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When Microsoft says it is working "with the industry" to create the BizTalk framework, you get suspicious. In a keynote to the TechEd developers meeting in Dallas this week, Microsoft VP Paul Maritz showed how Microsoft was "driving the standard" (in this case XML) as the way to ensure that aspects of the standard enter a cul-de-sac, resulting in a pseudo-standard controlled by Microsoft. Maritz likes to characterise XML as a way of describing data in a structured fashion, doing for data what HTML did for pages. Maritz described how Microsoft has made the BizTalk extension of XML into an "open process that anyone can participate in" by publishing schemas. BizTalk was first announced by Gates in March and was in effect an admission by Microsoft that it was falling behind in e-commerce. Microsoft describes BizTalk as "platform neutral" and says it is "committed to working collaboratively with leading customers, vendors and industry consortia". It's interesting that "industry consortia" should be last in the list, but it's no surprise to find no reference to BizTalk at the W3C website. The importance that Microsoft attaches to its proprietary BizTalk protocol (for that is what it is) is seen from the fact that there are 35 tracks at TechEd devoted to it. The supporters of BizTalk are far from being widely representative of the industry: there are only 24 of them listed at the biztalk.org web site (controlled by Microsoft), and they are mostly Microsoft friends like Dell and the ERP vendors. Microsoft is busying itself producing an XML-based BackOffice server to be available "in mid-1999". It is an extension of Microsoft's so-called commerce interchange pipeline features in Site Server Commerce Edition 3.0. This initiative by Microsoft is reminiscent of the Microsoft-controlled Active Group, which sheltered for a time under the umbrella of the Open Group. We have not seen the last of these standards-corruption moves by Microsoft. ®

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