January 04, 2001, 1:55 PM — ANYONE WONDERING WHAT Microsoft and Sun are thinking about each others' work on XML got some insight this week when the two companies made competing announcements about their latest activities to advance the use of the language to support Internet-based business-to-business transactions.
Though neither side characterized the situation as war, they sniped at each other on Wednesday, a day after a faction led by Sun held a news conference in San Francisco to demonstrate business transactions over ebXML (electronic business XML). On the same day, and not by coincidence according to ebXML faction officials said, Microsoft announced the release of BizTalk Server 2000, an XML product that allows businesses to integrate applications across differing platforms using the Internet.
A Sun official complained that Microsoft was trying to steal ebXML's thunder by releasing its BizTalk news on the same day as the ebXML demonstration, but a Microsoft official said the company was only sticking to a previously announced schedule.
"I don't find it surprising that Microsoft would come out and make an announcement on top of us," said Bill Smith, a member of the ebXML initiative's executive committee. "They just pushed [BizTalk] on the same day, obviously for competitive reasons."
Microsoft announced Tuesday that the "gold" code for BizTalk Server 2000, in beta since August, has been sent to manufacturing. The CDs will ship in late January or early February in keeping with the roadmap Microsoft announced at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas last November.
Microsoft officials say the company's BizTalk Framework, not the server, is the more "apples to apples" comparison with ebXML. The framework is a communications protocol based on industry standards for data exchange and security, such as SOAP (simple object access protocol), XML, and S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions).
"The results shown by the ebXML proof of concept are entirely consistent with what our partners and customers have demonstrated using SOAP and the BizTalk Framework over the last year," said David Turner, Microsoft product manager and technical evangelist for XML technologies, in an e-mail response to a question about Microsoft's position on ebXML.
At the XML 2000 conference in Washington on Dec. 6, Turner said the architecture Microsoft envisions for XML allows for the exchange of information on any platform, in any program language and across any network. He described Microsoft's investment in XML as "substantial," and said the company would continue its involvement in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).