The Open Group has successfully convinced software vendors to designate it the guardian of Microsoft's ActiveX component integration technology. ActiveX stakeholders -- those software vendors and systems integrators who currently use ActiveX -- have chosen the Open Group's proposal to manage future collaborative development and enhancements, licensing and specifications of the technology over a second proposal that was made by Microsoft itself.
Stakeholders voted 63-19 for the Open Group's proposal at a Microsoft-sponsored ActiveX stakeholders' meeting in New York yesterday. The result of the decision will be the formation of a new unit within the Open Group, called the Active Group, which will work to push Microsoft's ActiveX through the Open Group's traditional standardisation procedures.
Oddly enough, the Open Group's proposal won the support of Microsoft. "The difference between the proposals is that we've seen in the Open Group experience -- they've been through this before," says Paul Maritz, group vice-president of Microsoft's platform group. Microsoft created the second proposal because it wanted the ActiveX stakeholders to have more than one option to choose from, says Tom Button, director of marketing with Microsoft's Internet platform and tools division.
When Microsoft originally announced its intention to submit ActiveX to a standardisation process in late July, the company said that ActiveX stakeholders would decide during this meeting which, if any, existing standards bodies will be designated to partake in the process. A second option that the company outlined would be to create a new standards body, although officials stressed that the decision would be left up to the ActiveX stakeholders.
Since that original announcement, Microsoft has received feedback from ActiveX stakeholders saying they preferred that the technology go through a pre-existing standards process, Button says. The Open Group, which has managed collaborative development and standardisation of technologies such as Distributed Computing Environment (DCE), approached Microsoft early on with its proposal to add ActiveX to its list of technologies, Button says.
The Open Group and Microsoft worked together on developing the proposal, except for choosing which ActiveX stakeholders would be the most influential members of the Active Group, called the Active Group Steering Committee. Selecting this list of vendors -- which includes Adobe Systems, Computer Associates, Digital, Hewlett-Packard, Lotus, SAP, Sybase and Microsoft -- was left to the software giant.
"It would have been very inappropriate for the Open Group to be selecting some of our sponsors and not others," says Jim Bell, president and CEO of the Open Group, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
At least one vendor at the meeting said that this pre-selection of the steering committee, and the pre-compiled proposals, was unexpected at this meeting that Microsoft billed as the forum for ActiveX stakeholders to decide the technology's future. "I was surprised to see only two proposals," says Carl Cargill, programme manager of standards with Netscape in Mountain View, Calif. "I asked Microsoft if they would entertain proposals from the floor and they said `no.'"
The fact that Microsoft is playing the standards game is good news, Cargill says. However, he is concerned that the Object Management Group (OMG), which develops a competing specification to ActiveX called the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), is not involved.
"If the animosity between Microsoft and the Open Group is still there, if they don't merge the two technologies, it will fundamentally hurt the object arena," he says.
With the Active Group elected to take charge of ActiveX, Microsoft has set two goals for its steering committee to reach. The first is to develop a Pre-Structured Technology process that would cover the specification, reference implementation (source and binary) and conformance testing of ActiveX that is approved by the Open Group before the end of October. The second is to hold a steering committee meeting by the second week in November.
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