DaveNet: Thursday, August 14, 1997; by Dave Winer.
Microsoft/Marimba AnnouncementMicrosoft and Marimba Propose Open Software Description Format; Leading Companies Endorse XML-Based SpecificationOSD to Make Software Updates Easier; Lower Total Cost of PC Ownership for Corporate Users
REDMOND, Wash. - Aug. 14, 1997 - Microsoft Corp. and Marimba Inc. today jointly proposed the first open, industry data format that will help to automate software distribution over the Internet and reduce the total cost of PC ownership for corporations. Leading Internet companies CyberMedia, InstallShield Software Corp., LANovation, Lotus Development Corp. and Netscape Communications Corp. immediately endorsed the specification.
The Open Software Description (OSD) specification provides a data format or vocabulary to describe software components, their versions, their underlying structure and their relationships to other components. OSD is based on the eXtensible Mark-up Language (XML), which is an emerging new standard in process at the W3C that will become the universal language for describing data on the Internet, complementing HTML. The OSD specification is available at
"XML is already driving the next generation of Web applications," said David Cole, vice president of the Internet client and collaboration division at Microsoft. "OSD, along with channel definition format (CDF), is another great example of XML in action. As another step in our Zero Administration initiative for Windows to lower the cost of computing, Microsoft Internet Explorer will support OSD, unleashing the Internet's potential to easily deliver and upgrade applications."
OSD Enhances Automatic Software Delivery and Updates
Distributing and installing software today using floppies and CD-ROMs can be costly and difficult. OSD helps address this problem with push-based technologies, which enable software to be updated automatically. Installations based on the OSD format will make the overall experience easier for the end user. In addition, corporate administrators can update software automatically across an intranet, which will help lower the total cost of PC ownership in corporate environments.
"Marimba is pleased to work with Microsoft in proposing an industry standard that provides a common way of describing software packages and their dependencies," said Kim Polese, president and CEO of Marimba. "A consistent vocabulary for describing interdependencies between software components is key to ensuring interoperability and is complementary with Castanetô, which provides the full distribution and management of applications across networks."
OSD can describe software written in any language, including C/C++, the Visual Basic programming system and Java, as well as component models including the Component Object Model (COM) and JavaBeans. It also describes software on different platforms, such as the Microsoft Windows operating system, the Macintosh OS and UNIX-based systems. OSD can also describe software dependencies - the relationships between components and applications, sometimes from different vendors, which are required to run properly.
"The OSD specification is a tremendous benefit to organizations seeking to provide a standards-based solution for online software distribution," said Jeff Papows, president, Lotus Development Corp. "Lotus continues to work closely with partners like Marimba to provide a range of solutions that leverage our Domino.Broadcast technology, and we view their work with Microsoft on OSD as a strong step forward."
A New Data Format Based on XML
The objective of the OSD data format is to provide an interoperability standard for software description. OSD, like the CDF specification, is built on XML. CDF provides the vocabulary for packaging Web pages; OSD provides the vocabulary for packaging software. Because OSD is based on XML, OSD may be readily supported by multiple software vendors, providing interoperability in software distribution systems.