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.”
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Sax added that if Microsoft were to deliver such a language as X#, “Im pretty sure that Microsoft would make the language an open standard, similar to C#. An open, developer-friendly language to transform and process XML data would be incredibly useful.”
Of the new tools now available, Microsoft released XML Diff and Patch, a tool that enables users to identify changes between two XML files and allows users to patch their original XML file with the changes made to get to a final XML file.
The company also released last month XSD Schema Validator, which enables users to validate XML documents against a World Wide Web Consortium XML Schema or an XML Data-Reduced schema, verify the validity of schemas, or check the construction of XML documents.
In addition, Microsoft delivered XSD Inference 1.0, its XSD inference utility. The utility creates an XSD schema and an XML instance document, letting users create an XSD schema from an XML source document and then refine the schema with output from other documents. Microsoft has put support for XML Schema in its Office 11 suite.
The company also shipped an updated prototype of its XML Query Language, which is based on the latest draft of the W3Cs XQuery specification. XQuery is a language designed for processing XML data.