Microsoft and Industry Leaders Connecting Devices with Web Services

SEATTLE, May 4, 2004 — Installing and configuring network-connected devices is not always a simple task. However, by extending the benefits of Web services to a rich and diverse set of devices, Microsoft and industry leaders are reducing the complexity of device-based integration. The Web services architecture offers a standardized mechanism for devices to send and receive information over a network without needing to know what operating system or application software is on the other side.

While many PCs and servers in corporate and home networks already communicate with each other using Web services, Microsoft today introduced new tools and content to bring Web services to the full range of devices, including network-based printers, digital picture frames, and more. The Devices Profile for Web services and a Network Connected Device Driver Development Kit (DDK) were introduced this week at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle.

The Devices Profile for Web Services, co-authored by Intel, Lexmark and Ricoh, describes a core subset of pre-existing Web services specifications that devices can implement. While these devices are growing rapidly in computational power, they are still resource-constrained by desktop and server standards. To enable a base level of interoperability between devices and Web services, the Devices Profile outlines best-of-breed Web service specifications in core areas and prescribes how to use them in concert to enable simple network installation and communication among devices.

Intel Corporation has been working with Microsoft and others in the industry on specifications and profiles that will make it easier for developers and manufacturers to implement Web services on devices. “Web services are driving a new set of opportunities in the devices space for hardware OEMs, consumers and businesses,” says Gerald Holzhammer, Intel’s vice president and general manager, Platform Architecture and Solutions Division. “We will continue to work beyond the specifications to see early device integration of Web services become a reality. Providing seamless connectivity across devices in the digital domains at home, office and while on the road is the future we are driving towards.”

Holzhammer adds that the increasing presence of Web services will be key to helping the technology industry meet and overcome the challenge of software and business integration. “Web services span heterogeneous environments and provide a consistent way to exchange information within home networks, corporate intranets and across the Internet,” he says.

The combination of the Devices Profile and the Network Connected Device DDK means that, in the home and in small businesses, network-connected devices can automatically be discovered, installed and utilized using the Windows Plug and Play subsystem with which users are already familiar. Eventually, consumers and small business users will no longer need to concern themselves with whether they are directly connecting their devices to a PC or using an IP (Internet Protocol) connection such as 802.11 or Ethernet. As a result, their computing experience will be more consistent and straightforward. In addition, enterprise IT professionals will benefit by having to spend less time installing and configuring the more sophisticated network connected devices they use.

“Allegro believes that extending Web Services for devices is an important step in integrating the world of embedded devices more closely with the tools and capabilities of the IT environment,” says Bob Van Andel, president, Allegro Software Development Corp. “As a leading provider of embedded Internet toolkits, we look forward to delivering Web services technology for resource-limited devices.”

Frank Martin, senior director of product development with Brother International, says he envisions his company’s products becoming the central printing and document input appliance for a Web Services-enabled office. “Automatic device discovery and propagation will vastly simplify device installation, providing users with a true plug and play experience,” he says. “And immediate access will extend beyond PCs to include any Web Services-enabled device. Adding a new printer or multi-function copier to a small office network will be as simple as plugging in the power and network cable and turning it on.”

Beyond installation, Web services for devices will also simplify the usage of office devices in enterprise document lifecycle applications, notes Richard W. Peebles, vice president and general manager, Software and Electronics Business Unit, Xerox Office Business Group. “For example, the actual process of printing becomes simpler with Web services because the clients can learn about the features available from the device when asked to select printing options,” he says. “Web services will also enable the user to receive timely, accurate status information about the office multifunction device and their jobs automatically.”

“Printing is a fundamental and vitally important user experience,” says Peter McKiernan, lead product manager in the Platform Strategy and Partners Group at Microsoft. “Making it faster, easier, and more reliable will benefit users everywhere.”

But printers are only one type of device that will benefit from the introduction of Web services.

Shivaun Albright, senior engineer scientist at Hewlett-Packard Company, sees the benefits of Web services for devices extending far beyond the world of printers. “Web services technology is an important part of HP’s strategy across numerous products and markets,” she says. “Users can expect to see their experience enhanced in many ways, from a self-installing printer to proactive management of enterprise devices, to easy and quick access to Internet services and content.”

Working Together in Ways Never Before Possible

“As a broad range of devices become increasingly important to consumers and businesses, users rightly want the same integration capabilities they get with their PCs. Web services will enable these devices to work together in ways never before possible. That’s what makes this so exciting,” says McKiernan.

But many say that ultimately, it’s not about the devices. It’s about the people. “Web services for devices will enable a new generation of office automation equipment and change the way that we think about office work,” says Toshiroh Maruyama, general manager of Ricoh’s Printer & System Business Division.

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