Microsoft dots its Net with XML for data applications

Microsoft dots its Net with XML for data applications

Microsoft Corp.'s .Net use of the Extensible Markup Language could make government information accessible to the thickest and thinnest clients, company officials say.

The term .Net applies to new and forthcoming Microsoft software as well as to an application development framework, said George Ray, solutions development manager for Microsoft's federal unit.

The .Net architecture's reliance on XML makes it different from the older Component Object Model framework. COM uses registries to log information about applications that are running. 'That's an overhead we can eliminate by using XML in the application framework,' Ray said.

Another key piece of .Net technology is the proprietary Simple Object Access Protocol, which uses XML to send requests over the Web between Windows and non-Windows applications.

The government is facing what Ray called the PC-plus era. 'You're going to have lots of PCs, but you're going to have a multitude of other devices,' he said.

Many client types

Users want to tap into government resources from diverse client types, and XML makes it easy to tailor the data presentation to fit the client devices, Ray said.

.Net applications could pull data from government Web sites and seamlessly embed it in documents and spreadsheets, Ray said.

'It all comes back as XML, and they can use it in their client applications' instead of relying on screen scraping to separate data from the Web formatting that delivered it, he said.

Contractors who use .Net will develop applications faster, and the apps will scale more quickly and be more flexible, Ray said. Microsoft plans to set up training programs aimed at federal users.

Late last year, Microsoft released the first two of its .Net products: SQL Server 2000 and Exchange Server 2000.

Microsoft Windows XP and Office XP also incorporate XML, as does the Visual Studio .Net toolkit for application developers.

ActiveState Tool Corp. of Vancouver, British Columbia, is developing Visual Studio .Net plug-ins for the Perl and Python languages, senior developer Eric Promislow said.

Fujitsu Software Corp. of San Jose, Calif., will integrate .Net capabilities into its Fujitsu Cobol development environment for Windows, chief architect Basim Kadhim said.

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