November 22, 2005

Microsoft's Closed "Open XML"

Phase ONE: Abject Denial

Phase TWO: "We was robbed!"

Phase THREE: Immitation is sincerest form of flattery.

Microsoft is now pursuing a scorched earth head-to-head competition on File Formats, having announced with a global PR push that they will have an "Open" file format standard coming out sometime in 2006.

They will pursue validation with the International Standards Organization ("ISO") -- just like OpenDocument.

They will submit their MS XML to another standards body in Geneva: ECMA? ECMA who? -- just like OpenDocument with OASIS.

They have a large Library on their side (The British Library) -- just like OpenDocument (Library of Congress, The National Archive (US), The Austrailian National Archive).

Much remains unclear about whether control of the MS XML specification, once held within a standards body, will remain with the company or be, in fact, open to the public. The latter alternative seems impossible if Microsoft are taking all this trouble; there's the rub which represents the difference between Microsoft's formats and OpenDocument.

The only reason for Microsoft to pursue this expensive course and continue to refuse to incorporate OpenDocument into their Office product is to preserve for themselves as least some control of the file formats and therefore some control of the worldwide markets for office suite and operating system software.

This strategy is revealing, it acknowledges that company officials have modelled the future and discovered there is still enough benefit to the company after conceding at least half the global market to truly open standards.

Caveat Emptor.


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