The application, codenamed XDocs, is like a word processor for XML and can help businesses reduce the amount of steps that it takes to gather and reuse corporate information, said Scott Bishop, product manager with Microsoft's Office group.
With XDocs, companies will be able to create form-like documents that can be used by employees to collect an assortment of data and then deliver it in XML to various back-end systems. The software will have a similar user interface to other Office applications such as Microsoft Word.
In one scenario, a company could create an XDocs document for use by sales representatives to collect information during a business trip. The representatives could update contact information for customers they visited, for example, enter details about new customer accounts, or report personal expenses incurred during their trip.
Because the document uses XML, the data can be delivered automatically to back-end systems such as a CRM database or a company's expense reporting system.
XDocs documents will be able to deliver content to any application or Web service that supports XML, including those from Microsoft competitors.
XDocs is on test now and is expected to go into wider beta testing by the end of the year. General availability is scheduled for the middle of next year.
The release of XDocs will come in the same time frame that Microsoft releases Office 11, the next version of its productivity suite. That software suite is also expected to have built-in support for XML.
Bishop said that Microsoft has not yet determined whether it will release XDocs as a standalone product or bundle it with other products, as it does with Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook.