Speaking before a gathering of scientists and technical professionals, Ballmer said the acceptance of XML (Extensible Markup Language) as the new "lingua franca" of cyberspace would effectively clear away lingering barriers blocking companies from exchanging information over the Internet.
"This will be a much bigger deal" than Java, Ballmer said. He added that the adoption of a common approach embodied by XML will provide a foundation "so that everyone's work can leverage and build upon" the work of others.
"With the XML revolution in full swing," he said "software has never been more important."
Ballmer's two-fisted stump speech was not surprising, given how XML is the lynchpin of the Microsoft.Net strategy for software-as-a-service.
"The whole gist of XML relates to the way that things (on the Internet) can talk together," Ballmer said.
In a related vein, Ballmer talked up the benefits of SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) in this next phase of the development of the Internet. SOAP, which is essentially a way to deliver XML payloads around the Internet, was co-developed by Microsoft (msft) in association with IBM and UserLand Software and has since been widely adopted by many leading developers.
Ballmer, who was speaking at the quadrennial meeting here of the Association for Computing Machinery, also talked up some technologies still under development by Microsoft's research labs. He said Microsoft now employs more than 600 people in four research branches around the globe.
Ballmer avoided any mention of the company's antitrust case. The U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., is expected to soon issue a decision on the breakup order entered against the software giant last year by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.