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Standardized Generalized Mark-up Language (SGML) was around before Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) or the web was a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee eyes, yet it’s still only a $100m market. But ArborText Inc, Ann Arbor, Michigan, reckons that’s all about to change as a bunch of vertical industries bite the bullet and begin to consolidate their document management and storage systems. It says they’ll inevitably end up eating at SGML’s table, claiming has the most powerful and versatile mechanisms for storing and displaying documents in a common format. Why? Because to gain competitive advantage companies must get the most knowledge they can out of their documents; after all, knowledge workers spend up to 30% of their time just looking up information, according to various market studies. ArborText believes the aerospace and defense industries will be the first to roll over and play ball, citing the example of one of the large US airlines which now stores all of its maintenance records in SGML, drastically reducing its maintenance turnaround time. Once seen as the preserve of government and defence initiatives, SGML lost much of its appeal as the US computer industry largely shunned SGML for the promise of the internet. It might now think again, ArborText believes, claiming the automotive, pharmaceutical, semiconductor and transport industries will be the next to adopt SGML as the their common document format. Although the US commercial market still accounts for the lion’s share of that $100m market for SGML, the flame’s really been kept alive in Japan, where high-profile Computer-Aided Acquisition and Logistics Support (CALS) – actually the a US Defense Department standard for electronic exchange of data with commercial suppliers now knows as is now know as Computer-Aided Acquisition and Lifecycle – government projects have blossomed. ArborText’s closest competitor is Adobe Systems Inc’s Frame Technology division which is now majoring on its SGML publishing tools. Other players include Grif Systemes SA which has a web editing tools providing content-based document editing via SGML. Financially-troubled Interleaf Inc once blazed a trail in a variety of document markets, including SGML, but was effectively jack of all and master of none: it fiddled while Rome burned, says ArborText (See Today’s News for further details).


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