Microsoft Corp. yesterday unveiled an early version of a software tool kit that developers can use to build links to the wide range of Web-based services, such as authentication and an alert system for notifying users of critical time-sensitive information, that it will make available to end users over the course of the next year.
Formerly known by the code name HailStorm, Microsoft .Net My Services offers users the ability to store a wide range of information, such as a personal profile, contacts, calendar, electronic wallet, physical location, application settings and favorite Web sites. Users can grant permission for other individuals or companies to access that information to ease or personalize their Web experience.
For instance, end users can sign on to the entire Internet with one password or let their friends access their personal calendars for scheduling events or meetings through .Net My services. Or, they could make a purchase over the Internet without having to enter their credit card information if the electronic retailer links to Microsoft's service which stores that information on the their behalf.
Developers can use the preview version of .Net My Services software development kit to experiment with building the connections that any application, network or device can make to the Microsoft services through protocols and formats such as HTTP, XML and the Simple Object Access Protocol.
Ned Wolf, a software architect at Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, N.Y., said Microsoft's user-authentication service, called Passport, can help pave the way and ease some development burdens for companies considering creating Web services of their own.
"Any authentication I don't build, I don't have to worry about people hacking," Wolf said. He added that the general idea of building links to Web services is appealing for companies such as his firm, which may want to offer customers a map locator but may not want to build it themselves.
There's no charge for the software development kit or usage fees. But Microsoft group vice president Bob Muglia, speaking yesterday at his company's Professional Developers Conference, outlined three levels of agreements for developers linking to .Net My Services:
-- Entry, which is US$1,000 annually and $250 per application and, in this case, is expected to include smaller applications.
-- Standard, which is $10,000 annually and $1,500 per broad-scale business application.
-- Commercial, which is based on a service-level agreement and might require dedicated support from Microsoft. "Developers aren't going to bear the cost," Muglia said, telling conference attendees: "We're making it very inexpensive for you."
Muglia said the end users who gain benefits from the services will be charged on a subscription basis. Some building-block services, such as the Passport authentication, .Net Alerts and .Net Presence (which indicates a user's online status) will be offered free, Muglia noted. But some premium services may be offered through MSN, Microsoft's Office application or some other mechanism, Muglia added.
Microsoft also will derive revenue from storage charges for .Net My Services such as Calendar, Inbox and Documents, Muglia said.
While the individual .Net My Services are primarily viewed as consumer-oriented, Muglia outlined one of the mechanisms by which corporations might get involved with .Net services. He said a corporation may elect to host its own authentication system and establish a trust relationship, through Kerberos security standard with Microsoft's Passport system, in much the same way that banks now link their ATM networks.
Muglia added that Microsoft's new server operating system, Windows .Net Server, which is due in the first half of next year, will enable Passport federation through its Active Directory, which makes use of Kerberos security. Corporate users might host .Net My Services for their employees and manage their own data policies, Muglia said, adding that he can also envision business-to-business scenarios where Web services might come into play. "Microsoft is betting big on this" .Net My Services platform, Muglia said.