Jim Miller is throwing down the gauntlet to the programming, database and systems communities. The message is, get together on XML and web services and get on with it.
Miller, who leads Microsoft's programme management team for the kernel of the .Net common language runtime, wants to challenge people.
"In the last 40 years there have been three distinct subcultures in the computer science community -- systems, where structure is key; databases, where query and data are key; and languages, where abstraction is key."
Miller, a keynote speaker at Microsoft's Tech-Ed conference this week, wants that to change and is looking to XML to provide the common ground and the ubiquity of information on the web to provide the means.
While the systems and database communities are already working this through building web services and XML data sets, the language community is languishing, he says.
"We don't have a good programming language with XML at its core. C# works well with web services but doesn't have access to XML data types."
When programming gets its act together, IT managers will see a tremendous increase in accessibility of data and information.
"My guess is that all suppliers will offer backward compatibility and it will become easier to take the infrastructure you have and easily make it accessible to new infrastructure."
Miller's advice to IT managers is to make the bet on web services.
"Evaluate your partners and understand what they're dong with web services, how their tools work with web services and start planning on the assumption you'll be using them in five to six years. Start asking what part of your business should be a web service five years from now and what is the easiest way to get it there. How do you get partners and suppliers to build them that way? It will be hard because sometimes you'll have to go to competitors and say 'We all have to get our suppliers to build web services because we'll all need them'."
Before joining Microsoft in 1998 Miller was on the management team of the World Wide Web Consortium and a research staff member at Digital and the Open Software Foundation. He also worked at MIT.
"I think I bring an understanding of the cross-industry places where collaboration can happen. I'm still able to distance myself from the Microsoft machine enough to say look, it's silly to be arguing with IBM over, this let's co-operate."
Miller, who at MIT had an office four doors down from Richard Stallman (GNU founder and president of the Free Software Foundation), agrees with his former colleague that sharing source code is a good thing.
"And Microsoft is doing that under the shared source initiative. Where I differ is [where Stallman says] there should be no business model around building software. I think there are a number of business models that could work. For example, Edison Design Group, which develops and licences compiler front ends, has always allowed customers to receive source code under their licence."