ZapThink, a research firm focusing on XML and Web services, said in the report that tools based on XML, the lingua franca of Web services, represent the best hope for modernizing outdated content systems.
"The world of writing and managing content is basically where computing was in the 1980s," said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst for ZapThink. "Everything else has been automated, but content is still cut and paste."
The content lifecycle consists of five stages: creation, management/storage, distribution, syndication and protection. Widespread and consistent use of XML tags can allow content to easily flow between those stages, Schmelzer said. A research report originally published on an English-language Web site, for example, could be automatically reformatted for French speakers to view on their handheld computers when the need arose.
"Without XML, you have to do the conversion," Schmelzer said. "XML automates the process because its much more capable. XML is very good at representing content, because it's text based, and it's very good at representing data...to tell you what that content means."
Numerous companies are looking to grab a chunk of the market. Publishing software leader Adobe Systems hasserver software intended to allow easy reuse of content. Microsoft is on improving electronic forms with xDocs, its upcoming add-on for its Office software. Corel has a number of its products with XML functions.
Schmelzer said that producers of content-creation tools play an important role in the XML shift, but there's still plenty of room for companies such as content-management specialistsand Documentum to focus on the latter stages of the content lifecycle.