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MSXML: In with the new, out with the old, and some word on pending futures

Ed Tittel dives the XML Team Weblog for some insight into the future of Microsoft Core XML Services in light of the Windows Vista release and some new W3C specs.

One reads the occasional tech news story that blogs are becoming an important avenue for corporate communications, but that kind of message didn't really sink in completely -- at least not for your humble author -- until I started trolling around in various Microsoft development team blogs. Case in point: the XML Team Weblog, from which have emerged several interesting answers to my musings about pending changes to MSXML in the wake of recent new W3C recommendations for XPath 2.0, XSLT 2.0, and XQuery 1.0.

First, a bit of background. The Microsoft Core XML Services, better known as MSXML 6.0, currently stand at version 6.0, released on July, 12, 2006. This set of services supports XML 1.0 (including the DOM and SAX2 APIs), XML Schema 1.0, XPath 1.0, and XSLT 1.0. It is also advertised as offering "client and server-safe components for XML over HTTP" and version 6.0 is the first version to provide a 64-bit redistributable package for operating systems that can make use of such capability. Given that Vista shipped with this module built-in, and that the new W3C recommendations mentioned in the previous paragraph will need support some time in the not-too-distant future, I hope the cause for my musing may make a bit more sense.

Seeing that MSXML 6.0 was released last year, and knowing that supporting these new XML applications would require some interesting and substantial revisions to same, I couldn't also help but wonder if an MSXML 7.0 might not be in the offing. This is where the XML Team Weblog shed some very interesting light, and prompted me to some (hopefully) equally interesting speculations all of which are prompted from information in that blog's archives:

  • Going forward, MSXML 6.0 is the release that will be updated and kept current. (It shipped with Vista and will be included in what MS calls "downlevel OS Service Packs.")
  • MSXML 3.0 has shipped with every supported Windows OS, so Microsoft professes to be "committed to keeping MSXML3 robust and stable but won't be adding any functional improvements."
  • MSXML 4.0 will be killed off some time between October and December of 2007, via a "kill bit" that applies only to Internet Explorer. The upshot of this change is that applications will no longer be able to create MSXML4 objects in that browser. Applications based on programming languages, such as C++, are not aware of this kill bit and will continue to work with MSXML4. For a list of changes introduced from MSXML4 and MSXML6, plus migration topics, see the blog entry entitled "Upgrading to MSXML 6.0."

Interestingly, the blog also indicates there are no current plans for an MSXML 7.0 on the drawing board. To me, this comes as close to indicating that an update to MSXML 6.0 will be the means whereby support for new versions of XPath and XSLT make their way into the Visual Studio and Microsoft programming language environments, along with the brand new XQuery 1.0.

As for when this might happen, there's no telling, except that Microsoft's involvement in all three recommendations indicates (to me, at least) that it should probably pop up some time within the next six to 12 months, perhaps as part of Vista Service Pack 1.

Ed Tittel is a writer and trainer whose interests include XML and development topics, along with IT Certification and information security. E-mail with comments, questions, or suggested topics or tools to review. Cool tools rule!

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