1"Today, Postscript; tomorrow XML" [XML in the News]
- Jun 28, 2000XML in the News...
Included in this message is a recent news story titled,
"XML moves to the mainstream." The final section, "Today,
PostScript; tomorrow, XML" is especially interesting.
To access the original HTML version of the story, visit:
XML moves to the mainstream
By Andreas Pfeiffer, the Pfeiffer Report on Emerging Trends and
Technologies, Special to ZDNet [Monday June 26 02:16 PM EDT]
Already a vehicle for high-end content and asset management on
the Web, the industrial-strength markup language is poised to
break into shrink-wrapped applications.
What is happening with Extensible Markup Language?
Over the past few years, the markup language derived from SGML
(Standard Generic Markup Language) has gained a lot of ground
in high-end information-management applications. Lately, XML
has also become an industry buzzword, a must-have feature for
anybody working in modern content-processing applications.
While XML has been the backbone for high-end applications for
some time, the market for shrink-wrapped XML products is also
starting to take off.
Quark Inc. just shipped avenue.quark, its XML import/export
extension for QuarkXPress. Meanwhile, Adobe Systems Inc.
(Nasdaq:ADBE - news) has released FrameMaker 6.0, which exports
(but doesn't import) XML and has announced XML support for the
next version of Golive, to name just a few examples.
As for Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news), the company's
recently announced .Net strategy for Internet-based services is
also based on XML.
Is there a low-end XML market? What strategies should software
developers use to jump on the XML bandwagon? Will XML simply
stay a data format, or is there an emerging market for XML
There's no quick and easy answer to these questions. XML is a
very powerful tool, and it has proven over and over that as far
as data interchange goes, it has a lot to offer.
In recent years, XML has become the de facto standard for
high-end content and asset management. Therefore, it's not
surprising that more and more software developers are flocking
to support it.
We are currently going through a trend of media consolidation,
both on the corporate level and as far as end users are
concerned. High-end applications are increasingly required to
support XML. But where is the low end of the market going?
And for developers, is there room for an XML killer app?
Quark's XML avenue
Quark is giving the market a shot with avenue.quark, which will
also be part of XPress 5.0. avenue.quark is an extension for
XML import and export that angles for high-end integration of
XPress-based content with XML-based Web-authoring systems such
Vignette Story Server.
It is also a showcase application to demonstrate that Quark is
moving full steam into cross-media publishing. It will be
interesting to observe whether avenue.quark will build a user
base outside its captive audience, namely high-end Web content
managers who need to integrate XPress-based content with their
data-serving applications on the Web.
For the main publishing market to move seriously to XML-based
data structures, it will be necessary to re-engineer the
applications and proprietary data structures extensively. This
won't happen overnight. For example, while avenue.quark will
outfit XPress 5 with XML import and export, there's little to
indicate that the XPress file format will be rewritten to move
closer to XML-based structures.
As for Adobe, the company's official position on XML is not
very clear yet either, despite its moves to embrace established
Who needs it?
For software developers, it is important to assess how much XML
support and development will be needed in order to stay ahead
of the market. And that in turn will depend on whether XML data
structures can move beyond the realm in which they have
acquired standard status.
Does the end user need XML? More importantly, does the end user
think he needs XML? Market perception can be as important as
genuine need for a an emerging technology.
Interestingly, XML reverses the common pattern of technology
adoption that has driven much of the high-tech market.
Practically all tools that have gained predominant market
position have evolved from the ground up, starting their
careers as end-user applications and then becoming increasingly
professional. If XML moves beyond vertical, high-end
applications, its progress will represent the inverse of that
standard operating procedure.
In the end, whether or not the markup language becomes
pervasive beyond the high end of content management will also
depend on software developers.
Today, PostScript; tomorrow, XML
Right now, there is a consensus that XML is complex and needs
specially trained operators. Nevertheless, PostScript drawing
packages and other applications have demonstrated that it is
indeed possible to make complex, programming-based processes
reasonably simple to use.
XML is today where PostScript was before the arrival of Adobe
Illustrator: a programming language that could be manipulated
through a number of specialized utilities -- but did not really
have much end-user functionality.
For XML to become as much a standard as Adobe's
page-description language will require strong development
efforts as well as broad end-user interest and education, which
only happens when products move into the highly competitive
realm of shrink-wrapped software.
The market is not there yet, but XML is not going away. We are
living in a world where non proprietary data-structures have
become essential to an increasing number of users. What really
remains to be seen is which of the industry players will be
capable of capturing and focusing this growing market interest
with an XML killer app.
Andreas Pfeiffer is an industry analyst and editor in chief of
the Pfeiffer Report on Emerging Trends and Technologies.