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Heavyweights back software distribution push

Leading software companies are teaming up on a standard for distributing software electronically using so-called "push" technology. Microsoft Corp.

Leading software companies are teaming up on a standard for distributing software electronically using so-called "push" technology. Microsoft Corp. and Marimba Inc., Netscape Communications Corp. and Lotus Development Corp. are endorsing a common programming language that makes it easier to install software that has been obtained over the Internet.

It will also broaden the number of applications a user can access electronically as more companies sign on to the technology.

The companies are settling on the eXtensible Mark-up Language (XML), an emerging language used for Web applications that complements HTML. The language allows computers to exchange information about data, such as what software versions are required to run a certain application.

"This is the beginning of the next generation of the Web," Cornelius Willis, Microsoft director of platform marketing, said.

The companies envision a future where technology managers can automatically update or replace many different types of software throughout a large corporation using the company's network. Microsoft and Marimba are proposing the standard.

The move toward the standard for electronic distribution of software could reduce the need for using CD-ROM or floppy disks to install software because it relies on "push" technology, the bread and butter of privately-held Marimba.

Such technology automatically retrieves information and brings it to a computer screen, saving the user from having to actively look for it on the Internet. For example, instead of having to search a database or the Internet to find out whether software is up to date, a computer user is automatically notified when a new version of an application is available to download.

Netscape and Microsoft are bitter rivals on levels ranging from browsers to corporate software, but this is the second standard both companies have endorsed in a month. They both plan to cooperate on design standards for VRML, the 3D graphics language for the Web.