The software giant's chairman further escalated his company's war with Netscape Communications by announcing new partnerships and packaging deals with allied vendors, intended to shore up the technology framework under the Microsoft Windows operating system for building distributing intranet applications.
Speaking before a crowd of more than 10,000 here at Microsoft's TechEd convention, Gates added some detail to the company's slowly evolving distributed computing picture. That vision is based on Microsoft's COM (Component Object Model) and DCOM (Distributed COM) component architectures; DCOM is the cross-platform version of COM.
Microsoft announced that its two primary COM backers--Hewlett-Packard and Digital Equipment--will bundle DCOM with their respective operating systems within one year. The agreement extends to HP's UX and Digital's Unix and OpenVMS operating systems.
Gates acknowledged that tackling the development of distributed, mission-critical applications--and taking on industry leaders trusted by IS chiefs, such as IBM--is a big step for the company. "We are taking on a big challenge--leadership in distributed computing," he said. He added that integration of the various technologies is crucial for companies building systems that can be easily adapted to changing business conditions.
Both architectures aim to provide the infrastructure needed to build cross-platform applications on multiple hardware architectures and operating systems that can communicate and exchange data.
Gates cited figures drawn from industry research houses that reveal NT is gaining momentum in corporate IS departments. According to International Data Corporation, new licensing of Windows NT Server grew by 86 percent in 1996, and a total of 732,000 units of NT server shipped last year.
To make building distributed applications easier, Microsoft said today it will begin bundling its Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) middleware and Microsoft Message Queue Server software with Windows NT Server, beginning with an interim release of Windows NT 4.0 this summer.
Gates also demonstrated tools, code-named Cedar, for integrating mainframe-based transaction processing systems with MTS. The tools work with IBM's CICS and IMS mainframe-based software and allow developers to wrap transactions in a COM wrapper for use in MTS.
Also demonstrated here this morning was new capabilities in the company's Internet Explorer browser for building more visually appealing client applications. The company showed a new feature of IE 4.0, Dynamic HTML, which allows more multimedia elements and component functions to be embedded in HTML applications.
Microsoft also showed off tools intended to ease administration of end-user systems. The company today demonstrated the Zero Administration Kit for Windows NT, which lets system administrators set up client systems, and Windows Terminal, a client application driven entirely from Windows NT-based servers. Using Windows Terminal, all applications are run from the server, allowing administrators to configure client systems to run only the applications users need, simplifying client system maintenance.
The Zero Administration Kit will be available as a free download from Microsoft's Web site beginning next month. Windows Terminal is expected to be part of Windows NT 5.0, due in beta testing later this year.
TechEd runs through Friday with keynote presentations from senior Microsoft executives slated throughout the week.