Microsoft Plays to Win

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2007-07-02 Print this article Print

Updegrove continued, "After all, two years ago Microsofts formats were closed, and now they have been adopted by Ecma, and perhaps may soon be adopted by ISO/IEC as well. Bringing Microsoft to this point is, from that perspective, a victory indeed. "But this would likely be a Pyrrhic victory at best. Office still commands a huge lead in the marketplace, and its ability to outspend the new entrants (many open source) into the office productivity suite marketplace will be enormous. If no one is buying ODF-compliant products, no one will develop them. And if no one is developing them, no one will be competing with Microsoft.
"And if no one is competing with Microsoft, then no one will care whether Microsoft contributes new features to Ecma or maintains them as proprietary extensions of Ecma 376, or whether it fully implements Ecma 376, or whether, in fact, it continues to support Ecma 376 at all. And then we will be right back where we started—dependent upon a single vendor, and with the accessibility of its all current documents, and indeed the history of our civilization, at risk."
Why is Updegrove so full of doom and gloom? Isnt Open XML a standard? Arent there Open XML translators? Read more here about Microsofts Open XML Translator. Hes down because hes tasted the poison in Microsofts so called open standard. Updegrove took a long, hard look at another Microsoft open-standard proposal before Ecma, TC46 – XPS (XML Paper Specification). This one, in case you dont know, is Microsofts latest attempt to stop Adobes PDF in its tracks. "Why does this latest submission matter?" Updegrove asks. It matters because "it indicates a desire by Microsoft to institutionalize and expand a perpetual, standardized environment that would surround a single vendors products." The poison pill in both this and in Open XML is that Microsoft, not a standards organization, not a consortium of companies, gets to decide what goes into Open XML and what doesnt. Sure, Open XML, all 4,000 or so pages of it, is sort of open now, but once ODF is off the table as a viable format, is it going to stay that way? Especially when it would be so easy to add just a bit of incompatibility here and there within such a monstrously sized standard? Congratulations, Microsoft, it looks to me like youve played the Newspeak game very well and enough people are buying your "Open XML" is truly an open standard that we may be stuck with it. And that ensures that everyone will need to keep buying your Office programs instead of any of the others. Life will be good for Microsoft stock holders. Lousy for every one else, but, come on, Microsoft doesnt believe in competition, it believes in winning by crushing its enemies, and making nice with customers only until Microsofts products are left as their only choice. Best of all, thanks to your Newspeak, some fools already believe that Microsoft makes not only the best, but the most open programs. Excuse me. I feel a bit ill now. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way. He can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.

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