Microsoft, Intel weave networking standard

The companies propose a Web services specification to connect noncomputer devices. "Web services is coming home," an Intel executive says.

Microsoft and Intel are backing a standardization effort to connect all manners of devices, from computer peripherals to consumer electronics, using Web services protocols.

The companies, along with Canon and Java software maker BEA Systems, on Tuesday published a technical specification, called WS-Discovery. The protocol is designed for situations in which network connections between devices are done in an ad hoc way. For example, the software will enable a personal digital assistant to locate available services such as printing or file sharing on a wireless network.

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The announcement was made in conjunction with the Intel Developer Forum, which is taking place in San Francisco this week.

"Web services is coming home," Louis Burns, corporate vice president at Intel, said at the forum.

The companies intend to submit WS-Discovery to a standards organization but did not say when such a move will occur. Products incorporating the standard are expected to show up next year, Burns said.

The companies said WS-Discovery is intended to work with existing Web services protocols--a set of Extensible Markup Language-based standards that simplify information sharing--for finding available services. WS-Discovery will demand less bandwidth and won't require a constant network connection, as the Universal Description Discovery and Integration (UDDI) protocol does, the companies said.

The companies said current Web services specifications have simplified computer-to-computer data exchanges but have not addressed noncomputer devices such as peripherals, computer appliances and consumer electronics. WS-Discovery is intended to be a simple method for providing Web services to these devices, which tend to have temporary network connections and limited processing power, according to the companies.

One analyst familiar with WS-Discovery said the new specification does address shortcomings in UDDI, which acts as a registry of available Web services.

"Think of UDDI as a big phone book, and in order to find a service, it has to have a phone number. Well, what do you do when a service is not always on the network?" said Ron Schmelzer, an analyst at Web services research company ZapThink. "UDDI isn't enough to handle these sometimes-connected services."

CNET's Ina Fried contributed to this report.

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