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Allchin hypes integration

The senior vice president for Microsoft's business systems division touts the benefits of technology integration within Windows software.

LAS VEGAS--If a computer aficionado just returned from an extended stay on the moon and found himself at the Networld+Interop industry trade show he or she might think all was right on Planet Microsoft.

Touting the benefits of technology integration within Windows software--from desktop to server versions--Jim Allchin, senior vice president for Microsoft's business systems division, spoke to a packed hall of attendees as if controversy was not swirling around that exact term--integration.

Allchin's focus on the subject of integration came on the heels of an overt publicity campaign yesterday to show support for Microsoft's side in the software giant's battle with the federal government about the integration of its Web browser and operation system.

To show how seriously it takes the subject, the company announced that a beta version of software that integrates systems running the company's popular Windows NT operating system with Unix-based variants will be released this summer.

Allchin made the case that the information technology professionals in attendance should go with Microsoft due to the variety of services the company is building into Windows NT 5.0--specifically on the server side.

The highly anticipated upgrade is currently in an initial beta phase, with a second beta due by the end of the second quarter. However, Allchin said the quality of the software would dictate the release of a second beta. A date for final release of the software remains murky, with most anticipating a 1999 spring ship date.

"The first thing is integration--our goal is to improve simplicity and reduce the cost," Allchin told the crowd. "Our focus is on innovation. We will continue to innovate in Windows and take advantage of all the industry trends that are happening."

Microsoft and the Justice Department are currently embroiled in a high-stakes legal battle that initially concerned the DOJ's contention that the Redmond, Washington-based firm was in contempt of court for violating a 1995 consent decree.

The government alleged that Internet Explorer (IE) should be viewed as a separate product, and that requirements that licensees of Windows 95 preinstall IE violated terms of the decree. Microsoft has vigorously defended its practices, claiming the Web browser software should be integrated into the operating system and such a combination does not violate the decree.

That initial step has been followed by rumblings and actions from various states, as well as widespread speculation that the DOJ could soon bring a broader suit against Microsoft.

But antitrust action was not on Allchin's mind as he highlighted a set of NT 5.0 technologies in his speech at the show. It should come as no surprise--Microsoft employees have made it clear that the current legal woes facing the firm are dealt with through a separate arm of the company so that product-oriented executives can maintain their focus.

To that end, Microsoft announced its intentions to offer a set of services that allows NT systems to better integrate with Unix-based computers and software. The Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack includes resource sharing, administration, password synchronization capabilities, and common scripting tools across both platforms.

The new addition for Windows NT 4.0 underscores the company's drive to move the popular operating system into the upper reaches of corporate America where mainframe, mini-computer, and Unix-based systems dominate.

It also highlights Microsoft's realization that coexistence is a requirement for deployment in large networks and the mentality it espoused in gaining the dominant share of the desktop software market will not necessarily fly with back-end systems.

As part of the new software, Microsoft will license source code from Intergraph for Network File System (NFS) capabilities, a stalwart Unix technology that lets users share files across a network.

Allchin also used his speech to demonstrate forthcoming technologies that will make it into the company's operating systems, including Chrome, a 3D-rendering Web-based technology, storage management enhancements, multimedia capabilities, and user management flexibility, a key part of Microsoft's directory services software push.