Editor's Note: Foolish Uncertainty and Doubt
Jul 14, 2006, 23:30 (6 Talkback[s])
How to Help Your Business Become an AI Early Adopter
By Brian Proffitt
I was gone last week, completely disconnected the Internet. Did
I miss anything?
Okay, so there was the whole Microsoft capitulation to
OpenDocument thing. When I first caught the news, I thought, well,
it's about time. Good for Massachusetts, Belgium, and all the other
governments for standing up to the Redmond bully, right?
Then I thought "uh oh."
Because back in the old times, when Microsoft decided to pay
attention to the strange new thing-y called the Internet, a lot of
people thought, hey, that would be a nifty thing. After all,
dialing up to download pictures of Elvis shaking hands with
President Nixon was a very exciting prospect. Mosaic is a pretty
good browser, and it would be great if Microsoft supported it
Oh, did we learn. Netscape especially learned a very hard lesson
and it is only now that it's descendant Mozilla is making a dent in
Microsoft's browser share after very nearly being killed off by
Microsoft's "embrace and extend" tactic. We're all still suffering
from IE-biased Web pages.
So, faced with this history lesson, I can only wonder how
Microsoft's "generous" offer of tying their Open XML format to the
OpenDocument format standard is going to play out. They already
made it clear that this acceptance of the ODF is rather beneath
them, since they regard their Open XML format as better.
"While the Open XML formats provide unique and unparalleled
value, we know that there are certain government organizations that
have constituents, particularly in the OSS [open source software]
community, who are concerned about assuring interoperability with
Office," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an interview with fellow
JupiterWeb site internetnews.com.
Wow, how condescending of them. We're so lucky that they deigned
to help us.
This may very well be a setback for Microsoft, and a positive
step for the continued adoption of the ODF. But I cannot shake the
feeling that sooner or later, there will be a big push by Microsoft
along the lines of this: sure, you can use ODF for your documents,
but the translator module is so much slower, so limited (never mind
that it's Microsoft's translator that functioning so poorly). Why
use the ODF, when our Open XML format is so much faster and
The bad thing is, that continued adoption of ODF by Microsoft
Office users will play right into this plan. They will wait for a
while, until more users try ODF and find that for some strange
reason, they don't like it very much. Not realizing that it's the
application and not the format that's the problem, ODF will be
stigmatized by "poor performance."
If this sounds familiar, it's pretty much the pattern that
Microsoft used to try to kill off Netscape. Except in those days,
Netscape was the market leader, unlike OpenOffice.org. It still
worked. Those IE-optimized Web pages were perfect excuses to point
at "flaws" in Netscape's browser. Forget that it was Microsoft that
deviated from existing HTML standards in the first place with their
enhanced Web page code.
The key to breaking this cycle is the continued education that
formats are separate from the software that runs them. The user and
IT buyers must be reminded that a format, particularly a standard
like ODF is not different than a music CD you buy at the store. If
you have a CD player that consistently sounds bad, it's not the CDs
you're playing, which is what Microsoft wants you to believe. It's
the CD player.
Any other argument is specious and foolish, but it is likely
going to be the foolish arguments we are going to hear from Redmond
about ODF in the near term.
Hm. A new F -word for FUD. I've kind of like it.