After postponing a summit meeting on ActiveX, Microsoft (MSFT) will host a gathering of more than 70 vendors and companies in New York on October 1 to discuss plans for making the technology a Net standard.
And to encourage participants that Microsoft will make ActiveX available on other platforms, the Redmond, Washington, company will release the ActiveX code for Macintosh and Unix, not just Windows, Cornelius Willis, group product manager for Internet tools at Microsoft, said today.
At the meeting, Microsoft hopes devise a game plan with other vendors for making ActiveX an open, cross-platform standard, deflecting criticism that the company is pursuing a proprietary Windows-only Internet strategy aimed at creating a monopoly. But it has yet to persuade vendors such as Netscape Communications and Sun Microsystems to go along.
Microsoft announced in July that it would turn over control of ActiveX to an unnamed standards body to make the component architecture a Net standard like HTML. But the company put the proceedings on hold, citing problems in finding a time and a place for ActiveX participants to meet.
ActiveX, a set of specifications for allowing software components to work together, is based on an older Microsoft component architecture called Component Object Model (COM). ActiveX-enabled applications such as Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 95 can run small applications written in any programming language, including Java, C, and Visual Basic, as long as the applications adhere to the ActiveX specifications.
But ActiveX now is a Windows 95 and NT technology, and in recent weeks vendors such as Netscape and Oracle had begun to doubt the sincerity of Microsoft's efforts to make ActiveX a truly open standard. Netscape is leading the charge behind the Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP), a Net standard that competes with ActiveX.
Microsoft says it intends to make good on its promise at its ActiveX meeting in New York. Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Macromedia, Digital Equipment, Hughes Aircraft, 3M, and SAP are among the more than 70 Active "stakeholders" confirmed to attend.
Netscape also will attend, although company officials could not be reached for comment this morning. Sun has been invited to the meeting but hasn't confirmed whether it will attend. Like Netscape, Sun's JavaSoft division is promoting an architecture that competes with ActiveX, called JavaBeans.
"Sun has a huge amount of experience working with standards groups," Lisa Poulson, a JavaSoft spokeswoman, said today. "Microsoft doesn't. We'll see how they do."
Microsoft says it is determined to work through the standards process. The company would not specify which standards body will take over stewardship of ActiveX. But Microsoft does not plan to give the component architecture to the Object Management Group because it's in charge of the competing CORBA standard.
"Our goal here is to foster interoperability between platforms and applications," Microsoft's Willis said. "ActiveX is a great way to do that."
In spite of Microsoft's pledge to make ActiveX cross-platform, some analysts said its chances of gaining acceptance on Mac and Unix are not assured.
"I see no technical limitation to (ActiveX on Mac and Unix). I see a mindset limitation," said Clay Ryder, senior industry analyst at Zona Research. "The real issue is whether it will become a real standard outside of the Microsoft market. Will the Unix community embrace it? I'm guardedly optimistic."
More information on the ActiveX meeting was posted on the Net today.