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MS tries to prove itself on ActiveX

Hoping to dispel doubts about its intention to make ActiveX an open standard, Microsoft sends out a proposal to more than 100 participating companies describing options for turning ActiveX over to a standards body.

Hoping to dispel doubts about its intention to make ActiveX an open standard, Microsoft last night sent out a proposal to more than 100 companies suggesting options for turning the specifications over to a standards body.

A summit meeting on ActiveX, to take place Tuesday in New York, will assemble various vendors and corporate IS managers, a group that Microsoft is collectively calling ActiveX "stakeholders." Informally billing the meeting as a kind of latter-day Constitutional Convention, Microsoft says it will provide a democratic forum to decide how the technology can become an open Net standard.

ActiveX is a set of specifications and software that allow small programs or software components to work together. The technology has become a central part of Microsoft's Internet strategy, but it has also come under fire from companies such as Netscape Communications and Sun Microsystems as being proprietary and limited to Windows.

Next week, Microsoft hopes to address widespread skepticism about whether ActiveX will become a Net standard and discuss how it will happen.

"All of the participants have the proposals," Cornelius Willis, group product manager for Internet tools at Microsoft, said today. "They propose mechanisms for the stewardship of the ActiveX core technologies going forward and how source and binaries will be licensed."

Microsoft officials declined to discuss the specific options today. They also denied a published report that it had already signed a deal with an industry organization, The Open Group, to take control of ActiveX, though officials would not rule out the organization as an option.

Microsoft also said that another organization, The Object Management Group, would be an unlikely candidate to take control of ActiveX because it already controls a competing component standard, CORBA.

"We'll go to the meeting on October 1, and we'll collectively decide with the stakeholders," said John Ludwig, vice president of the Internet platform and tools division. "We could even put [ActiveX] inside of a new standards body."

Officials of The Open Group said that they had been notified by Microsoft about the ActiveX meeting. "We've been asked to come to the meeting," said Jane Smeloff, corporate communications manager at The Open Group. "But there's no decision that's been made yet."