After announcing its .NET initiative in mid-2000, then backing it up with a slew of releases and hype, Microsoft clearly was hoping 2002 would be the year Web services took off. But the calendar has flipped to 2003, .NET is nowhere near as far along as anticipated, and some observers are wondering if the software giant might have gotten ahead of itself in making such bold predictions.
Microsoft is far from alone, of course. Web services in general, which have been touted as the next big thing in the aftermath of the dot-com crash, have not been the moneymaking powerhouse many had hoped — and they certainly have not saved the tech sector from its deep slump.
Granted, some Web services and .NET success stories already are in evidence, but many enterprises continue to take a wait-and-see approach.
“If you ask corporations, you’ll find everyone intends to tackle Web services, but most of them are still on the sidelines or have only done an experiment here or there,” Gartner research director Raymond Wagner told the E-Commerce Times.
Part of that corporate hesitance, of course, can be explained by the frigid IT spending climate, which has put the deep freeze on many major tech initiatives.
But confusion about .NET’s message may lie at the root of the glacial pace of progress, according to Giga Information Group analyst Rob Enderle.
“I think if [Microsoft] could start over, there might be an effort to refine the message a bit further,” Enderle told the E-Commerce Times. “Microsoft has done a much better job over the course of the past year, but some of the harm had already been done.”
In addition to widespread uncertainty about what exactly .NET can do for business, enterprises also may be reluctant to commit because they fear the Web services concept is half baked. For example, Wagner said, “Corporations are hearing sales pitches about .NET and Web services, and at the same time they know that security standards are still being hashed out” by the Liberty Alliance and other groups. “It’s bound to instill a little confusion.”
Since early last year, Microsoft has occasionally trotted out .NET success stories in an effort to emphasize that the technology is ready for use and can help make enterprises more efficient.
Operational efficiency is a key selling point at a time when any tech investment must have real, measurable return-on-investment (ROI) potential in order to have legs, Enderle noted.
For example, Microsoft said recently that USAToday.com has used a .NET model to make it easier and faster for staff members to update its site, and The New York Times has utilized similar technology on its Web site. In addition, according to the software giant, food maker Kraft, Continental Air Lines and the central bank of Costa Rica have deployed .NET to varying degrees.
One by One
So, what will it take to break this apparent logjam? Apart from more robust IT budgets, analysts say, .NET may benefit most from word-of-mouth, rather than from the heavy marketing pushes planned by Microsoft and some of its partners, including tech giant HP.
“If a partner is using .NET or services in general and having success, it may nudge another company into using it,” Wagner said. “[But] companies aren’t being cajoled into investing in technology anymore.”
Microsoft declined to comment for this article.