Microsoft standard proposal turns spotlight to Ecma's process

Microsoft standard proposal turns spotlight to Ecma's process

Summary: A lot has happened since I last wrote about the OpenDocument vs. Microsoft file formats drama that is clearly turning out to be one of the most important beachheads in the computer industry.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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A lot has happened since I last wrote about the OpenDocument vs. Microsoft file formats drama that is clearly turning out to be one of the most important beachheads in the computer industry.  Shortly after Microsoft announced plans to submit its formats to Ecma International for ratification, and then subsequently to the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) for its imprimatur as an international standard, the Redmond, WA company released a special covenant not to sue that was met with the satisfaction of Larry Rosen, one of the open source movement's leading attorneys. 

But in the days the followed, the series of announcements were picked a part by critics who took issue with several possible gotchas. Among them, the  assignment of the new legal language to Microsoft's current formats instead of the ones that Microsoft is trying to set as the standard.  Although the language raised concerns that developers might not be as free to deploy Microsoft's future XML schemas as it is the current ones, Microsoft quickly diffused the bomb saying that the language will apply to the more forward-looking formats.  I believe them.  If the company doesn't keep its word, it will be crucified. 

Then, there was the conformance proviso that basically guarantees that Microsoft won't sue developers as long as they conform with 'the standard' in its entirety.  Rosen flagged the proviso as well, but told me via e-mail that the covenant not to sue was such a significant olive branch for Microsoft to offer -- practically a bitter pill for the software giant to swallow -- that taking issue with the conformance proviso was the equivalent of sweating small stuff that developers shouldn't be sweating.  Wrote Rosen, "And the scope of their patent covenant, even though it is limited to 'conforming' software products, is sufficient to allow open source implementations that can read and write Office 2003 documents."  Although one interpretation of the proviso is that Microsoft will sue developers of non-compliant implementations, that's actually leaping to a conclusion that can't necessarily be drawn.  No Microsoft legal document states that.  So, it's not clear what exactly would trigger a Microsoft lawsuit. 

Another question that surfaced in the blogosphere had to do with the fact that the OpenDocument Format is already before the ISO for ratification.  Several bloggers, most notably from Microsoft's competition, cited a problem with this asking how the ISO could be expected to put its imprimatur on two standards that essentially address the same problem.  The concerns led me to ask (in one of my prior blog entries) "Knowing that an alternative to ODF could land in its lap in the coming months, will the ISO put the brakes on its current deliberations over ODF until it can vet the two side by side?  Or, supposing ODF does get the ISO's imprimatur; under what conditions might the organization also give its imprimatur to Microsoft's file formats?" If you read on, you find out why.  I found the answer.

The final concerns had to do with Ecma International -- a 45 year old European consortium that doesn't require the specifications it puts its imprimatur on to be available on a royalty free or unencumbered basis.  Instead, the patent holders whose intellectual property might be included in an Ecma ratified-specification are at the very least required to license the relevant patents on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis (otherwise known as RAND licensing).  Most people are comfortable with the non-discriminatory part.  But as you'll see in a minute, even the Secretarie General of Ecma admits there's no official definition for "reasonable" which means that vendors whose patents are a part of an Ecma specification can charge anything (including nothing at all) as long as they charge the same price to everyone (the non-discriminatory part).

Taken in combination --  the coverage of current formats but not the new ones, the conformance proviso, the confusion over two standards at the ISO, and Microsoft's selection of Ecma (an organization with a RAND-is-as-tough-as-we-get policy) -- Microsoft's opponents saw enough of a confusing labyrinth of related events and announcements that they've grown suspicious that some nefarious plot is afoot.  If you read any of the anti-Microsoft blogs on the issue, it's pretty clear that if the gotcha isn't found, that once the dust settles, the OpenDocument Format will have been filibustered into oblivion, Microsoft's formats will retain their position as the de facto standard (with the added dubious distinction of de jure standard as well), and somehow, for developers to develop office suites that are 100 percent file format compatible with Microsoft Office 12 and whatever comes after that (from Microsoft), they'll still have to go through and perhaps pay Microsoft.

[Update: Based on some comments to this blog, I want to make it clear that this is a summary of the concerns that have appeared in the blogosphere and not an opinion held by me.  As you'll see from my questions, I'm less interested in finding the gotcha and more interested in understanding Ecma's process and how Microsoft can insist on conformance when the new standard is supposed to be multiparty-stewarded.  Barring the conformance question, openness from an implementation point of view is not an issue.  That's because Ecma already allows for royalties to be attached to its standards.  So, we can't look to Ecma to enforce the openness.  For that, we have to fall back to Microsoft's legal language which is actually more open than what Ecma requires.  That said, I think it's worthwhile to summarize the concerns in language that most can understand.]

One simple possibility for example is that once Microsoft's specification or a derivative thereof gets the Ecma and ISO imprimaturs, that Microsoft will use its current market presence to turn an extension of that specification -- one that developers don't have unencumbered access to -- into the de facto Office format standard.  Much the same way Microsoft's claims its Internet Explorer is "based" on open standards (it is, but it also includes support for Microsoft-specific proprietary extensions), it isn't difficult to envision a claim that Microsoft Office is based on international standards and for the de jure standards to become marginalized in the process.

[Update: Microsoft's .NET is also an example of this, and perhaps a better one.  The Common Language Infrastructure (the CLI) is a core piece of .NET that Microsoft submitted to Ecma for standardization.  For all intents and purposes, .NET which existed before the CLI was carved out and submitted to ECMA, now represents a proprietary extension to Ecma's CLI standard.  Please note however that the existence of prior examples such as these is in no way a guarantee that Microsoft will follow the same pattern with the Office XML file formats. In fact, chances are it will not.  Especially given how many people watching like hawks and waiting to say 'I told you so.']

Possibilities such as these are what concerns some that Ecma and the ISO are being unwillingly played as pawns in the company's larger struggle to somehow maintain the control it has over the desktops of so many (while keeping substitutes at bay).  Microsoft's selection of Ecma comes as no surprise. On the surface, Ecma is not only a European consortium -- Europe being one of the regions in the world that has grown increasingly intolerant of Microsoft -- it's also a multiparty consortium whose structure is similar in nature to OASIS (the consortium that put its imprimatur on the OpenDocument Format).  One criticism that Microsoft has faced regarding its formats -- especially from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts -- is that Microsoft is in control of them.  The state has been clear that it prefers the standards it settles on to be stewarded by multiple parties and not just one company.  By turning its formats over Ecma whose ratification process involves technical committees that involve multiple parties, Microsoft will be able say that its file formats -- at least the ones ratified by Ecma -- are multiparty stewarded (which in turn should satisfy organizations like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts). 

Another reason Microsoft probably selected Ecma is that the sooner Microsoft's XML formats get the imprimatur of the ISO, the better chance they have against the OpenDocument Format.  Ecma is one of the only two consortia in the world (that aren't officially affiliated with a government) that can put a specification on the ISO's fast track: a special track that not only speeds up the ratification process, but, as you'll find out from my interview with Ecma's Secretarie General Jan van den Beld, one that's almost always guaranteed to end in success. 

The selection of Ecma along with Microsoft's statements do in fact raise some interesting questions -- some of which I asked van den Beld in my telephone interview of him.  For example, Microsoft has said that it expects the formats in question to have the imprimaturs of both Ecma and the ISO within the year.  One good question is how, if the process is truly stewarded by multiple parties, Microsoft can set such an expectation.  Presumably, when a process is multiparty stewarded, none of the involved parties can really set that expectation.  Technical committee deliberations at just about any multiparty consortium typically involve heated debate and competing interests that can take an unpredictable amount of time to resolve.  Another question has to do with the events of this week where Microsoft not only formally requested that Ecma establish a technical committee to oversee the stewardship of the XML formats the company was submitting to the consortium, but included language that appeared to request that the TC approve the submission without any real deliberation.  In suggesting a scope for the technical committee, the Microsoft request proposed:

The goal of the Technical Committee is to produce a formal standard for office productivity applications within the Ecma International standards process which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats.

Almost as soon as the proposal was published, the "fully compatible" part set off alarms throughout the blogosphere.  Instead of suggesting that the goal of the technical committee would be to produce an open XML-based standard for office productivity applications that can use Microsoft's submission as the starting point for its deliberations, the proposal at the very least appears to angle for a rubber stamp approval of Microsoft's submission.  Now that Ecma has accepted the proposal and officially formed the TC (TC45, based on the age of Ecma International -- 45 years old), one question I have is whether or not that very narrow goal statement imposes any restrictions on the latitude that the TC has to change the specification.  If it doesn't, it certainly draws the multiparty nature of the TC into question as far as organizations like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are concerned.  If the other parties can't change the specification, is it really a multiparty specification, or is it still pretty much controlled by Microsoft?  I contacted Microsoft to get its take on the question on Wednesday (12/7) but have yet to hear back.

If Microsoft was looking to make sure that the conformance proviso stayed with the specification, it may have given itself no choice but to see rubber stamp approval of its specification without additional contributions from other members of the TC to the point that the end result could be considered a derivation.  One question I had, prior to the text of Microsoft's proposal to Ecma being published, was how it could insist on conformance with a specification that would technically no longer be within its control once it was turned over to Ecma.  In other words, who is Microsoft to insist on conformance when the final specification, if it's truly multiparty stewarded, turns out to be a derivative of Microsoft's original submission because of the contributions made by the other parties?

Unless all of those other parties (the ones making the contributions that resulted in the derivation) agree that complete conformance is a requirement, then I don't see how Microsoft's covenant not to sue can be predicated on complete compliance with the Ecma-ratified specification.  Put another way, it's basically like saying you can use our intellectual property only if you use all of the other contributors' IP too. If you don't, then not only can't you use any our contribution, you can't use any of the other contributors' IP either.  I'm not a lawyer, but what place is it of Microsoft's to set the terms of my usage of others' intellectual property?  How about if I do a partial implementation of the Ecma-ratified specification that only includes the IP of the non-Microsoft contributors and that doesn't include any of Microsoft's IP?  It would seem to me that only the owners of that intellectual property can set the terms of the usage of their IP.  If Microsoft can impose such terms on its intellectual property as well as that of the other contributors, then it once again calls into question whether or not the specification is truly multiparty-stewarded.  On the other hand, if Microsoft changed its terms to say that I only have a license to 'practice' its patent for the purpose of using it in my implementation (partial or complete) of the Ecma-ratified specification and that I cannot use it for anything else (eg: to develop some other unrelated product or technology), that's OK.  This is not uncommon in the standards business. 

This is one reason it seems to me that the conformance proviso and multiparty stewardship of an Ecma technical committee are incompatible with each other.  Again, I sought comment from Microsoft but the company still has not gotten back to me yet. When it does I'll let you know.  In the meantime, these questions turn the spotlight onto Ecma's processes.  Is Ecma set up to guarantee multiparty stewardship or are there ways for a single contributor to sieze control of its process?  To get to the bottom of these and other questions, I interviewed the consortiums Secretarie General Jan van den Beld.  van den Beld has been either the #1 or #2 person at Ecma International since it was first founded in 1961.  In our conversation, he was surprisingly candid with me, revealing that he's completely aware of how (1) Ecma's RAND licensing paves the way for patent holders to encumber the consortium's standards and that (2) given the leverage patent holders seek to gain through an Ecma imprimatur, its only natural for Ecma to actually ratify multiple standards for the same thing (as it has done  in ratifying two separate standards for rewritable DVDs).  van den Beld says the same philosophy goes for the ISO as well.  Here's the link to the interview.

In addition, I asked IBM and HP, both of which are members of Ecma if they'll be participating in the new technical committee.  I also asked Sun, which is not a member, if they would be joining in hopes of participating.  Sun has no plans to join as of this time.  Here are links to the responses from IBM and HP.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • blah blah blah blah.....

    you are worse than a mother -in - law. blah blah blah blah. ...

    You say a lot of things anti-Microsoft in the name of interest of Open Formats for documents when
    i) the anti-Microsoft statements you have made have not happened. These are just allegations. You are judging and sentencing before any crime has happened.

    How come you have not critized SUN, IBM for any of their actions. IBM and SUN are not saints who are there for the benefit of anyone but themselves.
    zzz1234567890
    • I'm just asking questions...

      Actually, I'm not judging at this point. Others have, and I've summarized that. Personally, I think the Ecma process is more interesting. I can't help but wonder if Microsoft will be forced to eventually drop the conformance proviso. Maybe not in the first round since I don't anticipate anybody submitting changes to the specification. But once the specification starts to evolve, which it theoretically should do according to Ecma Secretarie General Jan van den Beld, I don't see how the contirbutions of other can be avoided and therefore, how the conformance proviso can stay.

      Also, I have criticized Sun and IBM in the past. I was critical of IBM for example when it came to ebXML and some shennanigans I thought it was pulling in the Java ecosystem. I understand Sun's CDDL, see where it's groundbreaking, but also wrote about how it's cleverly designed to woo developers away from Linux (since code from the two cannot be mixed due to the CDDL's incompatibility with the GPL). I was critical of Sun when it refused to put any muscle behind the x86 version of Solaris (this was a while ago). I could go on. Regarding the saints comment, let's just say everyone has their good and bad days. When they're bad, I try to say so. When they're good, I try to say so too.

      db
      dberlind
      • those criticisms are on different topics

        In the matter of ODF, I havent seen one criticism from you towards IBM, SUN. Are you telling that they have been perfect and done nothing wrong they have absolutely no hidden agenda.
        zzz1234567890
      • Conformance Proviso?

        I think it's funny that Microsoft would be so worried about enforcing conformance.

        And after all, would it be so bad if non-MS developers embraced Microsoft's recommended document standards, but then extended them to include proprietary features that would improve the overall user experience?

        Why should this suddenly become an issue for Microsoft?
        coffeenite
    • Why the weasel words?

      If MS is trying to be a good citizen then why all the weasel words? Why not just come out and say what they mean?
      jinko
      • why are you being a weasel - why dont you say what you mean

        Microsoft have said what they mean.
        I'm sure you read and write English, or are you telling me you need help.

        Being a reader at zdnet and being a computer professional, I feel that the coverage about ODF by David Berlind, though it has been extensive, it has been very one sided and very anti-Microsoft.
        zzz1234567890
        • Good

          [i]"I feel that the coverage about ODF by David Berlind, though it has been extensive, it has been very one sided and very anti-Microsoft."[/i]

          Well tough crap. Suck it up and swallow that load down.
          Jeff Spicoli
    • Real reason: Keep a cloud of FUD hanging over this...

      If MS is trying to be a good citizen then why all the weasel words? Why not just come out and say what they mean?

      I think DB is right that if they did sue anybody they's be crucified for it. The reason they're doing it this way is:

      a) To keep a cloud of FUD hanging over the file formats. "The only good developer is a nervous developer".

      b) To delay the standardisation of Office 12 as long as possible. Expect a few years of "the check is in the mail" type excuses before anything is actually published, and by then we'll be moving into Office 13....etc.
      jinko
      • yup, keep the dirt in peoples' faces

        Microsoft needs to keep everyone deceived. They're certainly never going to win on the 'quality' of their products.

        :-)
        Jeff Spicoli
  • great info

    thank you david for your coverage of this "saga", i'm disappointed that HP wont participate at the TC.
    ombz
  • "Smothering" ODF?

    This comment includes a great deal of speculation about what Microsoft might do and what the impact of those (hypothetical) actions might be.

    In fact, Mr. Berlind looks to other blogs to discover more suspicions.

    Looking at one of these examples of speculative dread (sorry):

    If you read any of the anti-Microsoft blogs on the issue, it's pretty clear that if the gotcha isn't found, that once the dust settles, the OpenDocument Format will have been filibustered into oblivion, Microsoft's formats will retain their position as the de facto standard (with the added dubious distinction of de jure standard as well), and somehow, for developers to develop office suites that are 100 percent file format compatible with Microsoft Office 12 and whatever comes after that (from Microsoft), they'll still have to go through and perhaps pay Microsoft.

    Gee.
    If Microsoft isn't hiding a trap (a "gotcha") that can be used to frustrate what the company is doing,
    then Microsoft will have prevented implementation of ODF ("filiblustered into oblivion")
    and its formats will be in very widespread use because Office is popular
    along with having the disheartening ["dubious"(?)] distinction of being approved standards,
    and anyone developing for Microsoft products will have to follow Microsoft rules,
    and maybe have to pay Microsoft (despite the fact that Microsoft is currently promising royalty free use, and gains from purchases of Office because developers... develop for it).


    This whole speculation is saying, I think, that Microsoft will have followed the horrible strategy of making Office a product people want to buy, and will reassure developers that nothing will complicate their providing valuable products for it.

    I have to ask: why should I be afraid of this happening?
    If Microsoft makes a product worth paying for, why should I feel any sense of defeat when people pay for it?

    The underlying assumption seems to be that paying for software is a wrong that must be opposed as intensely as necessary.

    Mr. Berlind has observed there can be products worth paying for. Why shouldn't Office be one of them?
    Anton Philidor
    • Didn't notice the word "suites"

      So the developers threatened by Microsoft are those creating Office suites to compete with Office and using Microsoft formats for the purpose.
      And not any and all developers using Office capabilities for their products.

      This group, however small in number and market share they might be, will in fact require some concern.
      But protecting them is probably not the principal issue.
      Anton Philidor
    • Office should be one of them. But,...

      buyers should be assured that the format can evolve without Microsoft's veto or say-so. I don't know that that's absolutely clear yet. And that's important for, say the community of people with disabilities (PWDs). Innovation in accessibility through format evoluion has largely been something PWDs have had no say in. With a format that guarantees that PWDs can partipate, a file format has a better chance of evolving according to the needs of a variety of end users without being subject to the approval of one vendor. I'm not saying that, given the way things are today, that such a guarantee isn't actually in place. But I don't know, based on some things that seem a bit unuusally, that I can say that it is either. I have questions. That's what this blog entry is about. I'm hoping Microsoft will come forward with some more clarity regarding the answers.

      db
      dberlind
    • Products worth paying for

      "This whole speculation is saying, I think, that Microsoft will have followed the horrible strategy of making Office a product people want to buy, and will reassure developers that nothing will complicate their providing valuable products for it."

      Wrong, what the anti-MS blogs point out is that MSO will become the ONLY choice for productivity standard, because of MS lobbying to enforce it as such.

      "If Microsoft makes a product worth paying for, why should I feel any sense of defeat when people pay for it?"

      Because it is not worth paying for, for A LOT of people. If MS whishes to do so, authorities can be "encouraged" to make any free or cheaper alternatives to Office illegal.

      After all, MS is the very same company who got away with patenting the concept of double-clicking.

      You seem to be quite focused on what goes on today, with little concern for tomorrow. Right now, there's nothing wrong with this "dominant" culture, even as it's evolution is patently stagnating. Why shouldn't people want to buy software? I agree they should, as long as they cannot do with cheaper alternative software. But I think most people can evaluate their needs, and over time, MSO will be directed towards the enterprise alone.

      But do you honestly think that a world where every IT sector is dependent on Microsoft's whim, and without any kind of competition against Microsoft would be good for the industry? Maybe this is JC's most desired dream, but I see a terrible future if nothing is done to prevent this.
      Anti_Zealot
      • Villainy?

        Suspicions can be helpful when they raise good questions. But they can be damaging when treated as certainties.
        I think your post is saying that everyone should act as if all possible suspicions were true, and therefore oppose Microsoft.

        For example, you wrote:

        ... what the anti-MS blogs point out is that MS O[ffice] will become the ONLY choice for productivity standard, because of MS lobbying to enforce it as such.

        So Microsoft will use lobbying to induce people to buy Office. The implication, particularly with "enforce", is that the merits of Office are irrelevant; only Microsoft conniving could possibly sell the product.

        Nonsense.
        If a substantial number of people buy the product because they like the unique features of Office or because they're accustomed to it, or because they see improvements over their old versions, then that's ordinary selling.
        Willing buyer, willing seller.

        I think that's an at least equally likely scenario.


        You return to that "argument" when you write:

        Because it is not worth paying for, for A LOT of people.

        And what if a lot of those people decide it is worth paying for? For their reasons or no good reason.
        I have never wanted to make discretionary choices for people.

        Your counter to that possibility is again to accuse Microsoft of villainy:

        If MS wishes to do so, authorities can be "encouraged" to make any free or cheaper alternatives to Office illegal.

        Worldwide, that's impossible. Even where it might happen, the odds are overwhelmingly that it won't.

        Why base one's response on one of the least likely scenarios?


        And you seem more anxious to take choice away from people than Microsoft.

        You wrote:
        Why shouldn't people want to buy software? I agree they should, as long as they cannot do with cheaper alternative software.

        Ahm, who decides people are going to do with "cheaper alternative software"? You?
        I think you exaggerated your intent, but you do realize you've just asserted your right to do what you're blaming Microsoft for doing, right?


        You al;so observed:
        But I think most people can evaluate their needs, and over time, MSO will be directed towards the enterprise alone.

        Here we can agree, basically. Office is going to split into (a cheap) home and (an expensive) office version. Each version will dominate its respective market, but Office cannot be everything to everyone anymore.
        Anton Philidor
    • Here's what's wrong Anton:

      1. MS wants to control a standard that should be controlled by many parties instead of one.
      2. MS seeks to eliminate or marginalize competing formats for it's own gain based on an accepted standard. We know how MS feels about GPL licensed software, and their licenses exclude GPL software.
      3. Vendor lock-in, clear and simple. MS is likely to "give" away a specification, and then add their proprietary extensions in future versions to keep competing products at bay.
      4. MS, like many other companies, seeks to patent an idea, own it, and use it to encourage innovation in all endeavors except the ones licensed under the GPL. Patents are intended to encourage innovation, not to stifle it.

      No matter what you say, MS has decades of history of using FUD, lawsuits, cross-licensing deals and other methods to embrace, extend and eliminate their competition.

      Nothing short of a completely documented, vetted, freely available (to anyone) document specification that has true multi-party stewardship, unencumbered by patents or their licenses, should be called an open standard. This conversation couldn't have happened without open standards.

      MS simply isn't interested in open standards and their actions bear that out. As it is, their actions speak louder than words.

      Scott
      Scottman_z
      • The issue is Office, not standards.

        Speculating, Microsoft has devised new formats because they are necessary to the operation of features which they consider good reasons to purchase. And those formats can be leveraged by developers who (or which) can create applications that people also want to buy.

        Because the formats have as their main purpose the most efficient and effective possible use of Office, Microsoft has to be able to change them as they improve the product.

        If this speculation is correct, then the attempt to control what Microsoft does with its formats is a way to control the capabilities and functionality of Office.
        Product design by competitors is not a worthy outcome to this process.


        So, looked at from this aspect, each of your points appears an attack on Microsoft without much if any advantage to the public.

        Quoting:
        1. MS wants to control a standard that should be controlled by many parties instead of one.

        Yes, Microsoft wants to make Office work as well as possible and not have competitors block improvements because they can't keep up.

        2. MS seeks to eliminate or marginalize competing formats for it's own gain based on an accepted standard. We know how MS feels about GPL licensed software, and their licenses exclude GPL software.

        If competing formats are associated only with less popular office suite software, then those formats are less likely to be used than formats associated with more popular office suite software. Ordinary business outcome.

        And Microsoft will not allow its IP to be taken over by others without setting terms. That's very ordinary business practice.

        3. Vendor lock-in, clear and simple. MS is likely to "give" away a specification, and then add their proprietary extensions in future versions to keep competing products at bay.

        Sometimes products have unique and valuable features. In some circles it's called "winning the competition".
        When those features are unique, some parts of the software are unique. That means available from one source.
        What you're calling "lock-in" may be the reason the product sells.

        Mr. Berlind believes so strongly in competition based on something other than basic product functionality that he advocates using less capable software if at all possible rather than more capable software available from a single vendor.
        I don't like the implicatuions of that view at all. For me improving a product and gaining sales are what keeps IT from becoming stagnant.
        But despite the disagreement, he does accept that lock-in is sometimes acceptable.


        4. MS, like many other companies, seeks to patent an idea, own it, and use it to encourage innovation in all endeavors except the ones licensed under the GPL. Patents are intended to encourage innovation, not to stifle it.

        Yes, patents are "intended to encourage innovation", and the way they do that is by reserving rights to something valuable to its inventor for a period of time. So the inventor can profit from his invention.

        The GPL's parentage opposes the idea of profits on software, and even high salaries for IT employees. There's a good deal of that inheritance in the GPL.

        I think the worst thing about GPL'ed software is the GPL.

        Microsoft is hardly going to encourage the GPL, even if the software affected (first typed: afflicted) by the GPL were not in competition.

        And Microsoft gains by competitors using their formats, as well as the developer community leveraging Microsoft's products for their own benefit.
        If every one has standardized on Microsoft formats, then Microsoft is competing to make the best use of the company's formats to produce desireable functionality. I like Microsoft's odds in this competition.

        But when Microsoft makes a product better, you call it "extending". I call it the way to make money in the market.
        Anton Philidor
    • Worth paying for...

      "Mr. Berlind has observed there can be products worth paying for. Why shouldn't Office be one of them?"

      Office should certainly be allowed to compete in a free market.

      OTOH, it shouldn't be in a position to dictate pricing (85% markup I believe) when it's time to spend our tax dollars.
      jinko
  • Of course..FUD is the only way left to battle

    FUD is the only way left to combat Microsoft's success. Sun, IBM, NOVELL (all sponsor members of the ODF committee) have been trounced by Microsoft on more then one occasion. And it's about to happen again. I expect we'll see much more negative speculation from all of the tech media. Conflict sells.
    bob2cam
    • Sells what to whom?

      I think we're watching a media strategy in process. As I write this, there is a large "Spotlight On" ad for Sun taking up about 20% of the right side of my screen. Clearly Sun's agency media buyers think placement in a thread related to "open standards" is a good idea. A large ad for IBM "IBM Tivoli Application Management" appears on the opening page to the blog section.

      Let's play a game. Let's call it "editorial synergy". We'll count how many stories appear on CNet (ZDNet is a CNet Networks brand) that relate to ads that appear in rotation on the site. We could have started with that incredible series of videos burnishing the CEOs of Intel that appeared on CNet "News" last week , but that's past. Let's start fresh.

      I'm guessing that we'll be able to predict editorial slant from ad rotations, since the media buys happen ahead of the editorials. But I could be wrong. Perhaps, somewhere, CNet has stated that their policy is to divorce editorial from advertising completely. I'd love to see that statement. I think we all would.

      Ready. Set. Go.
      broper