Microsoft formally unveiled today what company officials described as the application framework that promises to give developers technical direction well into the next decade here at its Professional Developers Conference.
The Windows Distributed interNet Applications (DNA) architecture was described by Paul Maritz, Microsoft's group vice president of applications and platforms, as a "unifying framework for building applications" that supposedly will "synthesize" client/server applications with the Web in many large corporate accounts.
"DNA is a framework that will integrate the structured and unstructured world and is based on a rich set of component services," Maritz said. "Looking back five years from now, we can say that today is where we launched one of our most important development cornerstones."
Windows DNA will help developers build richer, more deeply integrated applications by allowing them to better stitch together tools and graphical interfaces with their distributed operating environment. Maritz said developers can start building Windows DNA applications now using products and technologies such as Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0, which is due to ship next week, Windows NT 4.0 and the company's Component Object Model (COM).
Some developers at the conference said they found the concept of DNA appealing but believe its success hinges completely on whether Microsoft delivers.
"If an application can run on one Windows platform, then it can run on any platform," said Brian Cole, software team leader at 3Com Remote Access, in Gloucester, England. "But there's still a question of how much memory you need, and how much processing power. That's where you start wondering how much hype is involved."
Microsoft also announced that Baan, SAP, and PeopleSoft today gave their backing to COM.
Microsoft will distribute to conference attendees this Friday the first early code of the long-awaited Windows NT 5.0. The company expects to ship the final version of NT Server 5.0 in next year's second half, but will not ship the workstation version until 1999, Maritz said.
With the release of Internet Explorer 4.0, Maritz and other company officials today said they believe they can raise their share of the browser market from somewhere around 30 percent now to more than 50 percent over the next year. Maritz added that IE 3.X already has more than 50-percent market share in Japan.
Maritz also reiterated the company's position on network computers, saying they still do not offer the price-performance deal that full-blown PCs offer. He said that in most cases, network computers still either are incompatible with some existing products or serve merely as overpriced terminals.
Trying to soften the war of words that has gone on between Microsoft and Sun concerning Java over the past year, Maritz said Microsoft will support the Java language in some of its programming products, but added that he believes Dynamic HTML (DHTML) provides developers with a better answer.
"Java just doesn't work well on all platforms. If broad reach is the issue, then DHTML and scripting is the answer," Maritz said. "DHTML is the answer to what has become known as the World Wide Wait."
DHTML appears to be Microsoft's answer to Java in terms of deploying a more effective cross-platform strategy, Maritz said. He said developers will be able to develop applications that run on multiple platforms as diverse as Unix, Macintosh and Windows CE using DHTML, without Java or ActiveX code.
"We think you can build much more responsive applications with a broader reach," Maritz said.
Microsoft also announced a development alliance with Baan, a developer of enterprise-class applications. Under the terms of the alliance, Baan will advise Microsoft on building enterprise-level applications and share technology with Microsoft on enterprise development.
"We will be influencing each other's road map, and doing joint development and sharing when that is appropriate," said Laurens van der Tang, executive vice president of research and development at Baan. "[Windows] DNA will serve as the cornerstone for us."
Besides Windows DNA and DHTML, Microsoft will focus on the possibilities that natural language presents. He said company chairman Bill Gates would dedicate part of his keynote speech on Friday to some of the work Microsoft is doing in that arena.
Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., is at www.microsoft.com.