Web services could scale down to the desktop

Web services have the capability to scale down far below the large business-to-business (B-to-B) systems being talked about today and could find their way to the desktop as the technology progresses, John Bobowicz, chief technical strategist at Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Sun One, said Thursday in Tokyo.

"Ultimately, things I get today as applications can almost become features once you can get to them as services," he said, delivering a keynote speech at the Web Services Conference. "Everybody knows that Web services are going to play a big role in B-to-B and having large systems talk to large systems. But there is no reason why eventually we don't see this same capability coming down to smaller types of applications."

The focus in Web services now is firmly fixed on the B-to-B market and centered on companies getting large-scale applications to talk to others within the same organization or across the network to machines in other organizations. Bobowicz sees this as the industry going after the low-hanging fruit on the tree but says companies looking to deploy Web services and rewrite code in XML (Extensible Markup Language) can gain a lot more from pushing the technology further.

"If we were to apply these concepts to what we call a word processor, the different capabilities could act by themselves as Web services and word processing could become a virtual application," he said. Thus the spell-checker, dictionary, thesaurus, publishing and editing functions that go together to make a word processor could all be offered as individual services.

"You may be able to decide whose dictionary you want to use without having to get different versions of the application. Eventually, word processing isn't necessarily an application but it could be considered a feature itself," he said.

Once such functions are available as services, it also becomes easier to build other applications because many of the same services can be re-used, said Bobowicz. Construction of an e-mail application, for example, doesn't require much more than the addition of SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and IMAP (Internet Message Application Protocol) functions to many of the same pieces that go together to make a word processor.

"So, the message is, we tend to duplicate a lot of functionality and each time we need a slight change in function, we create a new application when in reality there is a lot of shared functionality we can leverage if we were to access these things as services," he said.

The Web Services Conference, organized by IDG Japan Inc., runs through Friday in Tokyo and is expected to attract around 1,000 people. More information can be found at http://www.idg.co.jp/ . IDG Japan is a subsidiary of International Data Group Inc., the parent of IDG News Service.

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