Wednesday, June 21, 2000 by Dave Winer.
The following is conjecture based on hearsay and tea-leave-reading. I have not been briefed on Microsoft's overall vision, but I will attend the press conference tomorrow and will hear the official story then.
Tomorrow, in Redmond, Microsoft will announce their next-generation Internet strategy, formerly called NGWS, which has XML and SOAP at its core. (And of course respects the legacy, COM, ODBC, WebDAV.)
Imagine a word processor integrated into the Web browser (MSIE of course) and a toolbar that makes it easy to switch to your presentation program, spreadsheet, schedule, contact list, mail app, draw program, etc. All with a consistent user interface, and deep integration with Web services, that the client talks to through SOAP.
And while the code for these apps resides on your local hard disk, they are updated automatically, presumably with user confirmation. You pay Microsoft for this software, but it's a subscription fee, not a traditional software license. (Just like Frontier!)
Some of your stuff is publicly readable, some is not. All your information is stored on the server. So when you go on a trip, with a cellphone or a laptop, or are at a offsite, or a sales call, you can tap into the data, view it, edit it. It's like Yahoo with higher-level software running on the client. (This is what Gates talked about at Davos in January, the PC is not irrelevant, he said, it's essential.)
Their strategy is a compromise with the Network Computing vision that was the anti-Microsoft rage a few years ago, and will lock into Windows, but do it through documented interfaces, expressed in SOAP. So Microsoft will claim that it is open, and this will be fair, assuming that other developers support the idea not just with words but with software.
The software we will see tomorrow is demo-ware. The project started in a rush, early this year, when Gates stepped out of the CEO slot and become Microsoft's chief software architect. What we see tomorrow is pure Gates, circa 2000. And it's a new job for him, Microsoft has never had an overarching vision before, and perhaps they still don't.
Of course lurking in the background is the possibility that Microsoft has filed patent applications on these ideas, which are somewhat unique (perhaps, esp in the areas where functionality is integrated with MSIE). The jury won't be out on that for a few years, because patent applications are confidential until they are issued by the USPTO. It would be helpful if Microsoft addressed this issue tomorrow, without waiting for a question from the audience.
Microsoft might call this product We Win, which is a cute pun. It's Windows for Workgroups, an idea without much gas that appeared in the early 90s, and a statement to Judge Jackson and Joel Klein.
Or they might call it Wee Win, to say that it's much smaller than the current Windows/Office combo. Or Wheeee Win, which is the feeling of jumping out of the plane with no parachute while using Windows.
If you work at Microsoft and actually know what's being announced, how close did I come? Did I get it right, or will I be surprised tomorrow, or did I completely miss it?
PS: I will have a wireless net connection tomorrow, so watch for updates, real-time, on Scripting News, http://www.scripting.com/.
PPS: If you'll be at tomorrow's press conference, send me an email, let's talk and compare notes.