The Coming Apocalypse: .NET & The End Of The Computing World As We Know It
April 6h, 2000

And [The Beast] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666.

Revelations 13: 16-18

Introduction: "In the beginning," and "In the end…"
Maybe it's my fundamentalist, hellfire-and-brimstone, Southern Baptist upbringing that keeps conjuring up such horrifying childhood memories.

I remember sitting there in stony silence, paralyzed with fear. My overactive imagination was embellishing the mental pictures that our Sunday-School teacher drew from cryptic Christian prophecies, without any regard for our fragile, impressionably young psyches.

You know the story: in the Bible's Book of Revelation, a "sin-sick" world spirals toward the period called the "end times" or "time of the end." There will be wars and rumors of wars. Famines. Pestilences. Immorality will reign. (Starting to sound like an episode from "The Sopranos," right?) In the midst of this all, a mysterious leader takes to the world stage. This person, known as "the Beast," takes control of a world-ruling government, which includes the concomitant economic and military might, as well as all forms of religion and worship. The person turns out to be Satan incarnate, having taken on human form to set himself up as some blasphemous savior.

At the tender age of seven years old, such talk terrified me; I blanched as we heard our teacher tell us about death, hell and more death with the banality of a housewife checking off a grocery list. In all of my years, nothing has terrified me to the extent of those teachings.

Until I began reading and mulling over Microsoft's .Net initiative.

Part, the first: Here is what is known…
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the number of times that Microsoft software is ridiculed as inferior. The company's market share numbers have never suffered, regardless of the amount of bad press generated. Shall we count the ways?

  • A U. S. ship becomes dead in the water, due to a "divide-by-zero" error in Windows NT
  • Microsoft's web site is hacked.
  • Security holes are discovered regularly in Microsoft's… well, take your pick: Internet Explorer, Outlook, etc.

I'm sure you can add several more to this list, but now, Microsoft is planning to switch everything -- and everyone -- to server-based applications, along with subscriptions and other fees. You will be able to access your personal data -- credit card info, Social Security Number, bank account, ad nauseum -- from any device, from anywhere in the world. Big caveat: your data, according to their spiel, will reside on servers owned by Microsoft. Couple this with the fact that anything you save on those servers becomes the property of Microsoft, and we should change the adage "let the buyer beware" to "let the user be scared." One note, it appears as if Microsoft might be changing their Terms of Service for PassPort after coming under intense criticism.

The point here is one that has been covered already, I'm sure: how in the world can we trust Microsoft .Net on such a global scale -- literally? Yet, this is exactly what Redmond's 800-pound gorilla is suggesting.

Maybe it's just me, but there is something eerie and Orwellian about the fact that everything technological has the potential of one day running through Microsoft servers. (There is a joke here about whether or not everything will actually "run," but I won't go there.)

Part, the second: Here is what is known, redux…
The PC (and the Mac) saved us from the dumb terminal and the centralized server. It's interesting how the developed nations have become a comfortable and collective PC-centric society, yet Microsoft (and Apple, if you listen closely) have designs to take us full circle, back to the network.

I don't remember reading anything in there about individual users (I'm sure .Net is ultimately planned for the teeming masses of home users), but Microsoft's scheme will have to morph and grow in order to ape Apple's push for "digital-hubbed" homes. After all, little Apple appears to lead the 800-pound gorilla quite easily by providing thunder for Microsoft to steal.

But the problem remains of putting control of 90 percent of the world's desktops into the hands of Microsoft -- not that that isn't the case already with "Windows everywhere." .

What should we do?
I believe the idea of a "universal OS" is a great idea. But something about the idea of putting total control on the shoulders of The Great Imitator unnerves me. A better solution is to have something like .Net overseen by a consortium, kinda like the IEEE. This has to be done in such a way so that one company doesn't benefit and become "invincible." I'd say this even if the company proposing .Net were Apple.

.Net will not go away. There is too much potential for Microsoft to gain an eternal grip on the computing masses with this initiative. Those masses will consist of governments, businesses, educational institutions, homes. That pretty much covers everyone. What single-minded monopoly would pass up such booty?

Time is running out on those so-called saviors of the computing world -- Mac OS X and Linux, to name a couple. If .Net gains even a fraction of the momentum and critical mass enjoyed by the Windows variants, I don't believe that there will be much room for even "fringe" operating systems like the Mac OS.

Maybe I'm negative, but we are talking about Microsoft here. I just hope that we don't look back on .Net and see it as the collective, software-incarnation of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Read over the links below and decide for yourself.

Works consulted/cited

M$ and Apple: Déja vu all over again - ZDNet

Who will protect your data in a .Net world? - ZDNet

Microsoft alters Passport Terms to stem Hotmail defections - The Register

All your data (and biz plans) are belong to Microsoft - The Register

.Net demystified:What you must now about MSs software scheme

MS whips up 'Hailstorm' - ZDNet

Users don't buy the Microsoft .Net concept - ZDNet

Your comments are welcomed.