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Platform Group Outlines Net Strategy

Microsoft officials outlined how they will deliver Internet-related products starting with Windows 95's Internet Explorer2.0, available as of today on the company's Web site.

SEATTLE--In a morning session here today, Microsoft officials outlined how their future offerings will aid both business and home PC users. Specifically, company officials said they will deliver Internet-related products starting with Windows 95's Internet Explorer2.0, available as of today on the company's Web site.

During the first quarter of 1996, company officials said, they will deliver an Internet InformationServer for Windows NT; support for advanced query capabilities; and support for corporate "intranets" (networks accessible only to the company's employees).

Later next year, the company will deliver the full version of its Windows Internet add-on Internet Studio (formerly known as Blackbird), with support for HTML extensions--including support for Java. Also on the calendar are servers for Media, Proxy, Merchant, and Exchange with links to the Web.

In a presentation hosted by Microsoft's platforms group, which focused mainly on Net links for business users, vice president Paul Maritz revealed that the software giant plans to go after the lucrative intranet market that is now buoying Netscape Communications.

"The goal," said Maritz, "is to give users a seamless view of the Web." In addition, Maritz said, one of Microsoft's goals is to enable Web page developers to imbue pages with behaviors that will facilitate transactions. As an end to that goal, Maritz detailed Visual Basic Script, a "small, fast, portable, version of Visual Basic that will be available on the Net."

Maritz allowed that the Internet Studio product, formerly known as Blackbird, will be opened up to more services than the Microsoft Network. "We are retargeting this product in 1996," Maritz said.

Perhaps in response to earlier questions about the security capabilities of Visual Basic Web applications, Maritz provided details on future security enhancements to Visual Basic Script. "The easiest thing to do is to restrict what the code can do once it's downloaded. You'll be able to select a special version of the Visual Basic run time that will only do a limited number of things," said Maritz in regard to Web developers.

In addition, the company will work with other software vendors to create a general purpose digital signature technology that will enable users and developers to look at the lineage of software so that users can judge whether or not they want to download it to their system, Maritz said.

Aiming to soothe corporate users, Maritz detailed at length the company's plan to integrate its Windows Internet Server into the NT operating system.Windows NT is used mostly at corporate sites as a server operating system that supports networks of client PCs. Maritz outlined how the Internet of the future will be dominated by structured information stores that will serve up a wide variety of data for users. For example, under this strategy, the company plans to make its Microsoft Exchange Server accessible via the Web. "Currently it has a specialized client; however, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to get at that information differently," he said.

Maritz declined to provide any further details on the company's plan to license Java technology from Sun Microsystems, however. "Let's just say it won't be financially burdensome for either company."

Overall, Microsoft's Internet strategy is like d?j? vu all over again, said Nate Zelnick, analyst with Jupiter Communications, a New York-based market research firm. "It's what they always do. It's iterative, it builds on their strengths and assimilates the stuff they don't have."

The bottom line is that the browser becomes part of the operating system, commented Chris LeTocq, analyst with International Data Corporation, a market research firm based in Framingham, Massachusetts. "Historically, that's what happens with operating systems--they grow and grow. They don't compress."