Microsoft Announces Availability of First Platform-Independent ‘Plug and Play’ Software Interfaces for Retailers

CHICAGO, April 17, 2000 — Today at the Retail Systems 2000 Conference and Exposition, Microsoft Corp. announced the availability of the first four Retail Business Information schemas (RBIs), designed to enable retailers to easily integrate software applications from different vendors at the store and enterprise levels. The Sales Transaction, Time and Attendance, Pricing and Item, and Payment RBIs, available at , are platform-independent software-interface definitions that use XML schemas. These RBIs are an important component of the Microsoft® ActiveStore TM retail technology architecture – a worldwide collaborative initiative that focuses on application integration – and are the first of several RBIs that will deliver ease of integration and reduce overall cost of ownership for retail businesses, regardless of which operating system they use.

The RBIs are extensions of the BizTalk TM Framework, an open design framework for implementing XML schema and a set of XML tags used in messages sent between applications. The BizTalk Framework offers businesses a comprehensive solution for application integration via industry-standard XML. Through the release of these and future RBIs, as well as other key ActiveStore elements such as platform services and user interface, Microsoft is the leading open systems vendor to drive retail-specific services. By driving standards and offering retail-specific services through Microsoft Windows® DNA 2000, Microsoft is making it easier for partners to develop retail line-of-business applications, while providing retailers with more robust, scalable and flexible solutions.

“The Retail Business Information schemas are another example of Microsoft’s commitment to the retail industry,”
said Tom Litchford, retail industry manager for Microsoft.
“Through Microsoft’s support of initiatives that further a collaborative environment, retail businesses will ultimately benefit not only from an information systems standpoint, but also from a bottom-line business perspective. We are excited about our opportunity to significantly impact retail business by driving retail integration and standards support, resulting in a lower cost of ownership for retail industry technology.”

Utilizing the open design of the BizTalk Framework, RBIs represent the set of information being exchanged between retail components. The Sales Transaction RBI schema, for example, assists in information exchange between a point-of-sale (POS) terminal and other in-store applications. When an item is entered or scanned, a POS terminal can receive a price quote, update the storewide inventory and log a record in a sales-analysis application – all in a single transaction – seamlessly exchanging data with multiple applications. The goal of RBIs is to allow retailers to select their choice of best-of-breed applications that utilize the RBIs and then deploy them seamlessly in their stores, without the need for added expense or time for integration. Additional RBIs are being developed to increase integration and improve ease of use for more aspects of the retail market. Future RBIs being pursued by Microsoft and the ActiveStore Consortium include Customer, Inventory, Financial and Signage. The ActiveStore Consortium collaborates with organizations such as the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) to develop a full set of XML schemas for the retail industry. In addition, Microsoft continues to actively pursue integration efforts with other standards bodies, with the goal of developing a single infrastructure that will be operating-system-independent and language-neutral.

About BizTalk

The BizTalk initiative represents the collective set of investments Microsoft is making to facilitate business process integration within and between organizations using Internet-standard protocols and formats. It encompasses the BizTalk Framework, various cross-industry investments including the BizTalk.Org business document library, as well as products and tools for developing, executing and managing distributed business processes. These investments are being made in conjunction with industry-standards groups, technology and service providers, as well as key global organizations.

Introduced in March 1999, the BizTalk Framework makes it easy for businesses to exchange information between software applications and conduct business over the Internet with trading partners and customers. The BizTalk Framework includes an open design framework for implementing an XML schema and a set of XML tags used in messages sent between applications. Microsoft, other software companies and industry-standards bodies use the BizTalk Framework to produce XML schemas in a consistent manner to enable integration across industries and between business systems, independent of operating system, programming model or programming language. More information about the Microsoft BizTalk Framework is available at .

About ActiveStore

Led by Microsoft, ActiveStore is a worldwide collaborative initiative that began in late 1996. Driven by major retailers from all industry segments and customer advisory boards, and with technical direction from a core team comprising the industry’s most influential independent software vendors, the initiative aims to reduce the cost, time and risk associated with integrating and deploying line-of-business solutions in the retail enterprise. Through its three core components – application integration (via RBIs), platform services and user interface – the ActiveStore Initiative utilizes the power of Microsoft technology to provide ease of integration, robust task-centric workstation environments, and lower training and support costs for software vendors and retail businesses.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software – any time, any place and on any device.

Microsoft, ActiveStore, BizTalk and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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