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Microsoft debuts Web-to-PC clipboard

You can 'cut and paste' data between Web sites or move it into PC programs

By Eric Auchard
March 8, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Reuters - SAN DIEGO -- Microsoft Corp. extended an olive branch to some of its harshest critics yesterday by proposing a way for Internet users to "cut and paste" live Web data across different sites, just as they can between computer programs.

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief technical officer, told a conference of top Web developers here that his company wants to openly license a simple technology for sharing data between Web and computer programs -- whether Microsoft-controlled or not.

Live Clipboard, as the concept technology is known, would take the widely used clipboard feature common to many computer programs and extend it to the Web, allowing users to share organized data between Web sites or move it into PC programs.

In a slide show demonstration, Ozzie showed how users could simply cut and paste complex structured information from one Web site to another, or move the same data, preserving its formatting, to programs running on Windows desktop computers.

He copied personal contact information out of his computer address book into an online shopping checkout page, filling out the order processing pages in a quick gesture, for example.

"It allows the user to copy structured information from one place to another in a non-geeky fashion," Ozzie told roughly 1,000 programmers and Web developers attending the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference under way here this week.

The conference is an intellectual hothouse for Web developers who gather each year to debate how best to build a new generation of collaborative software that's based on open-source principles, which pose a big challenge to Microsoft.

Striking a decidedly humbler tone than previous generations of Microsoft executives, Ozzie showed how his Web-sharing prototype can work on a variety of non-Microsoft Web sites.

To emphasize his point, Ozzie used the open-source Firefox browser rather than Microsoft's own Internet Explorer browser.

"It's impressive stuff," said Doc Searles, co-author of iconoclastic marketing manual "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and a leading open-source advocate. "It shows the amount of change that has occurred in Microsoft management."

Sam Ruby, an IBM engineer who is director of the Apache Software Foundation, whose open-source software is widely used to run Web servers, also said that he was keen to give the Web clipboard software a try but added that he still needs to be convinced of Microsoft's commitment to open standards.

Ozzie copied a calendar entry from the independent event listings Web site Eventful and pasted it into his Outlook calendar, moving not just text but all of the appropriate elements that made up the full appointment entry.

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