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Microsoft Web hosting leaves out .Net

bCentral, which provides Web site hosting and services to small companies, lacks support for the software development package, Microsoft confirms.

Companies that build a Web site using Microsoft's .Net Framework tools could be in for a surprise if they use Microsoft's bCentral Web hosting service: It won't work.

Microsoft bCentral, which provides Web site hosting and services to small companies, lacks support for the software development package, a Microsoft representative confirmed Thursday. The Redmond, Wash.-based company is testing compatibility between bCentral and .Net Framework tools, released last year.

The company expects to finish the testing by the end of the year, but until then bCentral is unable to host Web sites created with Microsoft's own latest generation of .Net tools.

The disconnect between bCentral, which delivers business applications over the Internet, and the Microsoft .Net initiative, which also aims to make Microsoft operating system and other software available over the Web, seems strange to at least one bCentral customer.

"If .Net is the way of the future, how come Microsoft doesn't support it on their own hosting site?" said Todd Heflin, head of Atlanta-based Martin Michaels Inc.

Martin Michaels is considering a switch to another Web hosting company because of the problem, said Heflin. The 25-person company, which sells marketing and design services, planned to launch a new version of its Web site last week that was created using Active Server Pages .Net. (Microsoft released its ASP .Net Web development software as part of Visual Studio .Net and .Net Framework last year.) But the marketing firm postponed that plan after discovering it couldn't load the Web pages to bCentral's servers, said Heflin.

Heflin said his company is eager to launch its new site because it incorporates more interactive features, such as real-time inventory checks for brochures and other marketing materials. Now Martin Michaels must choose between finding an older version of the ASP tool supported by bCentral, or finding a new hosting company and breaking a three-year contract with bCentral, Heflin said.

Despite this, the main reason for the lack of support for .Net Framework is that few of bCentral's 15,000 customers have asked for it, according to the Microsoft representative.

Microsoft's .Net plan includes new releases of the company's Windows operating system and server software, along with development tools to make programs more Internet-aware. Microsoft competes against Sun Microsystems, Oracle, IBM and others in the race to offer businesses the tools they need to build software that runs over the Internet.