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Gates: .NET Won't Happen Overnight
By Anne Chen

REDMOND, WASH.—Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates today responded to critics who call his company's .NET initiative incomplete and lacking innovation by acknowledging that it will take at least four or five years before the promise of .Net is realized.

".Net is not an overnight thing," Gates told 325 university faculty members as he opened the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit here. "A lot of work needs to be done to put standards such as reliable messaging and transaction support in place. We have a commitment to XML to allow for information exchange."

Gates' comments followed criticism last week from some IT managers and analysts who said that Microsoft has failed to detail how .NET will address issues such as scalability and transaction management that are critical to enterprises.

While acknowledging that much work remains to be done on .NET, Gates predicted the initiative will spawn profound innovation. "This digital decade will herald some of the best tools of empowerment and productivity the world has ever seen," Gates said. "We need to think long-term and that includes investments in research and investments in development. This is the greatest era for software ever."

Gates also reiterated his company's commitment to its Trustworthy Computing initiative. Gates announced the Trustworthy Computing Academic Advisory Board, a group of academic researchers that will provide feedback on Microsoft product and policy issues surrounding privacy, security and reliability.

Microsoft last week announced plans to invest $5.2 billion on research and development. Many of the research projects taking place at Microsoft are directed at the initiatives Gates outlined. Much of Microsoft Research's .Net focus has been on work with distributed computing, Global XML Web services architectures, and code quality initiatives. As part of the Trustworthy Computing initiative, the Microsoft Research Division has also contributed technology components to Microsoft's ongoing security initiatives, said Rick Rashid, senior vice president of research at Microsoft.

Microsoft Research (MSR) is working with Microsoft product groups to get new technologies into commercial products, Rashid said. Support for security technologies such as IPv6 and IPSEC in the next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn, are a result of MSR work.

Besides the money Microsoft is pouring into internal research, the company grants $75 million annually to academic research and educational facilities worldwide. One of those academic research organizations, Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, showed off a project in which, using Windows source code, researchers were able to implement IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) into Windows CE .Net and Windows .Net Server. Microsoft has said software based on that work is expected to appear in the next version of the Windows CE .NET operating system due out this summer.

"The prospect of porting the IPv6 stack was challenging to us," said Andrew Scott, a professor in the computer science department at Lancaster. "The successful implementation of IPv6 clearly demonstrates the potential for rewarding innovating technology transfer from academic research into business application."

And Benjamin Bederson, director of the human computer interaction lab at the University of Maryland, demonstrated the DateLens research project for mobile devices. The project enhanced the calendar in the Windows CE interface so that it uses the .Net Compact Framework, and is written entirely in C#.

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