Microsoft Boosts Focus on XML-Based Services

Vision for new language outlined, new development tools delivered.

Microsoft Corp. is seeking to make XML-based Web services easier to develop with the delivery of several new tools and, ultimately, a new XML-based language optimized to handle data rather than objects.

The Redmond, Wash., company last month delivered three tools to help users develop around XML. Perhaps holding more promise for developers, however, particularly those in the Microsoft world, is a vision for a new XML "language" that company insiders are calling X# (pronounced X sharp), a .Net language based on the companys C#.

According to sources close to the company, Microsoft officials, citing the increasing importance of XML and XSD (XML Schema Definition) in application development, are looking at adding intrinsic XML and data support in the new language.

Don Box, a Microsoft .Net software architect, hinted at the development of a new XML-based language at the XML conference in Baltimore last month. During his keynote address at the conference, Box dropped hints that Microsoft was beginning to look at a "data-oriented language. XML and Web services push data manipulation into mainstream programming," Box said. "But current substrates are optimized for objects, not data."

Sources could not say when, or even whether, X# will be delivered as a product or part of a product. Microsoft officials would not comment for this story.

"Is there a need for this?" asked Mike Sax, CEO of Sax Software Inc., of Eugene, Ore. "The only XML language we have today is XSLT [Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations], which was originally conceived as a way to transform XML data into presentation-centric HTML. Although XSLT is fairly widely used, its power is limited, and it is fairly hard to use."