Microsoft and Marimba teamed up today to propose a new specification, the Open Software Description (OSD) format, that will facilitate automatic delivery of software and software updates over the Internet and local intranets. OSD is based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML), which is the basis of Microsoft's Channel Definition Format (CDF), the language used to program IE 4.0 channels. OSD, XML, and CDF all resemble HTML, the language used to create Web sites. Netscape, Lotus, LANovation, CyberMedia, and InstallShield Software have all endorsed OSD.

"While delivering software is not a new idea, this is an open-vendor, interoperable way to do it," said Cornelius Willis, a Microsoft product manager. "Now you're building server software and client software, and they can talk to each other. That's the big difference."

OSD can be used to describe software written in any language (such as Java or C/C++), for any component object model (such as COM/ActiveX or JavaBeans), and for any platform, such as Windows, Macintosh, or UNIX