More on Metro

MetroIn this post I described my wish list for Metro, more information has since emerged and its looking like a pretty promising technology.  The first is Metro Fact Sheet from Microsoft, some key snippets follow, first on its objectives:

“Metro,” that offers a unified framework to address the growing use of electronic document-based workflows, and inclusion of advanced graphics and extended color information in everyday documents and Web applications. “Metro” offers an open document format that uses Extensible Markup Language (XML), a public standard for exchanging data between disparate systems, and other current, industry standards to create a modern, cross-platform document and imaging technologies. “Metro” simplifies creation, sharing, printing, viewing and archiving of digital documents, while also improving image fidelity and print performance.


Then more information on the components:

·        A complete specification for a fixed-layout document format based on XML that offers “electronic paper” for use by any application on any platform

·        A “viewer” to view, manage and print files

·        A print-to-file converter for creating the files from any Microsoft® Windows-based application

·        A set of application programming interfaces (APIs) to incorporate “Metro” technologies and documents with traditional applications, the Web and computer hardware

·        A print pipeline with an integrated spool format and printer-page description language to speed up and improve the fidelity of print jobs

·        An updated driver model for “Metro”-consuming printers

Some of the partners:

Industry support. Because “Metro” is based on open standards and is available royalty-free, numerous companies in the graphics, document and printing industries are evaluating “Metro” for product integration including Xerox Corp., Fuji Xerox engineers working for the Xerox Group, Global Graphics, Seiko Epson Corp., Peerless Systems Corp., Software Imaging, Monotype Imaging Inc., HP, Canon Inc., Brother Information and Document Co., Ricoh Company Ltd., and Zoran Corp.


I am pleased to see that at last distribution of IRM protected information might become practical:

“Metro” supports the application of digital signatures within documents, and the “Metro” viewer is planned to respect Windows Rights Management Services when applied to a “Metro” document.

The excellent Microsoft Monitor is not so convinced about the “Openness” of the technology:

Microsoft’s Metro backgrounder reveals lots about the technology. First I want to dispatch with the rhetoric. The document uses “open” to describe Metro a half-dozen times, adding a few uses of “openly” for good measure. Microsoft partners and, in particular, competitors shouldn’t misread open, which I would say Microsoft has used way too liberally. As Microsoft’s own approach to Office schemas proves, using XML as the base doesn’t make a format “open.” The backgrounder describes Metro as “being based on open standards,” which I’d like to point out isn’t the same thing as being open standard. Microsoft does plan to release a metro specification (it’s at version .7 right now) and license it on a royalty-free basis.

In addition Monitor points out that many of the features provided by Metro also exist in PDF, including the security features, and that Acrobat is very widely deployed.  I was very impressed by Adobes Acrobat 7.  However I suspect that full integration into the shell and into Office will result in rapid adoption of Metro at the expense of PDF.

Adobe is a highly successful company, and PDF is an established, entrenched format against which Metro is little more than a planned upstart. Still, Adobe can’t close its Macromedia acquisition soon enough and bring the combined technologies together. The acquisition makes even more sense when viewed by today’s Metro announcement. I’ve long held the position that PDF is a threat to the Office franchise. Massachusetts attorney general raised concerns about Microsoft going after Adobe in early 2004.

Adobe’s concern should be where else Microsoft might use Metro, say in Longhorn versions of Office or InfoPath. My advice to Adobe: Leverage your strong assets, such as PDF’s proliferation and, more importantly, security track record. My understanding is that Microsoft’s concept of truly, secure Metro documents is use of Windows Rights Management services. RMS-secured Metro documents would hardly be open, by the way, seeing as how Windows Server would be required for viewing. While Adobe also offers rights management technology, PDF is built as a secure container. No extras–more software for businesses to buy–required.

I want there to be no mistake: I am not warning of any immediate danger to Adobe, PDF or PostScript. But there is risk that Adobe and other Microsoft partner-competitors should watch for. Longhorn is all about integration. Whether security or graphics, Microsoft has only just tipped its hand about what else will be integrated into next-generation Windows. As I blogged about in March 2004, the greater conflict Microsoft creates with applications developers–even as it tries to woo them with easier-to-use tools–the greater the opportunity for Linux.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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