Microsoft opens up - just a bit

As part of a concerted effort to open its core base of technologies to as many developers as possible, Microsoft is pulling together an application development architecture that promises to be more agnostic in terms of the programming languages and platforms it supports.

Key elements of the plan are fueled by the merger of Microsoft's existing Component Object Model (COM) architecture and standard Web protocols such as Extensible Markup Language (XML) and HTTP that, taken together, will greatly simplify cross-platform integration, company officials said.

Microsoft's goal is to combine its existing message queue and transaction-processing technology with XML to make these technologies more accessible to a broader array of developers. Once that goal is achieved, Microsoft will expose this platform technology to developers using a range of languages - including Java, Visual Basic and Perl.

"What we're doing is taking the principles that make the Internet work and rippling them up all the way through the programming model," said Charles Fitzgerald, director for business development at Microsoft's developers group. "The thing that's key is that it doesn't rely on the adoption of a single protocol."

Microsoft concedes that most languages will have to be extended to take full advantage of its platform, but officials contend that the benefits of doing that will be very attractive to developers.

For example, sources said Microsoft will extend its C++ tool set, under a project called COOL, to take advantage of the inherently distributed nature of a COM+ architecture, which has been extended by using Web protocols.

As a result, developers will be able to write components in any language they want, and then have those components run on any platform that supports Web protocols.

"We're saying that the Internet, and the way people build things on the Web, is what's going to win," said John Shewchuk, an architect for Microsoft's developers group. "Microsoft, to a large degree, is becoming the Internet company."

Microsoft officials last week declined to identify any of the third-party partners that the company is working with to extend its COM+ architecture.

However, Microsoft officials noted that the company previewed a working prototype of an extended COM+ architecture last month in San Francisco during a Windows 2000 presentation.

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