In a move to compete against rival Google, Microsoft yesterday said it plans to release new tools to help developers build software applications that work with its MSN online search and instant messaging products.
Microsoft will publish Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to several of its public Web sites. An API is a set of definitions of the ways one piece of computer software communicates with another. Programmers can make use of the API’s functionality, which saves them the time of having to recreate the code.
The tools are for add-ons to MSN’s desktop, Internet and localized search, and MSN Messenger. The company will unveil several new tools at the Microsoft developer conference in Los Angeles next week.
Taking Aim At Google
Enderle Group Principal Analyst Rob Enderle told TechNewsWorld that publishing APIs was a necessary move for Microsoft, which is now solidly focused on Google.
“When you drag Google executives into court as they with this latest Kai-Fu Lee acquisition it refocuses you on your competitor,” said Enderle in reference to Microsoft’s lawsuit over one of its top executives that defected to Google in July. A ruling in the case is expected next Tuesday.
“I think you are going to see Microsoft make some real aggressive moves against Google going forward, publishing APIs for search products being just one of them,” Enderle said.
The Web 2.0 Factor
Microsoft’s move not only competes with Google, America Online and Yahoo, it also prepares the company for Web 2.0, an emerging model also known as the programmable Web.
Web 2.0 is a newer incarnation of the World Wide Web typified by the transition from the typical Web site hosting HTML/XHTML pages to a platform that provides a point of presence — sometimes known as a Web portal — from which various interactions may occur.
“As Web 2.0 now rolls out to the general market there are various views as to what form it should take,” Enderle said. “Microsoft is expressing their view of what the public version of Web 2.0 should be.”
Microsoft’s Web 2.0 Vision
Web services, building blocks for constructing distributed Web-based applications in a platform, object model, and multi-language manner. Web Services are based on open Internet standards, such as HTTP and XML, and form the basis of Microsoft’s vision of the programmable Web.
This is where the Microsoft .NET Framework comes in. The goal of the .NET Framework is to make it easy to build Web applications and Web services. The .NET Framework also includes a set of class libraries that developers can use from any programmable language.
Playing Both Sides
But could Microsoft’s growing support for Web 2.0 applications cannibalize its flagship products, like Windows and Office? Or open up an entirely new revenue stream? Enderle said it’s difficult to predict how this will play out.
“When you make a change like this there’s always the opportunity for cannibalization of existing products, but if your market is going to move to a new spec, your choice is typically to move or take a competitive hit as the market moves,” Enderle said. “What Microsoft is doing here is anticipating that the market is in fact going to move and they want to be one of the drivers as opposed to one of the folks that is adversely impacted.”