March 12, 2001 2:20 PM PST

Microsoft fills in Web services picture

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Microsoft shed more light on its .Net strategy on Monday, revealing new details about its plan to attract developers to its Web services.

As part of its alliance with eBay, Microsoft executives talked up one of the first third-party .Net services in the works.

.Net is Microsoft's umbrella term for how it plans to deliver software in the future. In addition to selling software licenses, Microsoft will offer software in the form of components that can be developed, maintained and subscribed to over the Net.

The company plans to offer some of its existing products, such as Office, in hostable, subscription-based form and is making all of its new software applets, including offerings like its free Hotmail e-mail product and MSN Messenger instant-messaging product, available as .Net services.

Under the alliance, the so-called eBay API (application programming interface)--eBay's commerce-engine platform to which developers can write--will becomes a .Net service. This service will be made available to Microsoft's .Net development community, Microsoft and eBay executives said.

In other words, developers who write applications for eBay will become a potential pool of .Net developers. A commerce developer who wants to incorporate a mail application as part of an auction-based application, for instance, might opt to embed Hotmail.

On Thursday, developers will get a peek at more of the .Net Web services infrastructure that Microsoft is developing. Microsoft is holding a design preview for developers who sign a nondisclosure agreement to show off its set of building-block Web services, code-named Hailstorm.

Hailstorm is expected to include next-generation versions of Passport, Microsoft's Internet authentication service; MSN Messenger; Hotmail; and other elements that developers can embed in their own Web services going forward.

One company insider described Hailstorm is Microsoft's "peer-to-peer, PC-based Web services.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is expected to formally unveil Hailstorm on March 19 at an event for press and analysts on the Microsoft campus.

Microsoft executives declined to comment on Hailstorm.

Hailstorm and the .Net-enabled version of the eBay API platform won't be the first .Net Web services launched by Microsoft or its partners.

In Microsoft's .Net vision, there are two kinds of Web services: generic, horizontal building-block services and application-specific services. There are also services and protocols such as Extensible Markup Language (XML), Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Universal Description Discovery and Integration (UDDI) that constitute the underlying plumbing for these horizontal and vertical types of Web services.

The various Hailstorm services and eBay's API are examples of the building-block type. Another example of a building-block Web service from Microsoft is its ClearLead sales lead-management service, which the company announced in January 2000.

Microsoft has been embedding the ClearLead service in a number of its own application-specific Web services, such as its CarPoint online automotive service, its bCentral Customer Manager and its recently introduced Realty Desktop for real-estate agents.

 

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