A recent research report heralds Microsoft's ability to interoperate with existing applications and its support for Web services in its development tools and applications, but cautions Redmond to stay the interoperability course once Longhorn arrives in 2006.
JupiterResearch surveyed more than 800 IT managers and 65%, said interoperability was the most important factor in choosing a development platform, beating out security (48%) and support for industry standards (44%). Windows, meanwhile, was the platform of choice for 79% of those surveyed, ahead of Unix (43%) and Linux (22%).
Lead analyst Joe Wilcox said Microsoft's lead in the operating systems and applications markets boosted it to the top of the interoperability survey. But since 2000, aggressive support for Web services in tools and applications, and more attention to vertical integration between the desktop and server, is going a long way toward enabling applications to work together.
"The company's wide adoption of Web services standards solves a critical business need," the report said.
Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said Web services standards like SOAP or Web Services Description Language (WSDL) are critical to ensuring interoperability. XML was next at 37%. In contrast, however, 21% of IT managers said their top frustration was getting disparate Web services to interoperate across different platforms.
.NET, Microsoft's development platform, is the favorite for 51% of the IT managers surveyed who are deploying Web services.
Enhancements to .NET will continue with the impending release this year of Whidbey and new Visual Studio .NET development tools, and will provide a bridge for developers anxious for the arrival of Longhorn.
"If Microsoft continues current plans, developers who have worked with the .NET Framework -- presumably in the more than half of businesses deploying .NET -- already know how to quickly develop applications that are easily interoperable with Windows and applications developed on other Web services platforms, such as Java/J2EE," the report said.
This kind of interoperability leads to reduced total cost of ownership, reduced management and development costs and reduced complexity -- the top three benefits of interoperability cited in the survey.
"Businesses interested in cutting developing time that already have deployed .NET should begin testing Whidbey as soon as Microsoft releases a public beta," the report said. "Visual Studio .Net should meet their basic interoperability goals by improving integration, reducing development time, and cutting TCO [total cost of ownership]."
Microsoft, meanwhile, has challenges in the Web services marketplace. Jupiter said about half of all enterprises are using .NET, leaving a big piece of the market open to Redmond's competition.
"Microsoft must be careful to keep from co-opting Web services standards as the company seeks to build momentum for the Longhorn wave of products," the report said. "While Microsoft's bet on Web services and increased interoperability is paying off, the company may be tempted to use non-interoperable hooks to ensure businesses quickly transition to Longhorn products."