IBM, Microsoft get cozy over Web services

In a rare display of public camaraderie, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and IBM Corp. Software Chief Steve Mills Thursday cemented their respective companies' commitment to working together on accelerating the creation and adoption of Web services standards and applications.

Speaking at the St. Regis hotel in New York Thursday afternoon, the executives said that accelerating Web services standards and associated applications will give corporate users a compelling reason to increase their IT budgets. Web services could subsequently help lift the IT industry out of the financial doldrums.

"What is really important here is that we can give buyers a reason to spend more on technology given the tough economy we are living in right now. We think whatever they spend on Web services to do things like connect up supply chains offers them tremendous payback," said Mills.

"What we are trying to do (through the acceleration of Web services standards) is laying the foundation (for turning around) all of that hype that didn't happen in the 1990s," Gates said.

Asked if the public display of support signaled a softening in the often hard-edged competition the two companies have engaged in the last several years, both downplayed the notion.

"There isn't a fundamental shift, no. There is always going to be a delta between industry standards we agree on and what companies (like IBM and Microsoft) do uniquely. The goal is to let our users carry out ambitious applications using standards. Think of .Net as being our implementation of Web services," Gates said.

The Web services standards that each company will focus on includes WS-Security, Reliable Messaging, and WS-Transaction. While neither would commit to a time frame about specifically when these standards would get presented to standards organizations such as OASIS or W3C and become incorporated into their respective core tools and platforms, they expected it would occur during the next six months to a year.

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