Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Antic Disposition: Toy Soldiers

IBM's Rob Weir in what I assume is a semi-facetious essay on the state of OOXML standardization; the final two paragraphs:

In any case, since Microsoft has effective voting control of SC34, after almost two years of packing the committee, my bet is that OOXML will effectively be handed over to Ecma for maintenance. That is what JTC1 has done for every other Ecma Fast Track that has been approved. They might call it a "maintenance group" and allow token participation from SC34 liaisons in a non-voting capacity, but in all important ways it will remain Microsoft/Ecma standard. In the end, this makes some sense. Who is better positioned to clarify exactly how Excel financial functions work, the Microosft engineer who has access to the Excel source code, or an SC34 representative from Khazakstan?
Given the leisure to do the job right, my bet is on Microsoft. Everyone knows it for what it is now. There is no longer need for elaborate attempts to disguise the fact that OOXML is and will remain a Microsoft-only standard. Why continue the charade? If Microsoft put OOXML on MSDN, at least we would all have access to it and would know where to send our defect reports to, which is more than we can say about ISO OOXML. A real open standard is preferred, of course. But given a choice of fake ISO standard and a real MSDN specification, I'll take the MSDN version any day.

I'd like to know what sort of space/time-recalc magic Rob Weir thinks Microsoft and/or ISO could have used in this context to make ISO OOXML 1.0 spontaneously appear.  In the meantime, application developers and ISVs are building on the precursor ECMA standard OOXML embodied in Office 2007, and somehow Rob apparently thinks that's inappropriate. 

It may be an inconvenient truth for IBM, and it might be fun to reminisce about the days when Lotus 1-2-3 had monopoly market share in spreadsheets (and when the first Lotus Symphony sought to expand that monopoly to adjacent desktop app categories, more than 20 years ago), but the de facto enterprise productivity application standard today is Microsoft Office.  If IBM and other vendors want to change that picture, they should spend more time investing in a better productivity suite value proposition and less time hypocritically complaining about competitors' attempts to leverage standards.

An Antic Disposition: Toy Soldiers

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