In an effort to make it easier for scanners and all-in-one device makers to interface with Windows Vista, Microsoft announced Thursday it is contributing a set of Web services protocols it has developed for scanners to a standards group working on that issue.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is contributing the protocols to the Printer Working Group (PWG), a program of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Industry Standards and Technology Organization, according to the organization's Web site.
"The purpose of the [protocols] specification was to enable network scanning in home and small business environments," Mike Fenelon, a technical lead in Microsoft's documents experience group and author of the spec, told InternetNews.com.
Known as Microsoft Scan Service Definition Version 1.0, but usually referred to as WS-Scan, the protocol specification is designed to simplify the process of creating interfaces between Vista and consumer scanning peripherals thus lowering costs for hardware makers and making the experience of installing and using scanners more seamless for users.
Since Microsoft developed the specification with help from its hardware partners, who are also members of PWG, the company is contributing it to the PWG. The PWG will, in turn, incorporate the technology into its Semantic Model, a standardized description of how scanners work that is both cross platform and cross device.
"Microsoft is contributing WS-Scan to the PWG to help improve interoperability and make the connectivity process easier and more seamless for consumers," a Microsoft statement said.
While not relinquishing its intellectual property rights in the protocols, Microsoft is granting use of it to all comers under what's known as a "RANDZ" license reasonable, non-discriminatory, and zero cost.
"Right now, the PWG is at a critical point in working on a semantic model for scanners," Fenelon said. The current version of the model is being extended to support multifunction devices.
Microsoft claims that there are some 77,000 devices certified to work with Vista. However, when it first came out, some pundits complained loudly that it didn't support enough devices out of the box.
"Microsofts WS-Scan specification is a significant contribution to the Printer Working Group [which] will greatly help us in our effort for industry-wide standardization of networked multifunction device behaviors and capability representation," Jerry Thrasher, PWG chairperson, said in a statement.
"Maintaining a consistent model for behaviors and capabilities of multifunction devices within the industry not only improves interoperability across operating environments, but also helps reduce implementation costs for device manufacturers," Thrasher added.