Asked by Austin Avrashow. Answered by the Wonk on February 17, 2003
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (formerly Microsoft Windows .NET Server 2003) is the first OS from Microsoft that comes with the .NET Framework baked right in. Currently, all shipping versions of Windows, from Win98 through WinXP and WinCE, all require the .NET Framework to be installed to enable .NET applications to run. Given the shear size of the run-time, this is a giant pain for client-side applications. This chicken 'n' egg problem is artificially slowing the adoption of .NET.
On the server-side, however, things are much easier. If you're deploying a web site and targetting a browser, it doesn't matter so much what the client machine is running, so long as it's some relatively modern browser, e.g. Netscape 6, IE6, Opera, etc. .NET is generally not required on the client in these scenarios, even if you're building the server in ASP.NET. In those cases, installing .NET on the web farm is not a problem, as those machines are in your control and there aren't many of them relative to the number of clients.
It's this back-end web farm that Server 2003 is targeting. Using it instead of Windows 2000 or Windows XP looks at first blush to merely save you the installation of the .NET Framework. But that's not the whole story by any means. Server 2003 comes with several important features for server-side .NET programmers:
.NET is the next Windows API. Almost all new functionality will be exposed in .NET, with only support in the OS as needed to make the .NET APIs work better, which is why .NET 1.0 on Server 2003 runs so much better than .NET 1.0. Server 2003 is merely the beginning of a long, wonderful, managed road.
Grant Blahaerath had this to say:
I recently had a meeting with a .NET group product manager (don't know if he's the only one) and he told me that over 2 million copies of the runtime have been downloaded from Windows Update and that 40% of those were from the W98 platform. Of course that's on my mind when I think of deploying a .NET application to 700,000 users.
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