The technology is designed to allow users to share information between Web sites and desktop applications as easily as copying information to a desktop keyboard.
Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Ray Ozzie lately unveiled technology he called "Live Clipboard" for connecting Web sites and desktop applications using a combination of RSS feeds, other XML, and the humble desktop clipboard.
"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.
Just as the desktop clipboard serves as a handy and flexible tool for sharing data and mash ups between desktop applications, Live Clipboard is designed to permit that kind of sharing on the Web.
To emphasize his point, Ozzie used the open source Firefox browser rather than Microsoft's own Internet Explorer browser.
Ozzie demonstrated several uses for the Live Clipboard. He copied addresses and appointments from Web pages, and automatically added them to Microsoft Outlook and the Microsoft Live calendar service on the Web. He navigated to the Flickr photo-sharing service, and quickly and easily copied a whole group of photos from the Web site to a folder on his local hard disk. He then subscribed to an RSS feed for the group that would automatically update the folder when new photos were added to the Web site.
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.
"Its’ an impressive stuff," said Doc Searles, a 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 he was keen to give the Web clipboard software a try, but still needed to be convinced of Microsoft's commitment to open standards.
In a more dramatic attempt to impress the geeky audience, Ozzie took location-tracking data that appears on his personal blog that monitors his movements via his cell-phone and pasted it onto the page of youthful social networking site Facebook.
He then copied an updating list of his contacts from Facebook into a Microsoft Web-based mapping application and the locations of his contacts immediately appeared as flags on the map.
Ozzie has posted a further explanation, technical details, screen-cast and a live demo of the tools on his blog.
It allows users 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.
The O'Reilly conference is an intellectual hothouse for Web developers who gather each year to debate how best to build a new generation of collaborative software based on open source software principles that pose a big challenge to Microsoft.
The technology allows Web developers to write simple code that puts buttons on Web pages that copy information to the desktop clipboard, and then paste the information to desktop applications or other Web pages.
Ozzie told a conference of top Web developers that his company wants to openly license a simple technology for sharing data between Web and computer programs -- whether Microsoft-controlled or not.
Ozzie said he conceived of the idea a month ago while mulling the history of how computer user interaction had evolved over the past two to three decades. He asked a project team including his brother, Jack Ozzie, to implement his idea.
"It is a little gift to the Web," he said.
Live Clipboard is available for multiple platforms, not just Windows. Ozzie demonstrated it using the Firefox Web browser.