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MS, Xerox ink Windows for copiers deal

Embed with my toner, apparently...

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Microsoft and Xerox have entered a technology and market development alliance, as predicted here earlier this week. Windows NT 4.0 will be embedded in Xerox devices, with products being delivered from the third quarter, it was claimed yesterday. The idea is for Exchange to be used for the delivery of documents, and clearly, as with Wireless Knowledge and Nextel, MS BackOffice will be skulking in the background. Microsoft President Steve Ballmer allegedly said (this is press-release-speak): "We are empowering knowledge workers by unifying the digital and paper worlds" which can be translated as "clerical workers will not need to put a photocopy in the tray for delivery - it can be sent by a complex series of keyboard, mouse and button-pressing operations to the recipient". We wonder if the cost of training will exceed the previous delivery costs by an office junior gaining work experience. An important sub-text in the announcement was that paper was not being eliminated: Xerox CEO Rick Thoman said thankfully that "the paperless office remains a difficult achievement" and predicted that by 2005, 30 to 40 per cent of office documents will still be on paper … As is standard for Microsoft technology announcements, this is far from being anything new. If anything, it is an attempt to produce an alternative to Adobe's Acrobat and PDF format, which has been gaining ground steadily. Microsoft prefers not to use Acrobat since to do so would be to legitimise it, although we have noted that Microsoft researchers use it lovingly. Microsoft's multi-page scanned exhibits in the trial have to be printed a page at a time, because MS does not have any technology to equal Acrobat. It will be very interesting to see how many millions of lines of code the embedded version of NT 4.0 takes to achieve the simple task of sending a document from a photocopier or scanner to a remote printer. And how curious that NT 4.0 is being used as the basis: why not Windows 2000? MS does not intend this to be an exclusive deal with Xerox: it is calling its product-to-be NT for Document Centre Systems. This is of course the type of deal that Microsoft has wanted in order to quell criticism that it was getting left behind in the embedded market. For Xerox, it is a way to try to regain former glory from the days when it had the xerography patent, and before mainly Japanese companies produced copiers that were more reliable. Microsoft has also licensed Xerox's WebForager, a user interface technology for browsing virtual pages on the net that was developer at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the crypt of many innovations in days of yore. ®

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