Microsoft's ActiveX delays raise questions

Microsoft has postponed a meeting to discuss moving ActiveX to an independent standards organisation, prompting competitors and industry observers to question the software giant's true intentions.

Microsoft has postponed a meeting to discuss moving ActiveX to an independent standards organisation, prompting competitors and industry observers to question the software giant's true intentions. Citing problems with organising a large meeting at such short notice, Microsoft officials say they will delay the ActiveX meeting -- first slated for August -- until at least September.

At the meeting, Microsoft will decide how to transfer its ActiveX component specification to an independent organisation run by users and ISVs who employ ActiveX, says Cornelius Willis, group product manager with Microsoft's Internet developer marketing group. "People who are making a living on ActiveX will decide what to do with it," Willis says.

One Netscape executive claims that Microsoft's move is just a public relations effort. "Microsoft has no plan to place ActiveX and DCOM (Distributed Component Object Model) in front of a standards body," says Mike Homer, Netscape's senior vice-president of marketing.

"Microsoft is going to be their own biggest violator of the rules of the ActiveX consortium," says Stan Dolberg, an analyst with Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "They're not going to sit around and play patty-cake with the industry."

Some standards groups that compete with ActiveX, such as the Object Management Group and Component Integration Laboratories, say they were surprised that their requests to participate in the ActiveX standardisation meeting were met with a polite "no thanks" from Microsoft.

"The first meeting is for stakeholders in the technology -- customers and ISVs -- and we will leave it up to them to decide what affiliations to other standards bodies will be made," says Tom Button, director of marketing for Microsoft's Internet platform and tools division.

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