Monday, June 6, 2005

Microsoft Accelerates Push to XML-Formatted Content: Pressure on the Value Chain

While the effects of Microsoft's announced (CNET News) support for XML as a default file format in next year's version of its Office suite are not immediate in the practical sense, the rise of XML as a universal format for content produced by individuals and institutions looms ever larger thanks to this announcement. The benefits to both commercial and enterprise publishers are clear, as content searching and refurbishing become all the easier now that proprietary file formats are waning, but it also represents an acceleration of challenges to both content vendors and content technology providers. Content that was previously unstructured will become much more accessible in structured formats, both for editing using traditional office automation tools such as Microsoft's Office suite and for advanced functions using Web services capable of "surrounding" XML with functionality and additional content. This means that content vendors that have heretofore seen XML as largely a way of managing and transporting content from their own databases to clients' servers need to start thinking more aggressively about how their content will be used as objects within an XML-standardized enterprise environment. Tools such as Mark Logic's newly upgraded XML-based suite are able to both normalize content into XML and provide an expanded array of content categorization and searching functions on top of its XQuery, already accelerating the ability of organizations to implement XML-standardized content infrastructures even before Office 12 becomes a reality. Normalization as a profitable publishing attribute is quickly losing its luster in this environment, pushing publishers to consider how to use XML to provide more features and functionality. The time for publishers to consider these opportunities is upon us now, not when Microsoft decides to raise the curtain on the next chapter in XML content.
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