.Net Products, From Server to Titanium, Due This Year

Microsoft plans an all-out product blitz this year, providing little respite to enterprises and consumers weary of relatively rapid software upgrade cycles and buggy code.

Microsoft Corp. plans an all-out product blitz this year, providing little respite to enterprises and consumers weary of relatively rapid software upgrade cycles and buggy code.

Officials from the Redmond, Wash., company said recently that this will be the biggest year ever for enterprise .Net technology releases, with the April delivery of the delayed Windows .Net Server 2003 family leading the way.

It will be released jointly with Visual Studio .Net 2003, which is designed to build connected applications for .Net Server 2003, and with the 64-bit SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition database.

Slated for release around midyear are Office 11, the follow-up to Microsofts current Office XP productivity suite; the next version of Microsoft Exchange Server, code-named Titanium; and SharePoint Team Services, a customizable, out-of-the-box solution for workgroups.

Rounding out the lineup in the second half of this year will be a set of technologies, code-named Jupiter, that will integrate Microsofts BizTalk, Commerce and Content Management servers.

The upgrades will come despite increasing pressure from enterprise users and consumers for Microsoft to focus more on fixing bugs and flaws in existing products rather than continue its cycle of releasing product upgrades every two years or so.

"Microsoft needs to focus new features and functionality on making the products more secure and stable, while adding self-trouble-shooting features," a technical consultant for a large retailer in Columbus, Ohio, told eWeek.

Microsoft executives indicated until recently that longer development cycles were in the cards for some products, such as the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, a concept that was welcomed by users.

John Persinger, an internal network administrator for Source4 Inc., in Roanoke, Va., said any more time put into a product such as Longhorn will be beneficial. "As Microsofts products find their way into every segment of our networks, the more carefully they build them the better," Persinger said.

.Net Server 2003 will debut in four versions, with Datacenter Edition targeted at mission-critical applications. Enterprise Edition is designed for large enterprises but may be suitable for smaller companies as well. Standard Edition is a multipurpose network operating system for companies of all sizes. Web Edition is a new product to provide Web serving and hosting.

With Office 11, Microsoft said it hopes to seamlessly connect workers to islands of data stored by businesses in a variety of devices and hardware by supporting standards-based XML, according to Jeff Raikes, Microsofts group vice president of productivity and business services.

While some users welcome these moves, others, such as Bob Duerr, president of Integrated E-com, in Naperville, Ill., which provides customer relationship management, e-CRM and e-commerce solutions to small businesses, said the new products seem geared toward larger enterprises.

"Small businesses will not use or understand the capabilities. Also, getting the average user to take advantage of it will take understanding [and] training," Duerr said.