07 August 2007

What did Microsoft achieve


And the rich kid cried: "I want to be ISO approved too !". He cried and cried until his parents gave up and said: "Okay then, we will buy you an ISO approval for Christmas. Now please stop crying and eat you dinner.". The rich boy stopped crying and then ate his dinner. Again he got exactly what he wanted. His father couldn't stand to hear his boy cry.

When OpenOffice.org released their second version of the open source office suite, they also submitted the file format (ODF) as as open standard to OASIS. The goal was to get official recognition and participation from other open source communities. Very soon Kword and other F/OSS projects joined the work, and also a few commercial providers like IBM and Google showed interest in this new approach.

The file format was processed in OASIS and later on submitted for ISO approval, and thus there was no competitive formats in the marked, the file format was approved. Along the way, the format was improved by new participants that added new functionality to the file format. About one hundred changes was made to the file format during the process in OASIS. The result was a very comprehensive and well formed description of a document format. Submission to ISO was just a natural 'next step'.

Nobody actually took notice of this, before a few politicians found that it would be a good idea to implement an ISO approved open standard in the public sector. Well, I'm quite sure that they didn't come up with the idea them selves. Of cause they got the interest because they where contacted by 'lobbyists' from the F/OSS communities. Anyway, they had courage enough to pick up the idea, and to make it a part of their public policy.

This was exactly what was needed to make Microsoft wake up from the Cinderella sleep. For several years they had been so sure about them selves and about their marked position, that they didn't think they would be threatened by any of their competitors. Of cause Microsoft is watching all potential competitors very closely, but this time .... suddenly there was, not one, but a whole bunch of competitors. And these competitors had accomplished something Microsoft didn't: The approval from ISO.

And the rich kid cried: "I want to be ISO approved too !". He cried and cried until his parents gave up and said: "Okay then, we will buy you an ISO approval for Christmas. Now please stop crying and eat you dinner.". The rich boy stopped crying and then ate his dinner. Again he got exactly what he wanted. His father couldn't stand to hear his boy cry.

Microsoft might or might not get the approval from ISO on September 2nd. We don't know that at the present time. But no matter if they do, it will be one of the most expensive Christmas presents ever. What Microsoft has accomplished is, that the file format in Office 2007 has been shown to the whole World as if it was the dirty laundry. It's been proved, that it's poor quality. The ISO organization might approve it, even if it's poor. The rich boys parents promised to get it for Christmas, remember, even if they has to buy the whole gift shop.

Don't you think that Microsoft would have been better of, without it ?

Somehow I think, that even if Microsoft gets the approval, we (in the communities behind ODF) will stand as the winners anyway. The price has been many wounds to the Microsoft brand and all the neighbors will always know, that the rich boy got it because he is a spoiled kid - and not because he deserves it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really do hope you're right, but I also think it's very optimistic indeed.
It has been shown before that poor performance and even legal troubles haven't been enough to severely damage the reputation microsoft has in Denmark¹. It's still known far and wide as a respectable company, even though we are some who are aware of what went on behind the scenes.
I think this will end just as when microsoft lost the EU antitrust case... noone but those interested in these things will know, and those with power to make decisions wont know, nor care. We've seen it before, and I believe we need radical changes if we are to avoid a repeat of the history. OOXML will probably get it's approval, however fakes or staged it is, and that will be all your average politician will ever hear. So what if a bunch of people are screaming to him that it's wrong, thatthey only got it because they bought the comitee. To the politician, it wont matter - unfortunately :(

Rather than pointing out the failures of microsoft, the better approach as I see it, would be to create a bigger demand for changes. Let's face it, we're not that many here in Denmark who are unable to play with microsoft document formats - at least not enough to make a significant impact and wake the guys at Christiansborg. Let's create that userbase, and see if it wont spread from below. (Although I'm aware it would be significantly easier to create, it OOXML wasn't a standard and as such, fighting against it is good!)

At any rate, thanks for your involvement with openoffice and your fight for open standards here in Denmark. I will, as I'm sure many others do, continue to support you from the sideline with every effort I can manage :-)

¹ As I'm from Denmark, I can only speak as a dane...