In response to my recent blog on how Microsoft Office program manager Brian Jones drew fire for comments in his blog, a ZDNet reader offered his (or maybe her) interpretation of what I said with a comment entitled David, you really, REALLY, are missing the boat here. In that comment, the reader says:
No David, what you are really saying is that Microsoft should throw away years of research, investment and development, become another "me too" generic provider and not raise the bar in features or functions.
I never said Microsoft should "throw away years of research." If the reader is suggesting that by supporting OpenDoc, end-users would actually end up using it and essentially throwing away all that Microsoft has created over the years, that's a different question. Then it's not me suggesting it. That's users doing what they think is best for themselves (and I'm not necessarily predicting that this is what will or will not happen). But never once, in my story or anywhere, did I suggest that Microsoft disable support for its own formats or throw away its research. For those who want to take advantage of it, Microsoft should absolutely leave that proprietary functionality in its products when that functionality cannot be supported by the open standards.
Also, I don't think I'm missing any boats. I don't think the people who govern Massachusetts are missing the boat either. On other technological fronts, many of such "organizations" have already sacrificed some functionality so that they may experience the benefits of open standards and now realize that that they've managed quite nicely while enjoying the leverage they now have over their technology providers. If their existing open standards-based solutions become too expensive, too vulnerable, too unstable, or whatever, they have the freedom to switch and all their suppliers can do is acquiesce. Or, those suppliers can lower their prices to stay in the game, redouble their efforts on security and bugs and cajole their customers into sticking with them, but they are not in control of the relationship, those organizations' IT, or their budgets. The customers are. Massachusetts is. Or will be.
But hey, if you want the cost, security, stability and whatever else of your IT to be out of your hands and in the hands of your suppliers, well, you're welcome to stay on that boat. I like knowing I have the option of that proprietary functionality. But I'll also take the life raft in the form of solid support of open standards, thank you very much.
I often wonder if vendors are that insecure about their implementations of open standards that they must lock us into questionable -- often failed -- implementations of proprietary functionality. This isn't an issue that's specific to one vendor. Everywhere you look -- take blade servers for example -- this insecurity appears to exist. Personally, I think that in almost every open standard there exists plenty of opportunity to offer a killer implementation. There's plenty of room to compete and plenty of customers to go around (and having the freedom to go around is not missing the boat).
Oh, and by the way, to Brian Jones, we're still waiting for your answers here on ZDNet. We'd love to have you come join the discussion.