sure either, but the service exists now. My point is that, although we'd just spent 3 days studying future applications of .NET, when confronted with an actual living breathing wine-serving example of its current application, we missed it. It wasn't splashy enough or complex enough to see.
Microsoft has some big plans for .NET—some that work now (although the company is still working the bugs out and figuring out best practices), and some that won't take effect for another year or longer. I'm very interested in how all these pieces are going to work together—particularly when it comes to directory service-enabled applications that can dynamically choose the supporting code that fits a particular user, location, OS, or other criteria. But the way this stuff works isn't nearly as important as what we can do with it and how it's supporting real-world needs. Therefore, I'm taking any submissions I can get for current .NET applications. If you know of current applications for any aspect of .NET, send them to me (with as much contact information as you can manage—I can track people down, but it's easier if I have a starting point), and I'll follow up in future columns. Let's see how this technology applies to the real world.