Applications

Microsoft Unveils Web 2.0 Strategy

Microsoft may have missed the Web 2.0 bandwagon’s first go-round, but the software giant is emerging with a set of new tools designed to deliver better customer experiences online. The company also released a test version of the new Internet Explorer browser.

The announcements came during MIX06, a conference intended to stir excitement among Web designers, developers and decision-makers about Microsoft’s latest string of new products to be released during the next year. Windows Vista, Internet Explorer and new Web development tools are on the list.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates on Monday told MIX06 participants about ways companies can use software to forge new types of customer connections, highlighting new technologies along the way that he said will change the face of business on the Web.

“As the Internet becomes an increasingly powerful way for companies to interact with customers, software and services provide almost unlimited opportunities to extend these interactions,” Gates said. “We’re here this week to talk about how software is transforming the way companies connect with their customers as they embrace a new generation of Web technologies.”

Development Ease

Microsoft is riding the popularity of the social networking site MySpace to demonstrate the benefits of using “Atlas,” the code name for its framework for AJAX-style development.

“Our business depends on giving each of our 65 million registered members a unique and compelling user experience,” said MySpace CTO Aber Whitcomb. “Not only do we have to keep up with growth, but we need to create new and exciting connections with our members that keep them coming back.”

“Atlas” makes the AJAX approach easier and more accessible to a broader range of developers, while enabling them to enrich existing ASP.NET 2.0 applications, according to Microsoft. The new go-live license gives developers the opportunity to take their “Atlas” applications into production.

Microsoft’s Muscle

Is it too late for Microsoft to dominate the Web 2.0 space? Whose space is it? In large part, it may already be Microsoft’s space, it appears.

“Microsoft owns what we call ‘the personal platform.’ That’s where we all live and breathe. So they have a great deal to say about where it is we are going,” remarked Enderle Group Principal Analyst Rob Enderle.

“Microsoft is using that say to carve out a space in Web 2.0,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Microsoft is the incumbent,” noted JupiterResearch analyst Joe Wilcox. “While there are a lot of portable devices out there, most people still get to the Web via a PC, and typically one running Windows.

“The launching pad to the Web is Microsoft’s stronghold and this is territory it is not going to relinquish,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Sneak Peak at Internet Explorer 7

Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer at Microsoft, demonstrated at Monday’s MIX06 sessions the way Simple List Extensions (SLE) — new RSS functionality supported in Internet Explorer 7 — can enrich customer experiences.

Leading Web sites such as Amazon.com and eBay are creating SLE-enabled RSS feeds that will allow customers to manipulate and interact with RSS feeds of data in a much more interactive and seamless way, Microsoft said.

The latest in a series of Internet Explorer 7 builds will be released to the Windows XP technical community to encourage Web site and application developers to test the new browser.

The Future Is Near

The real buzz, though, remains around Microsoft’s Web 2.0 strategy, which analysts said has more to do with the company’s future than almost anything else.

“A lot of what Microsoft does is sustaining the past — keeping customers that are on previous Microsoft products happy,” Enderle said.

“The market is clearly moving toward a new model, and we are calling that model ‘Web 2.0.’ Microsoft’s ability to embrace that new model will have a tremendous amount to do with how well they do over the next decade,” he predicted.

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