Over the years, our computing lifestyles have changed. Today, everyone sees the value of the
Internet, and our computing lifestyle is becoming more and more dependent on Web−based
services. Personally, I love to shop, get traffic conditions, compare products, buy tickets, and read
product reviews all via the Internet.
However, I’m finding that there are still many things I’d like to do using the Internet that aren’t
possible today. For example, I’d like to find restaurants in my area that serve a particular cuisine.
Furthermore, I’d like to be able to ask if the restaurant has any seating for, say, 7:00 p.m. that night.
Or if I had my own business, I might like to know which vendor has a particular item in stock. If
multiple vendors can supply me with the item, I’d like to be able to find out which vendor offers the
least expensive price for the item or maybe which vendor can deliver the item to me the fastest.
Services like these don’t exist today for two main reasons. The first reason is that no standards are
in place for integrating all this information. After all, vendors today each have their own way of
describing what they sell. The emerging standard for describing all types of information is Extensible
Markup Language (XML). The second reason these services don’t exist today is the complexity of
developing the code necessary to integrate such services.
Microsoft has a vision in which selling services is the way of the future—that is, companies will offer
services and interested users can consume these services. Many services will be free; others will
be available through a subscription plan, and still others will be charged per use. You can think of
these services as the execution of some business logic. Here are some examples of services:
Validating a credit card purchase•
Getting directions from point A to point B•
Viewing a restaurant’s menu•
Booking a flight on an airline, a hotel room, or a rental car•
Updating photos in an online photo album•
Merging your calendar and your children’s calendars to plan a family vacation•
Paying a bill from a checking account•
Tracking a package being shipped to you•
I could go on and on with ideas for services that any company could implement. Without a doubt,
Microsoft will build some of these services and offer them in the near future. Other companies (like
yours) will also produce services, some of which might compete with Microsoft in a free market.
So how do we get from where we are today to a world in which all these services are easily
available? And how do we produce applications—HTML−based or otherwise—that use and
combine these services to produce rich features for the user? For example, if restaurants offered
the service of retrieving their menu, an application could be written to query every restaurant’s
menu, search for a specific cuisine or dish, and then present only those restaurants in the user’s
own neighborhood in the application.
Note To create rich applications like these, businesses must offer a programmatic interface to their
business logic services. This programmatic interface must be callable remotely using a
network, like the Internet. This is what the Microsoft .NET initiative is all about. Simply stated,
the .NET initiative is all about connecting information, people, and devices.
Let me explain it this way: Computers have peripherals—mouse, monitor, keyboard, digital
cameras, and scanners—connected to them. An operating system, such as Microsoft Windows,