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MS servers keep on coming

Microsoft is just now distributing the final beta of Internet Information Server 3.0, but still can't wait to move ahead with the upgrade after that.

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Microsoft (MSFT) is just now distributing a final beta of its Internet Information Server 3.0, but isn't even waiting to ship that one before moving ahead with an alpha version of the upgrade after that.

IIS is Microsoft's Web server that runs exclusively on the Windows NT Server operating system and is the main rival of Netscape Communications' Enterprise and FastTrack servers. As the Web server becomes more popular, Microsoft is speeding up its development schedule so that it's almost as frenzied as the calendar for browser upgrades.

IIS is built on the back of a technology called Active Server Pages, which allows the development of server-side apps in any scripting language, including JavaScript and VB Script. Microsoft plans to bundle IIS 3.0 with Windows NT Server at no cost, a move that Netscape has called anticompetitive. IIS 3.0 will also include a Java Virtual Machine and be bundled with several existing Microsoft servers, including the FrontPage 97 server extensions and the search engine Index Server 1.1.

The final beta of IIS 3.0 is now available on Microsoft's Web site The final release is due to ship by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has already put into developers' hands an alpha version of its next-generation IIS, code-named K2. K2 will bind Internet protocols, such as the upcoming HTTP 1.1 specifications and de facto standards such as Java, more tightly to the Windows NT Server operating system. The company distributed the alpha version last week on CDs at its Professional Developers Conference.

With both versions already in circulation, Microsoft acknowledges that it is running the risk of users skipping IIS 3.0 to wait for the next version.

"Getting feedback into developers' hands outweighed the risk of having customers sit on their hands about 3.0 because they might think something better is coming up," said J Allard, group program manager for Microsoft's Internet server products.

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