Todays back-end ERP systems can generate a Word document on the fly using XML, allowing users to open these documents and move them around. The ability to connect to Web services is extending that capability, he said. In his address, McAniff sketched the opportunities that are available, while also showing how products such as SharePoint work and can be used as a development environment. "We will drill down into how these solutions can be built," he said. Microsoft realized that it could not build all of these solutions itself or meet all of the vertical needs, so that was where the developer community came into play.While this was the first such Office System developer conference, Microsoft aims to turn it into an annual event. "This is a great way for us to get feedback from customers and developers and for them to get deep technical know-how from our developers and program managers responsible for the different product areas," McAniff said. In one of his periodic "Executive E-Mail" missives, Gates on Thursday echoed many of the same themes that Microsoft officials outlined to attendees of the Office System developer conference. Gates e-mail message, sent to Microsoft customers and partners, highlighted Microsofts myriad approaches to making its products interoperable with those from other vendors. Gates identified XML as one of the main ways that Microsoft is ensuring that its software is "interoperable by design." Gates emphasized that interoperability should not be confused with open-source software. "Interoperability is about how different software systems work together," Gates told e-mail recipients. "Open source is a methodology for licensing and/or developing softwarethat may or may not be interoperable. "Additionally, the open-source development approach encourages the creation of many permutations of the same type of software application, which could add implementation and testing overhead to interoperability efforts." Microsoft also is in the midst of a monthlong series of Webcasts dedicated to the theme of interoperability. The Webcasts, some of which are being conducted by Microsoft competitors, address "interoperabiltywhy it matters to the business, common strategies and methods, and guidance on specific implementation scenarios between the major platform players," according to Microsoft. Editors Note: Mary Jo Foley provided additional reporting for this story. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
"While we have already seen many solutions built, like the North Carolina State Patrol, which is using InfoPath to get information from troopers to connect with back-end systems. They have saved three-and-a-half person years doing this," he said.