As expected Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced the preview program for its .Net Alerts Web service.
"This is our first deliverable on our .Net strategy," said Christopher Payne, vice president of .NET My Services at Microsoft in Redmond, Wash. "Were taking a crawl, work, run view to this and want to nail it for these first 20 or so partners – including eBay. MSN Carpoint, CNBC, MSN Money - and once we get it right and can support rapid growth we will roll it out much more broadly.
"We will also be providing a .Net Alerts Developer Edition which should be broadly available by the year-end," he said.
The Alerts Developer Edition will be announced at Microsofts Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles later this month, and then be made broadly available for download from the Web a few weeks after that.
"The kit will be available between now and the end of the year," he said.
This will enable developers to migrate smoothly to .Net My Services by building on their ini-tial development of .Net Alerts.
As far as pricing is concerned, Web site operators like eBay and others who want to deliver alerts, will pay Microsoft a fixed annual fee designed to "recover its costs for setting up the system," Payne said. They would then be Certified to use the system.
"But there will be no per-alert fee, just the fixed, flat setup fee," Payne added. "The partner [like eBay] would then determine whether they wanted to charge their users for the alert service or not. All the services we are announcing today, like MSN and eBay, are free to the user, but there will be scenarios going forward where developers build solutions that might alert people to stuff theyll be willing to pay for," he said.
Also, the alerts could be received at a number of different end-points, like cell phones, PDAs, the Windows desktop, the Mac – and the consumer would have to purchase that end point and pay any charges under his phone plan and the like. But licensed holders of Windows XP would be able to receive an unlimited number of alerts with no charge for the delivery of those alerts, Payne said.
However, Payne made clear that Microsoft and other companies are planning to build .Net My Services that are premium services built on top of the platform and which consumers would be willing to pay for.
Acknowledging that the core .Net My Services (previously known as Hailstorm) are pre-dominantly focused on the consumer space, Payne insisted that they also had business applica-tions.
"Now that weve announced our intention to federate our passport service, this obviously brings the enterprise into the picture," he said. "The My Services allow end users to take their data anywhere and on any device. Those users are both consumers and business people, so the .Net My Services will be very applicable to both the B-2-B and B-2-C scenarios moving forward."
Analysts say Microsoft also is working on other .Net services that are targeted at businesses. This set of services, code-named Blizzard, will provide corporate developers with business-to-business and enterprise-oriented upon which they can build Web services.
One analyst, who requested anonymity, said he expects Microsoft to announce Blizzard next year.
But Microsofts Payne declined to comment, saying it was not something that Microsoft had talked about publicly. He stressed, however, that as the company rolled out its technical roadmap for federating the authentication of Passport, its first .Net service, there would be additional an-nouncements that would allow businesses to run and host these My Services and integrate them into their core applications.
When the Passport federation happens, expected in 2002, users will not be restricted to Mi-crosofts Windows platform and will be able to use any Kerberos version 5 key distribution center. Microsoft has received a lot of positive feedback around its federation initiative and will be working with partners to announce further support for these initiatives.
Microsoft was still hopeful that AOL Time Warner would "come to the table and help us and work on these technologies with us. Theres a real opportunity here for industry operation to help work on universal single sign-in and really help jumpstart the world of Web services.
Enter Suns Liberty Alliance
Adding to Microsofts woes around a universal single-sign-on and the federation of its Pass-port service is the recently announced Liberty Alliance initiative from Sun Microsystems Inc. and other computing giants who have joined forces with 33 enterprises like United Airlines, General Motors and Fidelity Investments. The effort is to outflank Microsofts Passport service for saving and checking peoples online identities.
The Alliance plans to provide a neutral method for handling those identities.
Microsofts Payne said there were few technical details on the Liberty Alliances plans thus far, but "we very much hope there isnt a divide here. The whole objective is universal single sign-in. The difference is weve already laid out a technological roadmap based on the open Kerberos Industry standard. We are very much hopeful that the Liberty Alliance will adopt that technology standard and drive that forward as opposed to creating an entirely new infrastructure. I am con-cerned that this will stall the industry," he said.
Microsoft remained "very open" to working with Sun, America Online Time Warner and others as it was an area where co-operation was needed. "We think authentication in particular is a core service thats required to enable the world of Web services," Payne said. "I dont think anyone benefits from there being islands of disconnected authentication."