Cat5bird Seat

The Name Game

We don't see Chief Renamer on the Microsoft org chart, but that person has got to be on there somewhere....

I swear, somewhere deep in some basement office at Microsoft’s Redmond campus there is someone whose entire job it is to rename things. I don’t think there can be more than one such person, because the major renamings don’t come all that often. But clearly whoever this person is, they are well entrenched in the corporate structure and they have a great deal of power. Here's why: Every year or two Microsoft’s entire branding strategy seems to take some great veering leap into the great unknown, and the rest of us are left scurrying to catch up. Who can forget the year when "Active" was suddenly the required word, and we got ActiveEverything shipping until it went out of fashion? Or the sudden springing of .NET on the world, and the subsequent search-engine chaos?

Which brings us to the latest bit of confusion to come out of the office of the Chief Renamer: WinFX is out, .NET Framework 3.0 is in. Amusingly enough, the official line is that this particular bit of change is designed to remove confusion, though in my own discussions with colleagues I’ve found that it does no such thing. So perhaps it’s worth drilling in a bit on the details, at least as we understand them now.

I got my first bit of anguish when I mentioned the change to our network guy, along with the fact the .NET 3.0 is scheduled to be out this fall. "What?," went the reaction, "we’re only now rolling out the 2.0 Framework that shipped last November. Tell them to slow down!" Fear not, gentle network administrators: The 3.0 Framework includes the 2.0 Framework. In fact, the core bits (the Common Language Runtime and the Base Class Library) are exactly the same in both versions of the Framework. And so are the language compilers.

Yes, that’s right: You build applications for the .NET Framework 3.0 using the 2.0 C# and VB compilers (that shipped in Visual Studio 2005) and target the .NET Framework 2.0 version of the CLR. So what’s different? Well, basically, there are a batch of new APIs bolted on to the side of the existing class libraries (or on top, depending on how excited you are about developing for Windows Vista):

  • Windows Communications Foundation (WCF)
  • Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)
  • Windows Workflow Foundation (WF)
  • Windows CardSpace (WCS)

Together, these APIs were formerly known as WinFX, but now, when you mix them in with .NET 2.0, they magically become .NET 3.0. Clear as mud, right? Oh, and just so you don’t get confused: .NET 3.0 does not include the 3.0 versions of the language compilers or the other new technologies, such as LINQ, that have been demonstrated and targeted for the "Orcas" timeframe. Those will be along later.

So who’s the target of this name change? Surely not developers, who seem to be almost uniformly up in arms about what’s generally regarded as a confusing marketing shenanigan (just check out the comments here, the blog entry that announced the new moniker in the first place).

My theory? This one is aimed at middle managers who might otherwise have asked pointed questions about introducing WinFX into already-struggling development projects. Plenty of organizations are still trying to digest the .NET pieces they’ve already picked up in the last five years, as well as other major releases like SQL Server 2005. A savvy manager might question the wisdom of adding huge APIs like WCF and WPF to a teetering application stack, even though developers always want to bring in new toys. But now, you see, it’s not something new -- it’s just the latest revision of .NET, which is already the corporate standard.

Names are wonderful things, aren’t they? For extra credit, surf on over to the Microsoft Forefront site and ponder how the right name can take a hodgepodge of pieces written or acquired over the years and turn them into a comprehensive line of integrated business security products. I’ll be waiting when you get back and probably trying to decipher the next inscrutable missive from the Chief Renamer.

Are you ready for .NET 3.0? Or were you hoping they’d ship Avalon and Indigo? Let me know at

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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