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Firms announce web services profile for devices

Microsoft, Intel, Lexmark International and Ricoh have released details of new web services technology designed to make it easier for users to connect devices such as printers, digital cameras and digital music players over a network.

The companies at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle officially announced a Devices Profile for Web services, which describes how devices should use web services protocols. The announcement builds on WS-Discovery, a specification that Microsoft, Intel, Canon and BEA Systems introduced in February. WS-Discovery describes a way for devices to find and connect to web services.

The plan to use web services to connect peripherals to computers is a change from the existing use of web services as a technology to connect business software across corporate networks or the Internet. At WinHEC, Microsoft announced a Network Connected Device Driver Development Kit (DDK) for the technology and said Canon and Hewlett-Packard will showcase printers supporting web services protocols at the event.

Devices that use the new technology will automatically be discovered when connected to a home or company network and can subsequently be installed using the Windows plug-and-play subsystem as if connected directly to a PC.

Furthermore, UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) 1.x used today is not enterprise ready, according to Jim Allchin Microsoft's group vice president for Microsoft's platforms group. Microsoft and the other developers of the Devices Profile will propose it to the UPnP Forum for consideration as the basis for the UPnP 2.0 Device Architecture before the end of the year.

Enabling devices to connect using web services will be beneficial for both home and business users, the technology's backers claimed. For example, when connecting a large printer in an enterprise today, an IT department has to set up the print server manually. The Device Profile can take care of that, said Peter McKiernan, a lead product manager at Microsoft.

Lexmark will create devices profiles for its networked products, said Don Wright, director of alliances and standards at Lexmark. "We will be able to learn in a standard way that the device is present, who is authorised to use it and what its capabilities are," he said.

"All of that functionality will be automated and relieve the IT manager from spending time driving around his enterprise configuring every new device that gets plugged into the network." 

Assuming all goes well with the process of getting approval by the UPnP Forum, the first devices using the technology could be out in 2006 or 2007, said Stephen Whalley, technology enabling manager at Intel.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service


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