Two titans lock horns over XML
Sun and Microsoft are once again in a battle -- this time maneuvering to
settle who controls the next big step in Web technology.
By Mary Jo Foley, Sm@rt Reseller
UPDATED December 8, 1999 12:30 PM PT
Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. agree that XML, the Extensible
Markup Language, is key to their future products and strategies. But in true
rivalry fashion, the two agree to disagree on which groups are best suited
for making sure XML remains a standard and doesn't splinter.
At the XML '99 conference in Philadelphia this week, Sun (Nasdaq: SUNW) and
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) participated in a vendor keynote panel, where they
outlined their respective companies' Internet plans, which intimately
revolve around XML.
"XML is as important to Sun's vision of the services-driven network as Java
is," said Sun's director of global software operations Mike Rodgers, during
the Monday night keynote.
Sun's key role?
Rodgers didn't quite go so far as to say Sun invented XML, but did insist
Sun has played a key role in making the data-sharing standard a success. He
also claimed Sun, IBM (NYSE: IBM) and, to some extent, Microsoft have all
played a part in keeping XML from splintering.
"Without XML, HTML would have been replaced by a more powerful proprietary
format," if not by Sun, than by some other vendor, Rodgers acknowledged.
"But we [Sun] wanted XML to keep Web data open and portable."
To insure such openness continues, Sun is putting its eggs in the
Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards'
(OASIS) and OASIS' XML.org baskets.
Rodgers pointed to OASIS' forthcoming registry and repository, which OASIS
made available this week as a draft specification, as the best place for
industry groups and other interested parties to submit their XML schemas.
Microsoft, like a number of the top software vendors, is a member of OASIS.
But that hasn't stopped Microsoft from pushing its own portal, BizTalk.org,
as the best place for companies and industry associations to post and
publish their XML schemas.
Gates: What is XML?
Microsoft also continues to champion its XML framework, also known as
BizTalk, as the best set of guidelines for publishing and using these
schemas. Microsoft released the final public version of its BizTalk
framework on Monday.
Microsoft's come a long way on the XML front in a short time, said Adam
Bosworth, general manager of XML and data access for the company, during the
Monday night vendor keynote.
Bosworth told the XML '99 audience that just three years ago he received an
e-mail message from Microsoft CEO Bill Gates asking him what XML was. Now,
Bosworth said, "Microsoft is betting the company on this [XML]."
"Along the way, Microsoft, Sun, IBM and software vendors like webMethods
have all made this [XML standards process] work," Bosworth said. He added
that Microsoft's policy, going forward, will be to continue to work with
established standards bodies, like the W3C and the Internet Engineering Task
Force to insure the standard does not fragment.
Bosworth also committed to the audience that Microsoft will do a better job
of providing developers with tools and products that implement standards in
the XML space--even if those standards aren't quite complete yet.
Tech preview coming
On Jan. 17, for example, Microsoft will roll out technology preview
components on its Web site that will comply with the influx XSLT and Xpath
query standards. As standards crystallize, Microsoft also will provide
developers and users with migration tools, enabling them to move to the
final bits, Bosworth added.
At the same time, Microsoft will examine how it can work more closely with
other XML standards groups, Bosworth said. But he didn't talk specifics,
even though rumors at XML '99 had Microsoft possibly donating its BizTalk
framework and efforts to an independent standards body.
"While we think BizTalk.org is the place to publish and find schemas, we are
interested in other schema organizations and will participate where
appropriate," he added.