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Microsoft Unveils Net Strategy

Microsoft officials will take the stage at the Seattle Center today to deliver a day-long series of presentations showing how the company will provide links to the Internet. There against the backdrop of an amusement park built for the 1962 World's Fair, the company will attempt to put the skids on growing momentum for rival Net software offerings from Netscape Communications, Silicon Graphics, and Sun Microsystems.

Analysts expect the company to tout its Net-linking plans for the complete line of Microsoft software. For example, it's expected that the Microsoft Office Group will show off better Internet extensions for business users.

Ironically, some observers expect the Redmond, Washington, giant to downplay its Microsoft Network online service despite healthy subscriber numbers. "I think they'll focus on MSN as an access point for the Net and also as a Net Web site," said one analyst, who requested anonymity. "They'll definitely tout MSN as the preferred access solution to the Net," commented Dwight Davis, editor for the Redmond-based Windows Watcher newsletter, which is owned by Softbank.

Company officials will also discuss plans for interactive broadband content offerings, tools, and the role of Windows 95 and NT in relation to Net links.

In light of Microsoft's long-standing tussles with the Department of Justice, the question of whether the operating system product group will reveal plans to integrate the Internet Explorer into Windows 95 itself remains unanswered.

Earlier this week, Microsoft ran into renewed problems with the Department over inconsistencies in the Windows Sockets interface. Rival browser providers claim that these inconsistencies are purposely causing installation difficulties. "It's kind of amusing," said one industry observer, "the WinSock API is a little bit different, and the DOJ is just figuring this out."