IBM, Microsoft propose e-business standard

An ongoing collaboration between the long-time rivals spawns yet another potential e-commerce standard, simplifying the delivery of software over the Web.

An ongoing collaboration between long-time rivals IBM and Microsoft has spawned yet another potential e-commerce standard.

The two technology giants today announced they have created a potential new standard they say will simplify the delivery of software over the Web.

Both companies, along with competitors such as Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Sun Microsystems, are racing to build Internet software that will allow businesses and e-commerce sites to offer Web-based services. The companies envision a future in which people will no longer have to install software on their PCs or other Internet access devices. Instead, software will be accessed through the Web as a service.

Microsoft earlier this year announced the .Net initiative, which will make Microsoft's existing software available over the Web to traditional PCs and to increasingly popular devices such as cell phones and handheld computers.

The proposed standard, called Web Services Description Language, offers a common way to describe the capabilities of Web services. It explains the requirements for interacting with and using the Web service, said Bob Sutor, IBM's program director for e-business standards strategy.

The proposal has not yet been submitted to an industry standards body. Sutor said the consortium of companies working on an earlier proposed standard, called Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI), will decide when the new proposal will be submitted.

IBM, Microsoft and Ariba last month proposed a UDDI Web standard and initiative that will let businesses register in an online database so they can advertise their services and find each other to conduct transactions over the Web.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft and Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM previously worked on a proposed Net standard called Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) that allows businesses to link different computing systems over the Net so they can conduct online transactions.

The potential standards are all based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), a Web standard for data exchange that is rapidly becoming the preferred language of online business.

Today's proposed Web standard combines similar technologies that Microsoft and IBM have individually created. The two companies merged the technologies into one proposed standard to eliminate crossover and avoid confusion in the market, Sutor said.

"It was the logical thing to do," he said. "They're pretty much the same thing, so it was logical to combine them."

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