The internet model is changing the industry, overnight the unthinkable becomes doable. Microsoft Corp has been criticized for being generally reactive to this model, but on Friday it went on the offensive, saying it will turn its ActiveX, COM and DCOM object technologies over to a standards body to be chosen by a meeting of […]
The internet model is changing the industry, overnight the unthinkable becomes doable. Microsoft Corp has been criticized for being generally reactive to this model, but on Friday it went on the offensive, saying it will turn its ActiveX, COM and DCOM object technologies over to a standards body to be chosen by a meeting of ISVs, customers and vendors in New York on August 20. The meeting may decide to create a new group for the technologies that would compete with the Object Management Group (OMG), but Microsoft said it would also accept the meeting’s decision to turn the specifications over to OMG or any other body. OMG will be able to participate in any new group created, it said. Microsoft didn’t make it clear exactly who would be invited to the meeting. Participation in the W3C world wide web consortium is said to have done much to cure Redmond’s well known aversion to standards bodies, though in the end it may have found W3C too weakly for its needs. ActiveX, COM (Component Object Model) and DCOM (Distributed COM), are the key object technologies which underpin Microsoft’s Windows architecture. The group into which they are delivered will be responsible for requesting and reviewing specifications as well as reference implementations that will ensure object interoperability on Windows and other platforms. Charles Fitzgerald, program manager of Internet client issues in Microsoft’s Internet platform and tools division
says that if the group decides to change Microsoft’s specifications then we will change too. Microsoft will own its own implementation of the specifications but third parties will be able to build their own. Microsoft will assign the trademark to the standards group which will be responsible for branding. Microsoft sees ActiveX as a thriving industry in its own right and believes its object model should become the industry standard. It quotes Giga Information Group research numbers which suggest the ActiveX market, worth $250m now, will grow to $2bn by the end of the century. It compares this to other object models, including OpenDoc and Corba, for which there are specifications but few if any shipping products: How many Corba products are there? Corba is the Unix of object models. Guess what, they don’t interoperate, it says. Microsoft views Java as just another language in which ActiveX components can be programmed. Mac and Unix versions of ActiveX are due by year-end, Software AG is working on third party DCOM implementations. Gartner Group Internet guru David Smith described Microsoft’s plan as clearly a pre-emptive strike to remove any objections to openness, particularly in view of Netscape’s move [see next story]. All vendors support standards for their own reasons, not because it’s good for users. Microsoft is often misunderstood but has learnt the lesson well. Microsoft’s script changed more than once through Friday as it began briefing the press and industry. The company hadn’t formally issued its plan as we went to press.