Part of .Net does mean using SOAP, but it is a whole lot more than that.
.Net is a framework for building internet applications in any language. I know that sounds like marketing speak, but I can't express it any other way.
It includes a run-time engine that interprets and/or compiles byte code (in a language called "Internal Language" or IL). This is similar to a Java Virtual Machine except that (a) it is not cross platform compatible and (b) it is designed from the start to be used by multiple languages.
Microsoft's new version of Active Server Pages (ASP+) use this runtime engine to allow you to code them in any language that targets the .Net run time language.
However, not only can you use your favourite language to target the .Net platform, you can use that language from MS's Visual Studio - with full intergrated debugging, breakpoints, everything.
Once you are that far, you can call objects written in other languages using your language, and debug them all at the same time. If you step into the call of an object written in another languge (which you have the source code for) Visual Studio will let you debug that, too.
.Net also includes new GUI/WUI (Web User Interface) object models called WinForms and WebForms respectivly. They allow you to write Web based code in the same way you write a conventional GUI program.
As you can see, I'm pretty impressed by all this stuff. I'm not blind, though - I can see the problems. The .Net virtual machine need to be targeted by you favourite language, and for some languages this might mean changes - for instance, you can not fully use Multiple Inheritance.
The list of languages supporting .Net is already pretty impressive, though: COBOL, Eiffel, Haskell, Mercury, ML, Oberon, Perl, Python, SmallTalk, and Scheme as well as VB, C++ and C#.
Personally, I think .Net is more compelling than Java from the developers point of view. I'd much rather be tied to one platform and have a choice of languages that be tied to one language and have a choice of platforms that the application will (mostly) run on.
This is especially the case now Java is focusing more on server side programming - lets face it - if you write your Java program for Solaris you are unlikely to switch to Windows. Even if you do, it is likely you are going to have to make almost as many changes as you'd make switching a clean C++ or Perl program across.
Then there is Perl or PHP on Linux. If we forget the moral aspect, why would anyone choose this platform (at least for high end websites)? It is probably a little more reliable that Windows 2000 (although that gap is coming down), and it is definatly cheaper. However, it is easier to find programemrs for ASP+ - now all the Perl programmers can write for that, too.
I'm worried that .Net is another MS thing that the Open Source world is ignoring because they don't understand it. I don't see any projects that support server side object oriented programming on Linux in your choice of language. (I realise that Python can produce Java byte code, but I consider that an exception).