Friday, January 27, 2006

The X Factor

Microsoft is planning a 2006 upgrade to its two flagship products. Windows XP will evolve into Windows Vista and Office 2003 will morph into Office 12. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a Microsoft special preview of both products. My conclusion: there is one open-source skill that all Web developers should add to their resume this year based on Microsoft's migration strategy.

Both products have changed in substantial ways. However, the most significant change affecting data that begins life as an Office document (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and migrates to the Web will be evident to end users only by the file extensions as follows:

This X factor file format notation is consistent with the recent upgrade of ASP classic (.asp) to ASP.NET (.aspx).

So, why the "x"? Quite simply, all Office documents in the future will be stored as XML files!

If Bill Gates has decided to bet the future of his cash cow Office franchise on Open XML Formats, then it would make sense for developers to learn more about XML data. If HTML represents a core technology during the first decade of Web design and development, then XML appears to be staking its claim to being a core technology for the second decade. Whether you are a Microsoft zealot or detractor, every designer and developer should consider adding XML to their skill set as the Web matures from infancy to adolescence.

To learn more about Microsoft's commitment to XML, access the Office 12 Website and a Microsoft product manager's blog that focuses on Office and XML. You can continue your quest for knowledge at Microsoft's XML Developer Center to learn more about "the language of information interchange."

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