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Interview with XML co-inventor Tim Bray

by XML-J IN News Desk, 16th November, 2004

Co-Inventor of XML Says Office 11 is “A Huge Step Forward for Microsoft”


Now that the newly XML-enabled version of Microsoft Office, code-named “Office 11,” is in its first official beta release, XML-J Industry Newsletter went straight to Tim Bray, co-inventor of eXtensible Markup Language, and asked for his exclusive views on this improvement in what Microsoft routinely-if immodestly-characterizes as “the world’s leading suite of productivity software.”

Asked if he’d been involved at all in the XML-enabling of Office 11, Bray replies that he hadn’t: “No, not in the slightest,” he assures us. However, he did receive extended hands-on demos of the alpha and beta software, he says, which gave him the opportunity to test-drive and evaluate the suite.

Word Files Are Now Also XML Files

When asked how XML-enabling will make a difference in MS Office, Bray quickly zeroes in on what, in his view, is the key differentiator in an XML-enabled Office suite vs the current one. “The important thing,” he explains, “is that Word and Excel (and of course the new XDocs thing) can export their data as XML without information loss. It seems Word can also edit arbitrary XML languages under the control of an XML Schema, but I’m actually more excited by the notion of Word files also being XML files.”

So it’s a breakthrough? Bray has no doubts whatsoever: “The XML-enabling of Office was obviously a major investment and is a major achievement,” he declares, without hesitation.

“Built around an open, internationalized file format,” he continues, warming to his theme, “Office 11 is going to be a huge step forward for management, independent software developers, and Microsoft.”

What is the precise significance of the internationalized file format? Bray, who is also CTO and founder of Antarctica Systems Inc, clarifies as follows: “When I say ‘open and internationalized’ I’m just saying that these are the two most important benefits that occur when you make information available in XML.” In other words, he is saying, XML enables the exchange of any form of data across heterogeneous systems, platforms, and applications.

“So it seems to me,” he concludes, in delightfully prophetic mode, “that when the huge universe of MS Office documents becomes available for processing by any programmer with a Perl script and a bit of intelligence, all sorts of wonderful new things can be invented that you and I can’t imagine.”

That’s praise indeed, from the man behind XML itself!

Office 11 is expected to ship in mid-2003 after user testing. Geared toward enterprise users, it will contain components compatible with the .NET initiative. The XML technology incorporated in this beta version supposedly allows data to be more easily exchanged and shared between different programs.

If it all works according to plan, this would obviously increase productivity and interconnectivity. How so? Well, organizations of all sizes often store their data without a common format and in a variety of places (for example, CRM databases and accounting systems). As a result, information workers within those organizations have difficulty accessing the data they need, or, if they can locate it, find that the data is in an unsuitable format.

Microsoft’s aim with Office 11 is to make connecting and using data simpler and its path to success in this respect is a function of its broad support for standards-based XML.

XML-J Industry Newsletter applauds the initiative and will be continuing to follow this development from a variety of angles in future issues, including bringing you inside insights from within the heart of the Microsoft XML design team itself in Redmond, WA.

Lingo24 partner XML-International has published an interesting article on translating XML documents.

You can read more about XTM on the XML-INTL website.

October 2003 © XML Journal (Sys Con Media)

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