Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Microsoft wants Windows to play well with others. To do that, it's recoating the future in Indigo.
The software giant said last week that an early "preview" version of a new communications system being built into Windows, called Indigo, will be in software developers' hands in March.
To most people, the Indigo software will be invisible, simply a recast set of "plumbing" that only software programmers will interact with. But if Indigo lives up to Microsoft's ambitions, its impact will be great, according to industry executives and analysts.
If successful, the communications system, based on Web services protocols, will greatly improve the ability to move information between Windows and noncompatible applications—and crank up the competition in an already crowded field.
"It's been a while in coming, but when it eventually comes on market, Indigo will be an innovative and competitive product," said Mike Gilpin, an analyst at Forrester Research.
Because Indigo is being plugged right into Windows, Microsoft will have a well-integrated product, compared with competitors in the Java server software camp, Gilpin said.
Typically, communications software that integrates various systems runs on high-powered servers. Indigo will be much more pervasive: it will be available—for free—on server and desktop versions of Windows, including Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and the forthcoming Longhorn edition of Windows.
"One of the common misconceptions is that these are server technologies. Fundamentally, the vision Microsoft has for distributing computing is not just forcing everything through a server or through the Web," said John Montgomery, director of marketing for Microsoft's product division. "You need the technology on the desktop as much as the server."
Microsoft also has the advantage of having legions of developers already trained on Visual Studio, its flagship development tool. Indigo introduces a programming model designed to greatly simplify the creation of distributed applications.