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F.Y.I. -- Microsoft New Media Solutions



www-rdb  is my favorite mail group -- Here is my first posting:
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The following is the full text of an article now appearing in the September 
issue of the New York New Media Association Newsletter:

NYNMA Newsletter
August/September1995

Contents:	
 · Sizzling Summer Sees Execs Shuffle
 · Microsoft Interacts with Developers
 · CD ROM Titles in the Doldrums
 · Import-Export Trade on the Internet
 · Microsoft Interacts with Developers

by Steve Mintz

Over 2,500 corporate technology planners, new media moguls, and an 
impressive crew of  software developers attended the Microsoft  Interactive 
Media Conference in Long Beach, California in mid-July.  With the launch of 
Windows ‘95 and the Microsoft Network (MSN)  only weeks away, the conference 
 provided attendees with three full days of  keynote speeches and breakout 
sessions focused on those emerging platforms.  Special interest sessions 
were also on the agenda covering the Microsoft  Interactive Television 
(formerly TIGER) and Broadcast PC initiatives, the CD Plus platform, and the 
Windows Game SDK.

For the Microsoft interactive applications vision to succeed, a hardware 
base of  Pentium-class machines must reach wide acceptance in the home.   
Any concerns over when that critical mass will materialize were confidently 
disregarded by Mr. Bill’s evangelists.  They easily mesmerized attendees 
with impressive demonstrations of  the 32-bit,  feature-rich, 
multi-tasking/multi-threaded operating system.   Gates’ own presentation 
featured demonstrations of  two Win95 dazzlers: Toon-a-rama, a “mid-band” 
(ISDN-based)  juke-box  of  classic cartoons with a Saturday Morning TV look 
and feel and 3D-Movie Maker -- a $40 build-your-own-virtual -world desktop 
authoring system for children.   Blinking will be a severe handicap for 
those of us attempting to keep a sharp focus on this Brave New World.

Content providers were shown a full range of tools for developing  custom 
applications for MSN.  Applications for that platform are hosted by a 
Windows 95 intelligent browser that dynamically retrieves both program code 
and information from the service’s severs to the desktop PC.  Online 
MediaView, an enhanced version of  the current MediaView authoring tool, was 
presented as a cross-platform authoring solution for  both CD-ROM and MSN 
based titles.  Attendees were given beta copies of  another, more 
forward-looking product : “Blackbird"  the code-name for Microsoft’s  new 
tool for designing, authoring, distributing, viewing and searching online 
applications. Blackbird and OnLine Media View communicate with MSN via a set 
of OLE interfaces and OCX controls that enable functions such as connecting 
to MSN, activating file transfers, and enabling chat and mail services.  
Since “Blackbird” is a true client/server architecture,  net-aware titles 
written using the tool will require a “Blackbird” server on the back-end.   
At its initial release (Q4 ‘95)  only MSN will  have that server platform.  
However an extended version of the server, scheduled for release in Q3 ‘96 
will support the authoring of Internet applications.

The company’s solutions for electronic commerce shared equal billing with 
development tools and operating systems. Demonstrations of the MSN order 
capture and billing systems revealed a well-thought out plan for technology 
and services supporting the implementation of mission-critical business 
services.  The privacy of transactions between subscribers and electronic 
merchants on MSN will be enabled using a “Public Key/Private Key” encryption 
technique.  Those transactions, initially processed using MAPI (e-mail) 
protocols will eventually be supported by a network pipe to database 
servers.  In late 1996 enhanced authentication and processing of 
transactions is scheduled to go live with bi-directional, realtime order 
generation and placement, integration with merchant order systems, and a 
bullet-proof charge card authorization process co-authored with Visa.

While the first round of MSN applications will run from Microsoft’s own data 
center, the company’s longer-term strategy is to provide MSN affiliates with 
the ability to provide network services from their own sites.  At that point 
in time, Internet access to and from MSN will become more seamless and the 
distinction between MSN and Internet/WWW applications will become nearly 
transparent.  If  Microsoft can deliver on this vision, their solutions will 
put them well on the way to establishing their back-end platform and 
front-end tools as the standard development environment for our industry.

Steve Mintz is Technical Director of Technology/Systems Advisors Ltd -- a 
Manhattan-based consulting organization specializing in technology planning 
and the implementation of networked business and personal computing systems.  

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