Microsoft launches Web resource to foster hosting model

Microsoft on Thursday opened the doors to an online community for software developers and vendors who want to build products for its emerging .Net platform. The online project aims to help software makers understand the emerging concept of "software as a service."

Microsoft's Hosted Application Development Community, at http://www.microsoft.com/asp, provides software developers and ISVs with a variety of business and technology resources designed to help tham make the transition from creating software products that are installed on PCs to software that can be accessed over the Web using a hosting model.

The online service is the first from Microsoft targeted at developers building applications for hosted environments, according to Dwight Krossa, director of emerging business for Microsoft.

The hosting model is an integral part of Microsoft's evolution in delivering products and services to customers as it continues to roll out its .Net initiative. Hosted applications run on servers maintained by application service providers (ASPs), software vendors or large corporations, and are intended to cut down on the cost and complexities of installing and managing software on individual PCs. Until now, however, many ASPs have had a tough time making the business a profitable one.

"We saw a huge rise and collapse of the ASP market," Krossa said. "But even though a lot of ASPs went out of business, there's still a huge amount of customer interest."

Members who sign on to Microsoft's online service will get free support from Microsoft's Product Support Services team, now part of Microsoft's recently merged consulting services division. Developers will also have access to various Microsoft products including its .Net Enterprise Server software and its SOAP ( simple object access protocol) toolkit for Visual Studio 6.0, as well as software development kits for UDDI (universal description, discovery, and integration) and Active Directory. Membership also provides access to 10 white papers on a range of issues including pricing strategies to business models for running an ASP, and XML (extensible markup language) resources.

Software vendors can also get information on a number of case studies on how ASPs have successfully managed sales, marketing, engineering and finance. Case studies of a number of real-world organizations that have already successfully deployed .Net Enterprise Servers for business will also be available.

"It's kind of unfortunate that the ASP market started in the grand tradition like other Internet companies with just an incredible amount of hype," Krossa said. "Some of the projections from analysts regarding how big the industry would be were just ridiculous."

Moving forward, Microsoft is betting its business on that industry, and it is hoping its partner software companies take part.

"We view the ASP as on the road to .Net," Krossa said. "It is the direction that we think (independent software vendors) should go."

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