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Microsoft retools data spec

Microsoft updates a development toolkit in an attempt to garner industry support for a proposed universal data access specification.

Microsoft (MSFT) has updated a development toolkit in an attempt to garner industry support for a proposed universal data access specification.

The company today posted an update to a software development kit for its OLE DB universal data access application programming interface (API) to its Web site. The kit is free of charge.

OLE DB is the company's technology for accessing multiple data types including text, video, audio, and data stored in relational database management systems from any desktop, either across corporate networks or the Internet. It includes Microsoft's existing ODBC API, which provides access to databases via structured query language (SQL).

Incorporating OLE DB into desktop software applications could make accessing corporate data, in whatever form, much easier. For instance, financial services companies, which now cobble information sources and real-time stock feeds into hard-to-develop custom applications, could use OLE DB to quickly build applications that cull data from multiple sources without custom programming. Or, using OLE DB, users could perform a single query to retrieve all email correspondence, word processing documents, and spreadsheets that relate to a single customer.

Using the software development kit, software developers can define any data source as ActiveX components that can be included in applications written with any ActiveX-aware development tool, including Microsoft's own tools, as well as those from Powersoft, Borland International, and other companies.

Microsoft claims that more than 700 software makers and 300 corporate IS departments now have a copy of the initial OLE DB SDK, which shipped in September. But few OLE DB-enabled packages have shipped, mostly because key technologies for making OLE DB useful, such as the company's DCOM (distributed component object model) cross-platform component technology, are just starting to take hold in big companies. DCOM shipped with Windows NT 4.0 in July, and entered beta testing for Windows 95 in September.

Microsoft plans to incorporate OLE DB technology in its entire line of tools and applications.

The SDK includes a programmers' reference, test utilities, a sample code, code to access ODBC data sources via OLE DB, a copy of Microsoft's ActiveX Data Objects software that allows ActiveX-aware tools to use OLE DB, and the company's Advanced Data Connector tool for integrating data access into Web applications.