Print 58 comment(s) - last by krwhite.. on Jun 15 at 7:38 AM

"The more you tighten your grip the more star systems will slip through your fingers"

Microsoft's hopes of controlling the open document world were nearing fruition after the International Standards Organization finally certified its OOXML standard at the start of April.  The ISO had already ratified ODF, the competitive open-source format from the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) used heavily in Linux, but Microsoft faced a lengthy struggle to try to get its own format recognized.  Without certification it would be tough to push the format as a legitimate open document option.

Microsoft had good reason to want to control the world of open documents.  As users switch platforms and software more and more, and use an increasing amount of open source solutions, the need for a non-software specific format has surfaced.  Microsoft hoped that by making its own proprietary open-file format the preferred standard it could seize control of this budding field.

However, to Microsoft's anger, the process has now been held up by complaints.  Following rumors that Microsoft pushed the vote through and used underhanded tactics to suppress dissent, Brazil, India, South Africa, and Venezuela lent such claims credence by filing complaints against the ratification.

The ratification cannot go forward until these complaints are heard, and they must be voiced before the end of June.  The final decision of how to react to them will be handed to two management committees.  India in particular was quite vocal in its opposition.  An open letter, written by a member of the technical standardization committee in India, states that Microsoft's long and ambiguous proposed specification left it unclear what was being implemented.  He says this means that Microsoft can implement the new format however it wants, ruining the whole reason for ISO -- to promote openness.

He also accuses Microsoft of running a careful concerted smear campaign that undercut the Indian concerns.  He states:

Microsoft started filing complaints to various Indian authorities in early March 2008, claiming bias on part of several members of the committee because of their presumed membership of a group called ‘ODF Alliance India’. My Institution and its representatives are part of the group which has been falsely implicated in these complaints. Worse, the complaints have painted these organizations and their representatives, including the Indian delegation which attended the BRM, as acting against the Indian National interests. This is the most derogatory accusation to any Indian, amounting, personally for me at least, to intolerable blasphemy.

In the letter he alleges that Microsoft pressured the Indian national government to change its stance, and likely did so with other national governments as well.  He states that Microsoft behaved in a way "amounting to interfering with the governance process of a sovereign country."  He concludes, "I would like to assure all colleagues and other readers that my intentions are purely to respond to the grave provocation caused by the actions of Microsoft."

Meanwhile ODF creators OASIS tried to steal a bit of the spotlight calling for an "implementation, interoperability, and conformity" technical committee to continue ODF's openness and quality.  The entity plans on trying to bring ISO or the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) into the project.  Surprisingly Microsoft has expressed interest in joining the committee, igniting many conspiracy theories on the internet.

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RE: enlighten me.
By boogle on 6/11/2008 11:18:00 AM , Rating: 3
I think it's a long-term thing. While I'm not sure where Opera and Netscape (now gone) get their money now, you can see where Firefox and IE get their money:

Firefox get's most of it's cash from Google, who they have a deal with. By making Google the default search engine, Google gets more hits, so they give Mozilla some (a lot) of cash. They also get money from donations.

IE is a little less direct. If IE has a stranglehold, MS Live Search is then the default search engine and they get money that way. They also have supplemental forms of income, if IE is popular, Windows can become slightly more popular. Additionally if people are used to IE, they'll want to use it (and therefore Windows) in the future. MS also have an underlying agenda where they want everyone to use MS products exclusively. If that happens they then have full control to charge whatever they want, release whenever they feel like it, etc. Horrible situation to be in, and it happend with IE5 & 6 (no advancements, horrible browsers, no competition).

This is a reason why big expensive products are offered dirt cheap to students, if they're trained on it, they'll want to use it in industry. Industry will want to use it because they have legions of people already trained. Another core reason for Windows having a seriously strong grip on business desktops. Who wants to re-train staff? Costs a fortune.

Now where does the money from the open-format come from? This is very under-handed imo. Basically the spec for MS is ludicrously long, very, very hard to implement, and potentially MS can change it from time to time as a 'new version'. In essence it'll be very difficult for 3rd party's to implement, meaning Office can always be marketed as 'full support for open formats' and 'only solution that works with the latest spec', etc. etc. In essence trying to close out competitors through an 'open' format. They get to look good, and sell loads more copies of Office while 3rd parties get the shaft.

Think of it like HTML. If HTML was under MS control it would still be 'open', however it would be hell to implement. Firefox would be a version or two behind (and therefore not work with new 'flashy' web sites) while IE supports the latest and greatest, adhering to the spec properly so nothing is broken. Firefox wouldn't work with all sites, even if it supported the HTML version because the spec is so convoluted and long that the implementation can't be accurate if programmed within a reasonable amount of time. MS wins.

RE: enlighten me.
By tmouse on 6/11/2008 11:44:57 AM , Rating: 3
But if you add to a standard and most do not use the feature then it’s a waste of time and goes no ware. Microsoft has done this and failed MANY times, no profit there. The people who will use the standard will not care and not use any add-ons until they are in the standard any way so how is this any different from the situation now except currently Microsoft does not have to allow anyone the ability to use their formats. They do now because they would be shooting themselves in the foot and it would be costly and futile to stop it. Even with an open format most companies will stay with Microsoft, why? Simple, one source support that’s why. Companies simply do not have the time to get free help. The want one stop shopping that’s tested to work out of the box and like it or not it usually does. I'm not saying Linux and open source cannot do that but there are many distros with each group writing all the different apps and no “one stop” regression testing of apps with the OS since any particular distro of the OS can have several different versions of its components. For Microsoft I think its more ego than profit driving this so I do not see any problems one way or the other.

RE: enlighten me.
By boogle on 6/12/2008 3:54:27 AM , Rating: 2
But if you add to a standard and most do not use the feature then it’s a waste of time and goes no ware. Microsoft has done this and failed MANY times, no profit there.

That's true, however, this is potentially an exception. Most people use Office, therefore most documents are written from within Office. Imagine colaborating with a (rare) 3rd party who doesn't use Office and instead uses OfficeX. If OfficeX doesn't support your documents then it's going to be at the very least irritating. This will drive the 3rd party to relent and acquire MS Office, potentially getting MS even more cash.

The support aspect is very critical and every company I've been to uses MS simply for the reason you stated - "great" support. I use MS at home because of the massive compatibility of Windows. With controlling the format, I think MS have got both aspects covered.

"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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