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Microsoft targets XML 'for the masses'

XML to date has largely been an integration developer's game, with major efforts directed at transforming existing corporate data into adhering to the XML standard. But what about the new stuff? How does one go about creating fresh data using XML?

Tools have come on line, but some of them have been somewhat rudimentary. Desktop productivity software giant Microsoft's early efforts fell into this category but more advanced software is due from the firm, as indicated by conversations with e-ADT at the recent Microsoft Tech.Ed event.

Microsoft XML information-gathering plans include a product now known as InfoPath, which enables information gathering via form-like documents. InfoPath is positioned as a standalone product and as part of the Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Enterprise Edition. End users working with InfoPath can, in effect, create XML schema.

The product supports a design mode, said Bobby Moore, Microsoft product manager for InfoPath, in which end users can "create XML forms without realizing it." The product can also provide a view of the underlying XML schema, content modeling and data validation.

In InfoPath's more common editing mode, the work of users in effect creates XML documents, indicated Moore. "We like to say we are a great front end for XML Web services," he noted.

"This brings XML to the masses; this is how end users can capture XML. That is what we bring to the table," added Moore.

Among those industries in the forefront of XML and InfoPath use is the insurance industry. There, the ACORD insurance association plans to provide InfoPath based on standard ACORD Forms supporting XML. Microsoft's Moore noted that industries such as insurance, which have some established schemas, may have a leg up in the general move of corporations to XML.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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