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Microsoft drops .Net label from servers

The company is unveiling a new branding approach for its server-software products to synch up with next week's launch of Windows Server 2003 and to clarify the muddled .Net label.

Microsoft is introducing a new branding convention for its server-software products to synch up with next week's launch of Windows Server 2003.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company's server programs will be sold under the "Windows Server System" brand starting April 24, when Microsoft is set to ship its latest operating system. The shift will affect products that had been marketed under the .Net Enterprise Server label.

Dropping the .Net label from server software follows the company's decision earlier this year to do the same with the forthcoming Windows Server 2003 OS.

By creating the Windows Server System naming convention for all its server products, Microsoft hopes to clarify what the .Net name means and to demonstrate the company's long-term commitment to Windows, said Barry Goffe, group product manager at Microsoft's server platform division.

"We unfortunately have not been superclear in the past about what .Net is and what .Net isn't," Goffe said.

When Microsoft first launched .Net nearly three years ago, the initiative encompassed a broad set of products and services. To offer an example of .Net in use, company executives said that .Net would allow consumers to get information services delivered via the Web on a variety of devices.

But in the process of using the same label for consumer-oriented Web services and the software development tools to build applications that delivered these information services, Microsoft's overall .Net message became muddled, according to analysts.

"It's definitely a confusing brand and IT (information technology) directors didn't understand it well, but developers understood right away," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft. "The marketing department at Microsoft just got a little out of control and applied it to everything."

Microsoft will continue to use the .Net moniker for products that involve application development and Web services, including its Visual Studio.Net programming tool, Goffe said. The .Net name remains with consumer-targeted Web services, including .Net Alerts, which sends out reminders, and Microsoft's .Net Passport service for password authentication.

Goffe said .Net is the company's software infrastructure for building and deploying Web services. Used broadly in the industry, the term Web services is an umbrella phrase to describe modular applications that can easily exchange data over the Internet using XML (extensible markup language)-based protocols.

Because Web services capabilities are becoming embedded within all Microsoft's server software products, there is no longer the need to call out the .Net label, Goffe said. To draw a parallel, Goffe said that Microsoft used to brand its desktop applications "Word for Windows" and "Excel for Windows" but the company eventually dropped the "for Windows" naming because customers assumed Microsoft's focus on Windows.

Also, by adopting the Windows Server System labeling, Microsoft wants to underscore the close coupling of server products, such as its content management server, with the Windows operating system, Goffe added.

"We want to double down on our commitment to Windows as a strategic platform to the company going forward," Goffe said.