Microsoft has entered the next phase of its Internet strategy which aims to push third party content on to Active Desktop, the company's on-screen window to the Web.
Comprising two parts, the strategy includes the delivery of a new version of Internet Information Server, which can be downloaded for free from Microsoft's Web site (www.microsoft.com/iis). The second part of the plan, announced at Internet World in New York last week, centres on a partnership with PointCast to deliver Internet broadcasts to the Active Desktop.
IIS 3.0 includes new features such as NetShow, which allows content providers to multi-cast streaming audio and video over the Web. Using this technology it will also be possible to send other types of information, such as HTML, said Jeremy Gittins, UK marketing manager for Internet tools and platforms at Microsoft. NetShow will effectively enable content providers to broadcast information over the Web.
Microsoft will also build client and server APIs to give developers a consistent way to enable Internet applications to push content over the Web onto the Active Desktop. The client APIs will be available in Internet Explorer 4.0, due out in the first half of next year.
The strategy means any application which supports the new APIs, such as an Excel spreadsheet, could be updated automatically over a company intranet or it could push information directly onto a database.
"The fundamental platform for the Active Desktop is ActiveX ," said Gittins.
"If you can program in VB or VJ , you can write for the Active platform."
The Microsoft Office suite is expected to support the new APIs next year.
As a result of its agreement with PointCast, Microsoft will provide IE 4.0 users with access to PointCast's Internet broadcast service. In return, PointCast will distribute Internet Explorer as its preferred browser.
As part of the partnership, MSNBC, a joint online venture between Microsoft and NBC, has agreed to be a key news and information provider on the PointCast Network. It also plans to offer content independently for the Active Desktop.
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