Tables, aka datasets, aka datagrids, aka CSV or TSV files and the peoples favourite, the Excel Range, are alive and well and continue to drive most IT based business processes.
Look at this recent comparison of mashup tools over on TechCrunch, if you look at the comparison table only one product uses tables (datagrids) as its “pipe transport protocol” (Input/Output feeds) the rest are all XML variations. The product in question is Proto which is significant as it’s the only mashup tool I know (other than RSSBus which wasn’t on the Techcrunch list) that deals with the current reality of Excel/”behind-the-firewall data sources” while also looking to the near-future where more and more (but not all) data migrates to the cloud.
I not saying that XML is always the wrong choice; RSS, OPML, MicroFormats and the unloved but powerful HTML <table> tag are here to stay and more and more tools offer out-of-the-box parsing for these standards (did you know that Excel can parse a HTML table?). Likewise for formal robust interfaces between systems a bespoke XML protocol can be useful for professional developers. But if a mashup product ignores tables as an input/output format, that product is ignoring the most common business focused data format there is (and the skills of those who day-in day-out manipulate such datasets).
One other line on the TechCrunch table (see how useful tables are) that intrigued me was the assigned level of Advanced to the skill level required to use Proto. There are at least 2 million VBA users out there without any formal programming training who construct corporate internal “mashups” everyday, for that constituency Proto would be by far the easiest tool to use.