BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JUNE 5, 2000 ISSUE
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Microsoft: At Your Service


With powerful new software, Microsoft wants to reposition itself as a provider of services over the Web.

Here are the details:

WHAT'S DIFFERENT?
Today, people call up Web pages one at a time to read the news or check their stocks. In the future, Microsoft believes that Web sites will be integrated, allowing people to automate all sorts of everyday tasks. Microsoft's new software would make it possible to hook together transactions on unrelated Web sites. When you buy a stock, for example, it would automatically tap your online bank account.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
Web sites that use the software will be able to talk to each other, regardless of which programming language was used to write them. It's as if everyone in the world suddenly adopted a common language. As a result, users will be able to automate tasks involving multiple Web sites with just a few clicks.

THE PITFALLS
The technological hurdles are high, Microsoft faces stiff competition from rivals such as Sun and Hewlett-Packard, and Web site developers are wary of being controlled by Microsoft. Moreover, the initiative could spark new antitrust concerns.



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