Catching up as I prepare to end the Grand Tour.
Quick update from last week: Microsoft says they will vote for the Open Document Format backed by Sun and IBM. A number of Microsoft critics see this as a dare: I’ll vote for yours (ODF), so you better vote for mine (OOXML).
IBM’s Bob Sutor — who apparently believes in monopoly standards rather than competing standards — sees efforts to provide choice as anti-consumer:
I believe the industry wants a common set of the fewest possible non-overlapping standards, and then a large choice of applications that use those standards. An analogy: I don’t want lots of standards for electrical wires and plugs in my house, I want a few standards and then a huge choice of electrical appliances. Microsoft is deliberately trying to confuse the industry and its customers with this bizarre and self-serving “choice of standards” argument, in my opinion.Andy Updegrove — who helps Microsoft rivals put together standards consortia — is equally critical:
I believe we need convergence of document standards. I would welcome Microsoft’s active and honest participation in further advancing the OpenDocument Format by adding its requirements and expertise.
By issuing this press release, Microsoft is therefore making it appear that it is rising above the squabble to do the right thing, and therefore setting the stage to make IBM, Sun, or anyone else that supports ODF look bad if they later vote against OOXML when/if it comes around. …He also remarks on the timing of the Microsoft announcement, soon after Microsoft counsel Brad Smith claimed that ODF infringes Microsoft’s patents:
The press release also fits within the overall spin that Microsoft adopted a few months ago, first presented by Microsoft Office Program Manager Brian Jones' blog, in which he announced that it had become clear that we have "two winners" in the fomat contest - OOXML and ODF.
For the first time (that I'm aware of), Microsoft started talking in the Fortune piece about a specific number of patents – 45 – that it claims OpenOffice (and presumably any other implementation of ODF) would infringe. So on the one hand, Microsoft is saying "Nice standard you've got there," while on the other hand, warning "Implement it if you dare, but only for a price."(The executive director of the Linux Foundation, Jim Zemlin, responded Friday to Microsoft’s patent allegations.)
Sutor, Updegrove and (to a lesser degree) Zemlin seem critical of Microsoft for doing what it’s in the best interest of shareholders, and trying to forestall the commoditization of software. I can’t go that far, and my main agreement is with a throwaway subordinate clause in Sutor’s attack:
The longer Microsoft continues this charade of OOXML being an independent open standard rather than its actually just being an XMLification of their proprietary product data formats …It does seem as though codifying a proprietary format — one that competitors will never be able to fully implement — is not what an “open” standard is about. So in this regard, I hope that ANSI votes down OOXML until (ala IETF policies) there is an independent implementation showing that this standard actually has some meaning for interoperability.