Microsoft's Ballmer: It's the Tags, Stupid

WASHINGTON (04/18/2000) - Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer today put XML squarely at the center of the digital revolution now sweeping both the government and corporate America.

"XML has the ability to wrap together, to embody information, and make it available through a universal medium over a Web site," he said.

As keynote speaker here at FOSE -- a trade show for federal agency technology buyers -- Ballmer said that XML, not Java or Corba, will make possible the next steps of e-government emerging around e-commerce applications.

But he was quick to note that businesses' use of technology is now no different than that of the federal government, Microsoft's largest customer.

To stress the possibilities of XML, Ballmer pointed to a mammoth application at the GPO (Government Printing Office). The GPO uses XML to shift data in various media between all federal agencies and the 5,000 vendors that help the government print its abundance of reports.

Ballmer and another Microsoft executive then ran through a demonstration of an application Microsoft developed for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dubbed Health eVet, the application uses XML, Windows 2000, and Active Directory to maintain health information on 25 million American veterans.

Health eVet recognizes each veteran's file as an object containing links to supporting data, such as graphics of human cells. XML also makes possible hyperlinks to other information, such as drug data stored on WebMD or other health Web sites.

Ballmer also used eVet to pitch new security enhancements to Windows 2000.

Because VA patients can alter their own profiles, the application demanded additional security. While each patient now holds his or her set of PKI keys to access a Health eVet record, Ballmer said Microsoft plans to build on the application's security features.

Microsoft has also has been working with the DOD (Department of Defense) and other government agencies through a dedicated research-and-development team to foster new security solutions around Windows 2000, he said.

In his keynote speech -- ironically scheduled just ahead of Attorney General Janet Reno's -- Ballmer also highlighted other trends common to government and corporate technology settings.

Specifically, he hit on the trend toward building portals by referring to Pennsylvania Passport -- a state portal that among other things offers small businesses a place to quickly develop a Web presence.

Both the government and enterprise market segments will also move increasingly toward the personalization, he said.

Ballmer then referenced what he predicted will be a mounting clamor among users to have targeted information served up to them, rather than merely plastered generally on the Internet.

To tailor information for a user, Microsoft has worked with the Defense Intelligence Agency on a project called Merlin that called for a "digital dashboard" to harness all of the information needed by DOD war fighters.

Finally, Ballmer emphasized Microsoft's work in making technology more accessible to people with disabilities -- the theme of this year's FOSE show.

"We have learned that accessibility cannot be an afterthought. It has to be defined in and designed in to the technology from the start," he said.

Accessibility issues will become increasingly important as the government hands down new regulations in this area, Ballmer predicted.

The FOSE 2000 show runs April 18-20. More information about FOSE 2000 can be found at

Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Washington, is at

Jennifer Jones is an InfoWorld senior editor.

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