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Now from NewTech: .NET Training
NewTech offers the most comprehensive and practical training in the .NET community today. BOOTCAMP style .NET Training is now being offered for VB.NET, C#.NET and ASP.NET.

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The ‘Framework Everywhere’ Strategy

This Rerun of the "Windows Everywhere" Strategy Will Profoundly Affect Developers

Developers, get a clue. The .NET Framework is by design ready for quick portability to other operating systems. In comprehensive acknowledgement of a new competitive environment, Microsoft has gotten ahead of the developer curve and is now positioning to dominate the future via application programming interfaces-- and a growing .NET community of developers.

Position: The .NET Framework is by design ready for quick portability to other operating systems. In comprehensive acknowledgement of a new competitive environment, Microsoft has gotten ahead of the developer curve and is now well positioned to dominate the future in the competitive world of application programming interfaces (APIs). Check this article to understand the sheer, absolute brilliance of the “Framework Everywhere” API strategy and the "CLI"

Prediction: The .NET Framework will soon be ported to other platforms, and perhaps by Microsoft itself if the migration does not occur on schedule. Developers will be profoundly affected by this low-key, high-impact Microsoft strategy.

Analysis:

Microsoft is well served by seeing the .NET Framework on as many platforms as possible.

Here’s why:

The .NET Framework is a programming platform and as such, Microsoft seeks to have as many developers as possible choose it for the focus of their study and development work.

Developers prefer to learn things exactly once and deploy those new skills to the widest variety of delivery platforms possible. What developers do not want is the need to learn more than 1 or 2 programming models at any one point in time. Ideally, programmers want to learn one thing. They usually study the APIs that are the most useful in day-to-day work.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) drive application developers, and therefore application development. Quality applications drive most IT customer-purchasing decisions. Customers choose applications and then everything else. These derivative purchasing decisions include operating systems. Accordingly, operating system (OS) and platform vendors seek to attract and hold the attention of software developers to their APIs. For OS and platform vendors, applications drive everything and developers build them. These vendors want developer attention.

Independent software vendors (ISVs) want to target app development at the platform with the largest number of current and future users.

ISVs, developers and platform vendors all have a stake in the establishment of APIs—but the vendor has the most to gain or lose. In a previous era, developers were coaxed towards the Windows API. Their subsequent applications formed the basis of Windows success.

In the current day, platforms, application servers, and server frameworks and such as BEA Weblogic, Websphere, J2EE and the .NET Framework are the contenders vying for the attention of developers worldwide. Operating systems APIs have become secondary to platform/framework APIs. This is because applications now are written upon the platform—not the operating system.

Microsoft: The Quiet Company

While Microsoft has loudly trumpeted the benefits of the .NET Framework, the company has quietly engineered an interesting feature: the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI). This is a specification defining how to create a .NET Common Language Runtime (CLR). The spec has been submitted to ECMA.org, not W3C.org.

Once you have a CLR, you are hosting all .NET compatible languages. And those languages can access the .NET Framework APIs. The CLI describes and defines both CLR and .NET Framework construction.

Should you have any doubt regarding Microsoft’s intentions here, consider the following quote, from the Intel.com site:

“Some critics may look at the CLI initiative and discount its cross-platform promise because it is available as of this writing only on Microsoft Windows* platforms. Evidence so far indicates that cross-platform availability of CLI is inevitable. Many open source projects have surfaced since the ECMA standardization effort began. Additionally, Microsoft announced its plans to release a shared source implementation of the CLI framework, thus making it possible for projects to learn from Microsoft's experiences. Implementations on Linux by projects like Ximian's Mono*, Portable.NET*, and DotGNU* are underway.

”The platforms most likely to benefit from the CLI architecture will be the mobile ones. The variety of hardware and operating systems found in mobile devices begs the need for a cross-platform execution framework. Thus far, this need has been answered only by Sun's Java* 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME*). It is only a matter of time before CLI's Compact profile catches up and offers a truly open alternative to Java solutions.”

We find it interesting that Microsoft has defined the CLI for standards bodies, while implementing a superset of that standard in their own implementation of .NET. We also like the fact that Microsoft is providing source code to jump start the process of porting the CLR and .Net Framework to other OS platforms. Finally, we subscribe to the idea that the .NET API approach may eventually win the majority of developer mind share in the mobile-app marketplace. There is much growth to go in that area, as handheld horsepower increases per Moore’s law.

The ‘Framework Everywhere’ strategy provides one additional, key benefit to Microsoft. Since CLR-based applications are by definition .NET applications, expect easy portability BACK to Windows from non-Windows platforms. Since Microsoft’s CLR is a superset of that described by the CLI spec submitted to ECMA, expect these superset features to attract applications BACK to Windows. Subset applications will port easily, and will be quickly and easily modified to take advantage of special Microsoft-only CLR features. These irresistible superset features will lock ported apps into Windows. Once superset APIs are used for key application features, there is real effort going back. Thus, applications running on ECMA-standard CLR implementations will easily port to Windows and quickly get locked in there with Microsoft-specific superset CLR features.

Conclusions

APIs are the battleground in the establishment of any programming standard. And since the entire development community values programming standards, there is a kind of natural ‘monopoly of mind share’ that can be quite lasting for the winning vendor. That mindshare allows influence, increasing control, and potential dominance for the platform vendor hosting the APIs selected by the majority of developers. Developers are, quite literally, the whole ball game.

Prediction: Developers will need to understand the .NET Framework quite quickly if Microsoft’s competitors do not launch a response soon to the CLI. The pace at which the CLR is ported to non-Windows platforms will drive this market dynamic.

Prediction: Viable CLR implementations will be nearly ready by 2003 on key non-Windows platforms.

Related Links:

DotGNU and Portable.NET* Project:

http://freshmeat.net/projects/pnet/

Ximian's Mono* Project:

http://news.com.com/2100-1001-269665.html?legacy=cnet

Intel Site:

http://cedar.intel.com/cgi-bin/ids.dll/content/content.jsp?cntKey=Generic+Editorial%3a%3akaakani&cntType=IDS_EDITORIAL&path=7

ECMA.ORG Standards Body .NET Pages:

http://www.ecma.ch/ecma1/STAND/ecma-335.htm

W3C:

http://www.W3C.org

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