· · Microsoft
Windows Cold Call
· Recently, it’s been happening over and over: the phone rings after dinner and a call-center pickup system switches in a person with a heavy South-Asian accent who tells us that there is a problem with our Windows system, and offers help ... [11 comments]
Lock-In, the 2008 Flavor
· So, if I want to watch the Olympics online, I need to install Microsoft Silverlight. And if I’m interested in good-looking new high-end compact cameras, I’m super-interested in the new Nikon P6000; which writes a RAW format that can only be read by Microsoft WIC, available only on Windows ... [10 comments]
· There has been much rejoicing recently at the process whereby, apparently, an ISO committee takes full control of OOXML. But you know, that story is entirely irrelevant. It will have no effect on what implementors of OOXML, including Microsoft, should or will actually do. The story’s ending will I think be mostly tawdry. Oh, and I have some OOXML news that I think is important, but that I don’t think anyone else has reported ... [16 comments]
· I’m sorry to my readers, 80% of whom probably don’t care about OOXML standards politics, but I’m having a hard time de-obsessing. For those who share my unfortunate condition, please go read Some clarifications on the OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting, a fantastic write-up by Antonis Christofides of the Greek delegation. I think it illustrates the big picture better than anything else I’ve read, including my own coverage. [4 comments]
· Now that the BRM is over, I feel I can write about it a bit more; there are some restrictions, but I’ll lay them out. Summary: A lot of good work was done, but the process is irretrievably broken ... [16 comments]
Blows Against the Empire
· Microsoft is bipedal; its legs are Windows and Office. I’ve always thought that Office was the more important, and less open to attack. But there insurgents lurking out there in deep space; their attacks are just pinpricks. So far ... [19 comments]
Missing Information Workers
· Awww... they’re gone. Check out Microsoft’s third-quarter financials, and compare them to the year before. Notice anything different? Client-side earnings used to be broken into “Client” and “Information Worker”. This year, they’re all rolled up into “Client” (and damn impressive numbers I must say, $4.244B net on $5.272B gross). I guess there’s a little less scope for this kind of thing, and gosh, I like information workers.
I’ve Seen This Movie
· It turns out that the Atom Protocol isn’t good enough for whatever part of Microsoft Dare Obasanjo works in, he says. Three things should be said: First, Dare’s arguments are bogus. Second, if you were paranoid and cynical, you might wonder what Microsoft’s up to (I’m paranoid and cynical.) Finally, this is actually good news. [Update: Check out Dare’s GData isn't a Best Practice Implementation of the Atom Publishing Protocol and Microsoft and the Atom Publishing Protocol, and especially Joe Cheng’s Microsoft is not sabotaging APP (probably). It looks like Microsoft will be joining the APP party after all; excellent! On GData: as of April’s interop event, GData, based on an early draft of the APP, was far from being an interoperable drop-in implementation. But that’s what the event was for; Kyle Marvin and the Googlers gathered tons of hands-on data and, last time I checked, still say they intend to do APP straight-up.] ... [18 comments]
· Andy Updegrove quotes a flurry of egregious Microsoft bullshit about ODF from Jason Matusow. In particular: “The ODF format is limited to the features and performance of OpenOffice and StarOffice and would not satisfy most of our Microsoft Office customers today.” In your dreams, Jason. [Update: What Andy Updegrove said.]
Office Politics and Profits
· In recent weeks I’ve been spending quite a bit of time talking to journalists and analysts about the issues around office-document XML file formats in general, and the Massachusetts dust-up in particular. There’s one exchange that pops up in almost every one of these conversations, and it goes something like this. Journo: “Now, you guys are taking all these idealistic high-minded positions, but you know and I know that what we have here is a battle for market share.” Tim: “That’s part of it, but we think that our interests, and the customers’, are both best-served when there’s no file-format lock-in and there’s a wide-open competitive market.” Now it’s not entirely about business, because governments have policy objectives, for example transparency and freedom of information, that aren’t directly business-related. But indeed, there is a dollars-and-cents business dimension. And to help broaden the knowledge of those dollars and cents, I went and checked Microsoft’s Investor Relations page to look up the Office-related numbers. In the fiscal year that ended July 1st, they reported profit of $7.915B on $11.013B in revenue. The trend continues: in the most recent quarter (ending last September), it was $1.934B on $2.675B. Just FYI.
· It seems like my little thought experiment has touched a nerve. Scoble, Dare Obasanjo, and Randy Holloway all push back, amazingly enough all making the same argument: how can I be against duplication in office-document XML format while at the same time being mixed up in the Atom Project? The argument is fallacious, but at least Robert and Randy made it in grown-up, polite terms, leaving the childish name-calling to Dare. Now, as for RSS and Atom: When I came on the scene in 2003, RSS was already hopelessly fragmented, and there was exactly zero chance of any of the large-egoed thin-skinned proponents of the various versions deciding to make nice with each other. Atom is precisely an attempt to reduce the number of vocabularies that implementors feel they have to support. Turning to the office-document space: right now the world has exactly one finished, delivered, standardized, totally-unencumbered, multiply-implemented XML-based office document format. You are the guys who want to introduce another, incompatible one. And I think that’s OK; but restrict your invention to the specialized Microsoft stuff that ODF can’t do, and don’t re-invent the basics. Why is this controversial?
· I see that Microsoft has posted a litigation covenant on the OfficeXML formats (also read Brian Jones’ exegesis). In response, there’s a bunch of legal poking and prodding here and here; I don’t understand the legal arguments, and I don’t think they’re the interesting part of the story anyhow. So, let’s do two thought experiments. First, what if Microsoft really is doing the right thing? Second, how can we avoid having two incompatible file formats? [Update: There’s been a lot of reaction to this piece, and I addressed some of those points here.] ...
New England Town Meeting
· On the 16th of this month, the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council hosted a meeting at which Eric Kriss, the state’s Secretary for Administration and Finance, and Peter Quinn, the CIO, discussed the state’s recent proposal to standardize on the Open Document Format. I received a set of meeting notes, which I reproduce almost as-is (spell-checked, removed personal names and editorializing). They represent one attendee’s informal capture of the proceedings and have no official standing. But there is some eye-opening stuff here. [Update: via David Berlind, there’s online audio of the meeting.] [Update: Aha! Bob Sutor reports that the Massachusetts decision is now final. This is just the beginning of a long, long, road, and you know what? Microsoft is too smart not to go down it; the only question is when they start. See also Sam Ruby on Brays, Fairness and Doublespeak.] ...
· Brad DeLong, an economist and awfully good writer to whom I’ve been subscribed for a long time, raises a simple but awfully good question about Microsoft. Check out his table; it’s actually the SG&A line that has my head shaking.
· I take off for a couple of days of rural isolation and and dial-up access, and the news floodgates break loose. Simon Phipps has good commentary and more pointers. First, a tip of the hat to Poland for their intervention which (at least temporarily) seems to have derailed the EU’s headlong rush to embrace software patents. In all this news, one angle that’s getting little discussion but seems to me a real game-changer has to do with the Microsoft/EU litigation. Microsoft says they’ll ship a version of Windows without Media Player and, while I agree with the EU that they played a little dirty in leveraging the Windows monopoly into the media-player space, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal. What does seem a big deal is the order that they disclose enough of the Exchange and SMB protocols to empower people to build competitive mail/disk servers without having to do arcane reverse-engineering. This genie, I think, can’t be put back in the bottle, however the appeals end-game shakes out, and it’ll be a while before we really understand all the implications.
Office Source Code
· I’ve been trying to think of something intelligent and new to say about Microsoft’s recent Office source code maneuver, but Simon Phipps took care of it. Anyhow, when it comes to Office software, I’m less interested in its code (source or object) which should be disposable and replaceable, than I am in its output. Some call them “office documents”; I prefer “intellectual heritage”, “racial memory”, “crystallized thought”, “priceless treasure”, that kind of thing. They need to be taken care of better than they are, I think, and others agree.
· My goodness, there are oceans of words being pumped around about some subclauses in the Sun-Microsoft agreement. I love Slashdot’s editorial judgment but despise the idiotic discussion threads, so suffice it to say that the usual people said the usual things there about Sun and Microsoft and litigation; but then check out Danese Cooper’s take. Anyhow, I think it’s sensible to be concerned about the potential threat. Of course, that concern would vanish if Microsoft were to state that they won’t use intellectual-property litigation as a competitive weapon against other office-software packages. Simple enough. How about it?
By Tim Bray
I am an employee
of Amazon.com, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.
A full disclosure of my
professional interests is
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