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Microsoft gets backing for .Net tools

A technology standards body endorses the company's C# programming language as well as its Common Language Infrastructure--both critical to expanding the Web services plan's appeal.

Mike Ricciuti Staff writer, CNET News
Mike Ricciuti joined CNET in 1996. He is now CNET News' Boston-based executive editor and east coast bureau chief, serving as department editor for business technology and software covered by CNET News, Reviews, and Download.com. E-mail Mike.
Mike Ricciuti
3 min read
Microsoft on Thursday said a technology standards body has endorsed programming tools key to expanding the appeal of the company's .Net Web services plan.

Microsoft said the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA), an international technology standards organization, has ratified Microsoft's C# (pronounced "see sharp"), a Java-like programming language, along with a component of its .Net Web services framework called the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI).

That means that C# and the CLI are now officially standards administered by ECMA. But Microsoft will retain control over who gets to license the technology and how it will be distributed, a company spokesman said.

"At first glance, it looks like Microsoft sought out ECMA to lend credence to their claim of openess and promoting industry standards," said Kyle Johnson, an analyst at Forrester Research. "It's also a way to tempt developers to experiment with technology that they might not use if it were a Microsoft-only technology."

Microsoft submitted the technology to ECMA last year with the hope that a standardized version of the software--administered by ECMA--will be adopted by other software makers for building .Net-compliant programs running on operating systems other than Windows, and thus expanding .Net's popularity.

"ECMA's decision to ratify C# and the CLI technology confirms Web services are and are going to continue to play an important role in the development of future innovations," Microsoft spokesman Dan Leach said. "Obviously ECMA's endorsement for C# and the CLI program supports Microsoft's vision for .Net and Web services."

In theory, ECMA's blessing of the technology could mean that other software companies adopt C# and the CLI. But so far Microsoft has not announced that it's working to deliver commercial implementations of .Net for any other operating system. Microsoft is working on its own version of .Net building blocks for the FreeBSD version of Unix with help from Corel. But that version of .Net for FreeBSD will be released under a "shared source" license that lets researchers see and modify underlying source code but not use it in commercial projects.

Gartner analyst David Smith says the approval of the C# and Common Language Infrastructure development tools as standards marks only a small step forward for Microsoft's .Net strategy.

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Also, analysts said, the ECMA submission from Microsoft only defines a subset of the .Net Framework, the technology underpinnings of .Net. Companies wishing to use the technology would need to add additional programming, such as a user interface component, to make it useful.

One software company, Ximian, is working to develop an open-source, Linux-based version of the .Net development platform, which includes C# and the CLI. The company's project, called Mono, is still in development.

Another company, Halcyon Software, plans to begin testing a Java implementation of .Net technologies, called INet, next month.

Microsoft has in the past made no secret of its intention to upstage Sun Microsystems and its Java programming language, which directly competes with C#. The two companies are also competing to establish Web services programming infrastructures, Microsoft with .Net and Sun with its Sun One and Java 2 Enterprise Edition technology.

More than two years ago, Sun said it would turn Java over to the same standards body, but withdrew its proposal on fears that it would lose control of Java's evolution. Java proponents argued that making Java an industry standard would give other companies a much stronger position in defining Java and determining the direction of the software. But Sun executives implied that standardizing through ECMA could result in a version of Java that worked differently from Sun's.

News.com's Joe Wilcox and Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.