Friday, June 23, 2000

Microsoft takes software to Net

By Michael J. Martinez
The Associated Press

        REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates on Thursday unveiled an ambitious effort to transform Microsoft's software products into Internet-based personal services.

        The initiative, called Microsoft.NET, will allow individuals to access data from a wide array of devices, in cluding personal computers, hand-held organizers and cell phones. The devices will communicate behind the scenes, coordinating between themselves and constantly updating each other, Mr. Gates said.

        “We have the opportunity to take this vision of a digital world and apply the magic of software to make this a reality,” Mr. Gates said.

        Previews of these new services — which will include online versions of Microsoft's popular Office software and features of its Windows operating system — will begin in 2001, but full services will not be widely available until at least 2002, Gates said.

        Thousands of developers have been working for nearly a year on Microsoft.NET, though company officials would not say how much Microsoft has invested.

        “You could say it's a bet-the-company thing,” Mr. Gates said. , adding that it is “far more ambitious than anything we've done in the past.”

        Some analysts have said that the kind of integration

        needed to make Microsoft.NET a reality could run afoul of the company's antitrust battle, however. Microsoft is fighting a court-ordered breakup in appeals court after a federal judge found that it previously broke antitrust laws.

        There are also proposed restrictions on Microsoft's business practices that, if upheld, could severely hamper the company's progress on Microsoft.NET.

        Thursday, Microsoft and the Justice Department agreed to speed up their antitrust battle in a move that could allow the Supreme Court to decide by September whether to hear the case directly or send it to a federal appeals court.

        In a letter to the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Seth Waxman said that Microsoft will file its appeal by July 26, and that government lawyers will file their response by Aug. 15.

        Microsoft plans to take its popular software products, such as the Windows operating system, Microsoft Office and the Microsoft Network online service, and make their features readily available over the Internet.

        Thus, with Office.NET, Microsoft's proposed online business software service, a user could write Microsoft Word documents and integrate them with Excel spreadsheets or other Microsoft software, all through a Web browser on a hand-held organizer with a link to the Internet.


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