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MS to activate storefronts

Alpha code for ActiveStore software framework is set to be launched next week. It will link retailers' in-store functions with back-end operations.

    Boosting its efforts in the retail sector, Microsoft (MSFT) next week will release alpha code for its ActiveStore software framework to link retailers' in-store functions with back-end operations. The aim: to create a plug-and-play environment for store-level applications.

    An alpha version of code for ActiveStore, Microsoft's architecture for real-world stores, will be released October 14-15 at Microsoft's second ActiveStore developers conference in Seattle.

    "ActiveStore aims to make it easier for retailers to obtain software from a wide variety of external and internal vendors and have a better chance than they do today of having these applications 'play well together' in their system," said a statement on Microsoft's Web site.

    "ActiveStore tackles issues such as a common look and feel, system navigation, a common cross-application alert/event architecture, shared data elements, common security, common help, and a set of inter-application messages of major events," the Microsoft site stated.

    The initiative has four major components: user interface services, base system services, data access, and inter-application messages.

    A steering committee of technology providers has been formed to facilitate the ActiveStore initiative?s direction. Members are Campbell Software, Fujitsu, IBM, ICL Retail Systems, Microsoft, NCR, and Olsy-Olivetti Solutions.

    Segment-specific groups will be formed once the basic spec is completed.

    In a related move, Microsoft and others will meet October 17-18 to finalize another retail-related technology, Release 1.3 of OLE for Point of Sale (OPOS), which the company expects to release by year's end. OPOS will run on top of the ActiveStore architecture.

    Tomorrow Microsoft is expected to release names of more than 350 companies backing the ActiveStore initiative. Retailers include Burger King, Coles Meyer Ltd., DAKA International, David Jones, Dayton Hudson, London Drug, The Limited, Marks & Spencer, Montgomery Ward, REI, and Tricon Global Restaurants.