By next quarter, Microsoft will begin beta tests for software designed to let Windows 95 and NT Workstations act as peer-to-peer Web servers on intranets. With the software, users will be able to specify files and directories that can be viewed by anyone on a LAN or WAN with a Web browser.
First, however, the company is planning to revamp the Internet Information Server it just released last month. An incremental upgrade due this summer, IIS 1.1 will feature Web-based administration so that Web masters can configure and manage their servers from a browser, Microsoft product manager David Malcolm said. The upgrade will be integrated into the 4.0 release of Windows NT Server.
Netscape's competitive Commerce Server already supports Web administration, but the version of IIS released last month has a custom graphical user interface.
And Malcolm said an even bigger leap forward will come in the fourth quarter, when Microsoft releases IIS 2.0. That, Microsoft hopes, will duplicate the advances that Netscape has announced for the next generation of its servers, due in the second quarter.
IIS 2.0 will come with the ActiveX Server Framework, a run-time engine that lets developers use VisualBasic, Visual C++, Java, and various scripting languages to create server-side applications, such as a back-end database connector, Malcolm said.
Today, most server-side Web applications are complex and inefficient common gateway interface programs written in Perl script. ActiveX server-side applications will increase the range and quality of tools with which developers can work, Malcolm said. The ActiveX Server Framework run time will undergo beta testing this summer.
"This is their play to be on the same curve with Netscape and Java," said Allen Weiner, principal analyst at Dataquest, a San Jose, California, company that tracks market trends.
IIS 2.0 will also come with integrated content-indexing capabilities, site management improvements, an enhanced Internet Server API, and better integration with Microsoft BackOffice and other applications, Microsoft said.
In addition, the company will enter beta testing before the end of the year on a coordination system code-named Viper that will let Web masters monitor transactions, such as credit-card purchases, from Web server to back-end database.