Microsoft Chooses The Open Group for ActiveX

Standards body to oversee development of technology

Microsoft Corp. announced that The Open Group has been selected by Microsoft ActiveX stakeholders to lead the evolution and deployment of ActiveX core technologies. Voting took place in an industry meeting of ActiveX stakeholders and other companies on Oct. 1, 1996, in New York. Representatives of more than 80 companies were present and participated in the decision.

"Microsoft will provide specifications, source code, reference implementations and validation tests."

The Active Group, to be formed under the auspices of The Open Group, will manage the evolution of ActiveX technologies, taking advantage of Open Group services in the areas of development, branding, testing and licensing. The Active Group will also provide a forum for discussion and input on the direction of ActiveX. Microsoft will provide specifications, source code, reference implementations and validation tests for ActiveX technologies to The Open Group.

The purposes of the Active Group are to manage the cross-platform evolution of ActiveX technologies, improve interoperability with other environments and incorporate a wider cross-section of customers and industry in the evolution of these technologies. As part of the Pre-Structured Technology (PST) process aimed at providing collaborative development, the Active Group will work with The Open Group to drive future enhancements of the technologies.

Some of the key goals of The Active Group include:

Promoting the availability and compatibility of ActiveX technologies across systems and architectures

Enhancing ActiveX interoperability with the Distributed Computing Environment (DCE)

Accelerating the evolution of ActiveX technologies through the collaborative development process.

"I am delighted that The Open Group is the organization of choice for managing the evolution of the ActiveX core technologies," said Paul Maritz, group vice president for the platforms group at Microsoft. "I am confident that with its members' experience in managing collaborative development projects, its licensing, testing and branding services, and its broad industry representation, The Open Group is the ideal organization for fulfilling this mission."

"The technologies that Microsoft is providing fit exceptionally well with The Open Group's interoperability mission," said Jim Bell, former president and chief executive officer of The Open Group. "We look forward to working with the steering committee and other ActiveX stakeholders to ensure interoperability, widespread availability and enhanced functionality of ActiveX on a broad range of platforms."

The Active Group
The Active Group will be made up of the following groups:

A steering committee to consist of system vendors, application vendors, tool vendors and customers. Its main tasks will include directing the development of associated technologies, creating and managing technology subgroups and managing the porting of the technologies to a variety of platforms. So far, the following companies have agreed to participate as steering committee members:

Adobe Systems
Computer Associates International
Digital Equipment Corp.
Hewlett-Packard Corp.
Lotus Development Corp.
Microsoft Corp.
NCR Corp.
The Powersoft division of Sybase
Siemens Nixdorf Informationssysteme AG
Software AG

Technology or market development subgroups that will focus on the adoption and development of specific ActiveX technologies and cross-platform and interoperability issues.

Active Group members who have taken or intend to take a license to the specification or a reference implementation under the general licensing terms.

New technologies, related to the original technologies provided by Microsoft, may be submitted to the steering committee, which will guide the future course of action.

ActiveX Components
ActiveX is a set of technologies that integrates software components in a networked environment, regardless of the language in which they were created. Microsoft will provide the following technologies in the ActiveX collaborative development process:

Component Object Model (COM) and Distributed COM (DCOM) which provide the underlying object model that all ActiveX components use.

Microsoft remote procedure call (MS-RPC), including Microsoft Interface Definition Language (MIDL), but excluding transports. This is an optimized version of distributed computing environment-remote procedure call (DCE-RPC) that provides scalability, marshaling and privacy, and support for pluggable network transports (protocols).

NTLM Standard Security Provider Interface (SSPI), which allows objects to be invoked securely, with user authentication.

Structured storage, which provides a structured file format that can be implemented on multiple operating systems.

Registry, which provides a database of ActiveX objects on a given system.

Monikers, which allow objects to be invoked and communication between objects to be maintained asynchronously.

Automation, which allows method invocation and "programmability" of objects.

Some industry observers view this move by Microsoft as a defensive measure to deal with the increasing importance and visibility of Sun Microsystems' Java programming language and the advent of Java-based network computers. These developments could become the most serious challenge so far to the growing proliferation of Windows in the enterprise. There is, therefore, a degree of understandable skepticism evident in the open systems community about the depth of Microsoft's commitment to standards and open systems.

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