Through its fervent adoption of XML, Microsoft is edging closer to crystallizing its long-held dream of building bridges that foster seamless transport of data between its suite of desktop applications and back-end applications.
With the delivery by mid-2003 of its much anticipated and newly named Office 2003 desktop suit, the second beta of which is due in March, the company will have established a vital piece of software that could significantly increase XML adoption across the industry.
"Most vendors are becoming much more XML-friendly and consequently it [XML] is changing the nature of applications vendors business," said John Jerome, an analyst with The Yankee Group in
Jerome and other industry observers believe that XML is starting to have a game-changing impact on application development and integration. Many think it will positively influence the fundamental economics of implementing enterprise solutions.
"XML is having a pretty dramatic impact on integration costs all the way around," Jerome said. "It makes it considerably less expensive to move information from Point A to Point B."
Many IT administrators face a growing dilemma over the amount of critical data that is locked in desktop applications, such as Word and Excel, which can not be easily accessed and shared among other desktop applications and back-end systems.
"If you write a contract in Word and you have an application some place that keeps track of contract terms — and you want to make sure the purchasing you are doing with a particular supplier is consistent with those contract terms, today it would be very difficult to do that," said John Jerome, an analyst with The Yankee Group in Boston. "Users need to take that Word document and pull the key pieces of data out and put it into a contract management system so you can enforce purchasing regulations against that contract.''
In this scenario, users could make their XML-based data readily available to their contract management system, which would produce a "rippling effect of efficiencies," in that all purchases would automatically be checked for contractual compliance, Jerome said.
With the arrival of Visual Studio Tools for Office, also in March, and Microsoft's forms engine InfoPath (formerly XDocs) Microsoft wants to push Office 2003 suite further into enterprise applications.
At last week's VSLive conference in San Francisco, Microsoft executives explained that although Visual Studio Tools for Office is built around leveraging Word and Excel, XML will allow it to embrace other Microsoft apps, including Access, Visio, Outlook, SharePoint and Microsoft CRM.
"Long term, the burden for us is to bake [XML] into the products," said Robert Green, Microsoft Visual Studio lead product manager, also in the company's