A Look Inside Microsofts Metro Document Format

Q&A: Adrian Ford, chief technology officer of Global Graphics, explains the specification that Microsoft is developing with his company's help.

At the WinHEC keynote in April, Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates previewed "Metro," the companys next-generation, XML-based, electronic-document initiative that is expected to become available at around the same time Windows Longhorn is released.

In conjunction with Microsofts announcement of Metro, United Kingdom-based software company Global Graphics announced that for the last two years it has been working closely with Microsoft to develop Metros specifications. At WinHEC, Global Graphics demonstrated ways in which the printing industry might make use of Metro once it becomes available.

Recently, PDFzone sat down with Dr. Adrian Ford, Global Graphics chief technology officer, to discuss Metros functionalities and his companys involvement with its development.

PDFzone: Please give us an overview of Metro.

Ford: Metro is really three different things in one.

First off, its a new document file format, similar in many ways to PDF.

Its also a spool format. When you print on a Windows or a Mac computer, the print system has a format that it uses to communicate the data through the print subsystem and spool it to the device.

And its also a page description language, similar to PCL PostScript, that can be used to transmit that information all the way down to a printer, where it turns into the data that comes out on a piece of paper.

In addition to this format, there is also a new printing subsystem. Microsoft announced theyre fixing a number of the printing bottlenecks and issues in the current Windows subsystem by implementing a new architecture for printing that includes Metro as a key foundation of that architecture.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts Metro and analysts reactions to the demonstration at WinHEC.

PDFzone: Given that it is expected to become available at the same time as Longhorn, is Metro specifically being designed for Longhorn?

Ford: Its tied to Longhorn, but its part of what [Microsoft is] calling WinFX. WinFX is going to be available on Longhorn, Windows XP and Windows 2003. So the time scales are the same as Longhorn, but the potential install base is much bigger than the Longhorn platform.

PDFzone: When did Microsoft approach you to work on Metro, and for what reasons do you believe the company wanted to work with you?

Ford: Weve been working closely with [Microsoft] since early 2003. One of the reasons they came to us and asked us to help them is honestly because we have a lot of expertise and experience working with other document formats with the products that we have in the PDF space and also with other PDLs [Page Description Languages], our work with PostScript and PDF RIP [Raster Image Processor] products and technology.

Weve also got a very wide and broad customer base. Virtually all of our products go out through OEM and ISV channels, where the technology we provide is built into other peoples products. So a lot of the industrys problems and issues that they face, were very aware of what they are.

One of the things weve been able to do, as well as providing our expertise and feedback to that specification, is to bring a lot of industry issues that our partners experience and make sure that theyre addressed in the work that Microsoft is doing. And that consultation work is quite a valuable exercise on both sides for making sure this actually does address real-world issues for the print subsystem on Windows.

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