U.S. Put Man on Moon, Gates Gives us .Net

CommentaryWithin minutes of starting his .Net briefing Wednesday, Gates compared the .Net project to putting man on the moon or developing the Boeing 747.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I went to the first briefing of .Net. At that time, which seems very long ago now, the dot-com boom was at its peak. Microsoft was increasingly being seen as an also ran, behind the Internet curve and facing a hard-charging Department of Justice intent on breaking up the Redmond juggernaut.

Maybe Wednesdays .Net briefing marks the low-tide mark for the economy and busted Wall Street investors that bought (or were scammed) into believing that the dot-com, telecom economy was so new and powerful it would never be forced to adhere to natural economic laws. As Gates went on and on in detail about the coolness of .Net and XML, the stock market staged a nearly 500 point comeback. Whether or not you like Gates and Co., you should demand that Gates repeats his speech once a day until the market climbs back out of the current swamp.

Following a day of watching presentations, future product demos and remarks from some of the richest technologists in the world (although less rich than a couple of years ago), Id sum it up as follows: there are still graying geeks in khakis that get excited talking about data schemas. The stuff theyre coding might actually be useful to companies.

Im starting to wonder if Bill Gates has been able to clone himself. The last two years have left many of his competitors jobless, weary and disheartened but havent seem to have bothered Bill all that much. Maybe having a day job as the chief software geek at the worlds techie epicenter and a night job uplifting health care for the worlds poorest kids is enough. I think Gates would have been more disappointed if the XML mantra had been dismissed and the economy stayed strong rather than vice versa. Over the years Ive noticed that unless Gates can characterize his current projects in the grandest terms, his enthusiasm seems less than genuine.

There is no chance of that happening with .Net. Within minutes of starting his briefing at the Building 33 conference center on the Redmond Campus, Gates compared the .Net project to the U.S. effort to put a man on the moon or develop the Boeing 747. (Note to Bill: The world will never be riveted to their televisions listening to some pizza-fueled code pounder proclaiming that .Net is one small step for man and one giant step for mankind).

The trip up to the Redmond, Wash., campus was a welcome break for me after spending a couple of days in Silicon Valley. The stock market crash is a compelling soap opera, but the constant bemoaning by former tech millionaires over their fate is cruel and unusual punishment for anyone forced to share an airline seat. Hey guys, trade down to Chevy and move on.

So what is .Net? There are lots of definitions out there. I know it cant have much to do with Java, because the J word never came up once during the whole day. Same for Linux. The more sarcastic out there would say it is Microsofts latest plan to sell you the software that promises to do what the last release was supposed to do. Id say .Net is a promise still, but a good promise in that it finally offers a simpler path to doing the really hard inter-application connections, user authentication and system management projects that have tripped up many a company. Whether it be .Net or competitors such as IBMs Websphere, making it easier to develop and deploy applications and services is good news for IT and bad news for the consultants that use complexity to assure job security.

Heres my rundown on the .Net presentations.

1. Bill Gates: .Net is good and the more .Net you buy the happier you will be.

2. Jim Allchin: .Net is really good. I didnt used to be a security guy, but I had a revelation and now I am a security guy.

3. Eric Rudder: IT guys and developers should stop fussin and feuding and just go .Net.

4. Jeff Raikes: .Net is really good and can make your company so productive maybe they can do without you.

See you in two years.

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