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This morning EMC, Microsoft and IBM announced they had worked together over a two-year period to create a content interchange standard for enterprise content management systems. It may not sound like much, but it's meaningful on several levels. For content management customers, it means it will greatly simplify moving content across disparate content repositories, while also enabling IT departments to build applications for workflow, archiving and other tasks independent of the content management system developer. But I think the real story here is that three huge companies came together for the benefit of the many over the benefit of the one. It doesn't happen every day and it's worth pointing out.

When you're raising kids, you're told if they do something you like, 'praise them, praise them, praise them.' Well, this is positive corporate behavior and it's worth screaming from the rooftops that these huge corporations did a very good thing. Sure, there was an element of self-interest here, but in the end this cooperation benefited the entire marketplace. And Alfresco, Oracle, Open Text and SAP helped define the standard too.

What made them cooperate? Well there were several factors coming together. First of all, status quo was hard for the vendors themselves. They needed to communicate with one another's systems because in most corporate settings, chances are, you are going to find many different ECMs in place. They were finding it was expensive to get content from one repository to another. Certainly they were hearing complaints constantly from their customers that it was too hard and too expensive to share content across repositories from different vendors. The vendors were also hearing about the pain from ISVs and partners.

Then there was the huge influence of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. Companies and individuals in a Web 2.0 world look with great disdain at barriers and having a standard means users and IT departments alike will be able to build mashups and composite applications to move content easily across repositories. In the end, it just made sense to get together and make this happen.

The parties involved even got together in the same room in August in Redmond on the Microsoft campus to test their implementations and make sure it really did work. Today, they submitted the fruit of their labor, called the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) to OASIS for approval by the whole content management community. After this, each company can implement the standard as it wishes and however it makes sense within the context of individual products and implementations. The parties involved predict it will take about a year to finalize the standard, but for today at least, we should applaud the actions of the companies involved. They came together for the common good. And you don't see that too often.

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