What's in a Name for Microsoft? Not .NET

Addressing public concerns that .NET was confusing, the software outfit simplifies the name of its upcoming server.
Microsoft continued its juggling act over the naming of one of its most ballyhooed brands this week when it said it was eschewing the .NET name for its pending Windows server in favor of the moniker, Windows Server 2003.

The Redmond, Wash. software giant, which has delayed the new Windows server several times, pledged to drop the .Net name in its products and will instead name products and services that support popular Internet standards, such as SOAP and XML, with a ".Net Connected" logo. This logo will be slapped on the Windows Server 2003 product and any third-party software or service that supports XML and SOAP .

Microsoft issued a statement saying that Windows Server 2003 (formerly known as Windows .NET Server 2003) "is one of the first products to reflect this new approach. The change is in name only the technology, release date and commercial launch of April 2003, remain unchanged."

Analysts applauded the change, noting that customers were getting confused about what exactly .NET meant.

Gartner analyst David Smith told internetnews.com Microsoft was attaching the .NET name to too many products -- even products that clearly did not fall under .NET's aegis. .NET is intended as a set of software technologies designed to facilitate information between people, systems and devices -- the basis of which is XML Web services.

"Microsoft was struggling with how to position the .NET name and concepts," Smith said. "This [branding change] stems from the fact that they've been using it without a cohesive strategy."

Smith, who predicted there will be additional name changes in Microsoft's future, said the biggest culprit of confusion was the moniker ".NET Enterprise Servers."

Ted Schadler, principal software analyst at Forrester Research, agreed that Microsoft's play is an attempt to better rationalize the company's strategy after a lot of misunderstanding. Schadler explained how it all happened to internetnews.com.

"Microsoft doesn't have a name for its overall stack, so when they threw the .NET label out there people went all over it," Schadler said. "They said 'Hey, .NET! -- that means the entire umbrella of stuff that Microsoft does', but, of course, that's not what Microsoft intends with .NET, right? They want .NET to be a set of capabilities that are about XML integration, about Web services, about interoperability with heterogeneous platforms, etc, etc. So, one way to think about it is the way .NET was being used was all about Microsoft -- the way they want to use it. .NET Connected is all about the Microsoft-based community. So, a partner can have a product that is .NET Connected, as well as having a Microsoft product that is .NET Connected."

"So, I think the overall goal is a good one," Schadler continued, "to try to use the .NET label in that way to talk about the community of capability that's required for next-gen, highly-connected, Web service-based, SOAP-connected, XML-connected applications. That said, internal product teams all snapped it up as a label, so you have .NET Passport, .NET this, .NET that, and of course that's just naming. They're clearly going to try to fix the naming on the server side and hopefully convince the other product guys to change the naming of their products as well. And that makes sense because Windows .NET was as if it was Windows super-sized. You know, 'New and improved, Windows with .NET!,' and that's not a really good naming strategy, it's better to use Windows Server 2003.... I think users will get used to it."

Microsoft plans to launch the highly-anticipated Windows Server 2003 and Visual Studio 2003 April 24 in San Francisco, along with the Everett upgrade of Visual Studio, Microsoft said Thursday. Vendors and partners will have access to the software in advance of the launch date. Microsoft last issued a .NET server tweak December 6, with the second release candidate for Windows .Net Server 2003 software.






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