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Microsoft's Site Builder woos IS developers

Microsoft kicks off its first developers' conference exclusively devoted to Web site developers by introducing new server software and giving sneak peaks at Internet Explorer 4.0 and a Web tool, code-named Terra Cotta.

SAN JOSE, California--Microsoft (MSFT) today kicked off its first developers' conference exclusively devoted to Web site developers by introducing new server software and giving sneak peaks at Internet Explorer 4.0 and a Web tool, code-named Terra Cotta.

Paul Maritz, group vice president of platforms at Microsoft, inaugurated the Site Builder Conference with a keynote that recapped milestones in the company's Internet efforts and outlined the company's growing platform of Net technologies, which it has now branded the Active Platform.

This conference caps a year where Microsoft's goal was to catch up to Netscape Communications on the Internet by the end of this year. With the release of Explorer 3.0 two months ago, the company was widely perceived to have achieved feature-by-feature parity with Netscape's Navigator, but Microsoft is still working to build loyalty among Web developers, especially in the corporate sector. The company hopes that the conference will help developers make a direct comparison with Netscape, which held its own developers' conference two weeks ago.

"We're committed to doing high-quality implementations of all Internet standards," said Maritz in his address.

Maritz demonstrated Terra Cotta, a prototype of a development that combines visual HTML layout, scripting, and database connectivity capabilities. The company has not announced a release date for the tool.

As previously reported by CNET, Microsoft today also introduced a new technology, code-named Trident, that allows developers to program an HTML page with scripts. Now officially named Dynamic HTML, the company will release a prototype verion of the technology this week that will later be incorporated into IE 4.0.

According to Maritz, Dynamic HTML is a way of giving life to otherwise static HTML pages. "If you want to change the page, you can write a script that changes the underlying structure of the page on the fly," Maritz said.

Maritz also said that Microsoft will expand its BackOffice suite of server software to include the set of technologies that were known by the code name Normandy. The basic version of BackOffice will get five new Internet servers, including Personalization System, Content Replication System, Conference Server, Proxy Server, and Merchant Server. BackOffice will also include a new edition of Exchange Server, version 4.5, which comes with better support for Internet protocols.

Microsoft will also ship a subset of the BackOffice package called BackOffice Server 2.5 later this month. It will add to that a deluxe version of BackOffice aimed at commercial Internet service providers called Commercial Internet System, which includes the Commercial Internet Mail Server, Commercial Internet News Server, and Membership System to the basic BackOffice package.

The company also introduced today an alpha version of Internet Studio, a new development tool for creating server-side Web applications that work with Microsoft's new Internet Information Server 3.0.