By most accounts, Microsoft spearheaded the web services movement with the introduction of SOAP. When Microsoft presented SOAP to IBM as a way of transporting data, IBM quickly came on board, helping to develop what later became WSDL. With the combined force of Microsoft and IBM, many more big companies jumped on board, such as Oracle, Sun, and HP. The standards were established and the beginning of the web service era was on the horizon, but there was a catch: there were no tools to facilitate the creation of web services. That's where .NET came in.
Microsoft released the .NET Framework in 2000 with the aim of providing a platform-independent development framework to compete with Java. Since Microsoft started nearly from scratch with the .NET initiative, they built in strong support for XML, as well as the creation and consumption of web services using SOAP and WSDL. Using .NET, there are simple ways to provide a web services wrapper around existing applications as well as exposing most .NET classes using web services.
When developing web services, you can decide how much interaction with SOAP and WSDL is necessary. There are tools to shield developers from the underlying structure, but you can also change fine details if necessary. The 2005 version of the .NET Framework makes even more use of XML and web services.