Mike Culver works at Microsoft as Manager for the .NET Program and for the Visual Studio Team. Culver's Team supports ISVs and .COM companies that are early adopters of new technologies, such as ARTech, Autodesk and Macromedia. Culver participated in the XIII GeneXus International Meeting and granted the following interview to GeneXus News.
Can you remind us the Microsoft.NET strategy?
Microsoft .NET is really all about a new way to connect people to information and to connect computers to computers: in another way, it's all about what we call Web Services. And then, beyond that, we have a set of enabling technologies that allow developers to very rapidly and quickly develop this kind of applications using things like Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework.
What is Microsoft planning for .NET right now?
We are just beginning the journey of .NET. Today we have what we call version one of Web Services and now we are working on the next version of Web Services, which is going to be even better; by even better I mean, for example, that we are going to add some features to allow people to interoperate between organizations more easily, such as transaction and security support, and Web Services security. All those elements are crucial for companies to interoperate with each other and trust that the information is both private and authentic.
We are also rolling the .NET Framework into all of our products. For example, the next version of SQL Server will be able to run .NET, manage code directly in the database, just like stored procedures and other similar features. And we are going to be rolling the .NET Framework into all our technologies and all our products, whether the Office, or as I already mentioned, SQL Server, BizTalk Server, even Windows itself. We've just released Windows Server 2003 that has the .NET framework built in.
It is said that nowadays the world is divided in two platforms: Java and .NET. How is Microsoft planning to attract Java users to .NET?
We have a number of offerings that would help a Java developer to move to .NET. On one hand we have a language called J#, which is Java syntax compliant and allows people to continue to use the syntax they know. But in addition to this, we have a series of conversional systems, such as JLCA Java language conversional systems, that enable companies to use the tool to look at their code and automatically convert 80% of it and make suggestions about the other 20%, so it makes it very easy for our customers to move from one environment to the other. And then, in addition to that, we have -I don't think most people at Microsoft are even aware that we have this yet- this shipping product that is called Unix Services for Windows. It is just what it sounds like, a set of services for the Unix environment that run under Windows, a very robust set of services that allow developers to take advantage of all the things they have been working with in the past.
What do you think about ARTech?
They are one of our most valued allies in the industry. If you look at the history of ARTech, the company and its relationship with Microsoft is simply incredible. They started up their Microsoft relationship back doing the Comm and then came the market of GeneXus, which is an incredible tool for a business person who is not necessarily somebody who has a large development staff - and they don't need this large development staff. It is a unique tool that makes it very easy for a business person to develop database applications.
And then when the company started working with .NET, I just saw the opportunity grow for them. And the result was incredible. I remember coming to the company last year and meeting all ARTech's Early .NET Adopters, which is simply amazing. That's actually a well-known story inside Microsoft, the story about how ARTech made their own Early Adoption Program for their own community, and it's been used as a model of what other people should do. Very impressive.
Then they developed DeKlarit... Well, I don't know how I can say enough good things about them...I think E-week magazine said it for me (laughs). So, it's all very impressive.
Microsoft is talking a lot about mobile devices, what is going on?
Everything is going on! We started with the PC and Windows as a starting point, and look at where we believe the market and the world are going from there. They are going up, in a sense that we are going up to big screen TVs and big screen projection devices. And we are going the other direction too, so we have things like the Pocket PC and the compact framework that we are shipping in our next version of Visual Studio, which will be launched with Windows 2003 Server by the end of April.
In addition, we are moving into a new class of devices, and one of those devices is the smart phone running Windows. We are also building an even smaller set of devices, so now we have a new initiative that is called Spot. Spot is Windows running on a watch that allows you to receive personalized information wherever you are. For example, if you are interested in sports scores you can get them in the watch as soon as the game is over.
But & is that a vision?
No, that is a product. I'm talking about things that are real right now. Our vision is the conversion of traditional computers with these devices into something new, I don't know what it will be called, but it will be something new. The important thing is that we are really seeing these new ways to deliver information to people wherever they are, whatever they are doing, when they want it, and how they want it. In fact, we are going back to Web Services, and that's why we think Web Services are so important.
What message would Microsoft give to the GeneXus Community? Why choose the .NET Platform?
I think the main reason to choose the .NET platform is its flexibility. Tomorrow, customers will be able to do what they are doing today because in this very rapidly changing world you can't afford to do what you used to do, which was to build something, use it once and then throw it away. The world is not like that anymore.
What GeneXus and ARTech do for their community exactly fits what Microsoft is trying to do, which is to build these adaptable applications in very incremental ways that you don't just deploy once, but you deploy over and over.