Sun's Bray to Microsoft's Matusow: "In your dreams"

Sun's Bray to Microsoft's Matusow: "In your dreams"

Summary: If you've spent any time with Sun's director of Web technologies Tim Bray (either in person or virtually, with his blog), then you'd probably get the same impression that I have of Bray. Smart.

TOPICS: Microsoft

If you've spent any time with Sun's director of Web technologies Tim Bray (either in person or virtually, with his blog), then you'd probably get the same impression that I have of Bray. Smart.  Centered. Very zen.  Doesn't mind a good debate, but sticks to the technical merits.  Checks his ego at the door (at least when he's in public which is my only experience with him).  Determined.  So, it was with a bit of suprise that I saw him (in his blog) telling-off Microsoft's grand poo-bah of standards and open source Jason Matusow.  According to Andy Updegrove (lawyer for the OASIS consortium, the publisher of the OpenDocument specification), Matusow was reported in numerous places to have responded to ODF's ratification as an international standard as saying:

There are hundreds of industry-specific XML schemas used right now by industries spanning health care, real estate, insurance, finance and others. ODF is yet another XML-based format in the market....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.

Bray riposted:

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.

For starters, I understand the value of having the ISO ratify ODF from an ODF-proponent's point of view. Many organizations require the imprimatur of the ISO before adopting some standard internally. Why?  I'm not sure.  The fact that the ISO (and Ecma) appear to willingly ratify multiple standards for the same thing is a mockery of standards setting and is wreaking predictable havoc.

Anyway, back to Bray's response to Matusow.  From the looks of things, Matusow got under Bray's skin and it will be interesting to see where this ends up.  The truth, if you ask me, lies somewhere in the middle.  Matusow knows all about the middle. He's all about the middle. Whether he knows it or not, when he lectured me on the movement to the middle, it stuck with me and I think about more than I care to admit. In the bigger picture, we often see a movement to the middle between to technologies that compete head to head.

For example, over the years, Java (once the Fort Knox of operating environments) has become less secure as more functionality has been introduced.  Likewise, Windows, which started with more functionality and nothing like the reputation of Fort Knox, is moving more and more towards the sort of lockdown that Java was once known for -- a lockdown that actually inteferes with the frictionless user experience that gave both users and malware developers the same carte blanche to system resources.  A movement to the middle.

While I do believe that ODF may not satisfy some segment of existing Office users (a segment that leverages some of Office's more esoteric functions), I don't believe it's most office users.  While I'm positive they exist, I don't personally know of any Office users that couldn't just as easily save their data to the ODF file format.  The 80/20 rule (more like 90/10) is in effect.  80 percent of the users really only need 20 percent of the features.  I know that's all I need.  If that. 

Likewise, while ODF may satisfy the needs of most Office users, switching off of Office is a different story to the point where they're happily relying on an ODF-compliant solution is a different story. The other day, my son turned his history paper in via email.  He uses  His history teacher uses Microsoft Office.  My son saved the file to be opened by Microsoft Office but the teacher couldn't open it.  The next night, I opened it without a hitch and printed it for him so he could bring the hard copy in.  User error? Perhaps.  But it's not the first time I've heard of such potholes.  

Topic: Microsoft

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  • Yes, but which?

    ObKentuckyDerby: It's well-known that in a group of horses, one will be faster than the rest. [u]Which[/u] is faster is not so easy to predict.

    [i]While I do believe that ODF may not satisfy some segment of existing Office users (a segment that leverages some of Office's more esoteric functions), I don't believe it's most office users.[/i]

    Likewise, I'm prepared to believe that MSOffice really does have functions that can't be saved to ODF. The fact that Microsoft (which, after all, has a very large competitive evaluation division) still hasn't identified [u]which ones[/u], on the other hand, seems very curious indeed.

    David, you're the journalist here. Maybe there's a story in that.

    [i]My son saved the file to be opened by Microsoft Office but the teacher couldn't open it. [/i]

    Finished works are what PDF is for. Even when everyone is running the same version of MS tools, a difference in screen size or printer settings can turn a beautiful manuscript into hash. has a nice little "export to PDF" button. It's a lifesaver.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Virus and .DOC or .EXL files

      It wasn't so long ago that government offices were requiring users to reject attachments with the .doc and .exl format because those attachments could carry virus programs. Perhaps some offices still prohibit this.

      Microsoft use to set the standards (by aggressive influence peddling) but its standard setting days are long over. It needs to follow just like any vendor wishing to sell something that plugs into the electrical grid.

      That is what this ISO stuff is about - plugging into the Internet grid. And it is about plugging into a world-wide standard and a boundless media rather than a standard best characterized as a culture bound by corruption.

      Frank L. Mighetto CDP
      • .EXL format?

        I think you're incorrect about your statement above. There's no such office file as the .EXL format. Microsoft Excel uses .XL? file extensions (.xla, .xls, .xlt, etc.)
  • MSxl, or XPxl, or pdxl, .....

    MS has a reputation for ruining a standard by adopting then screwing it up!
    Reverend MacFellow
  • Sun is on the anti-MS bandwagon again.

    How sad. One would think they would get a clue about who (IBM) their real competition is. Seems like Scott's legacy endures...
    • No

      If you had read the article, the key issue was that something someone at Microsoft had said riled someone at Sun.

      Are you that "challenged" that you cannot even read the article title, or perhaps the opening couple of paragraphs?
      • So what, his toes goit stepped on.

        Big deal, NOT! But hey, if he too wants to send Sun stock down even further ranting uselessly about someone that isn't even a competitor more power to him. Maybe Scott can give him lessons...
        • Big deal?

          Your inability to read is.

          Why do you not address the issue?

          You clearly are only attempting to place "superior" and entirely tangential view to what was covered in the actual article.

          Learn to read please.
          • Issue: Sun is going BROKE!

            Issue: Sun is going broke.

            Issue: Sun thinks giving IBM Java will save them.

            Issue: Sun thinks giving away Solaris will save them.

            Issue: Sun thinks StarOffice will save them.

            Issue: Another Sun FOOL is worried about MS instead of the real competition.

            Issue: Sun is toast, sell your stock for anything you can get from it.

            Is that clear enough or do you need more help?
          • Ax is Grinding out free stock market advice now ?? [b]NT[/b]

          • And yet...

            The article is talking about the beef some guy from Sun has with some guy from Microsoft.

            NONE of your so called "issues" relate to the article. They are merely your diatribe of presumption.
        • Sun stock down even further ? -- > Up 40% from it low

  • It's like a political debate

    You remind me of a canidate in a political debate.
    Regardless of the question, give your prepared answer.

    Sun may or may not be going broke. This article discusses a Sun executive's response to public statements by a Microsoft executive.

    PS I made a nice little chunk of change on Sun stock recently, although it appears I sold a bit too soon. Sun is up over 20% this year. Microsoft is off about 5%, thanks to the recent disappointing earnings. Guess that new XBOX is still a money pit. Maybe MS should focus on their true competition--Sony and Nintendo. :)
    • Microsoft decided to invest money...

      ... needed to increase the company's search paid by advertising business. Because many on Wall Street dislike the idea of companies spending on future growth the stock declined.

      Like Sun being penalized for maintaining R&D, that's not grounds for criticism of the company, but of Wall Street.
      Anton Philidor
  • David, you misunderstand the purpose of standards

    David, in several articles now you have implied that having more than one standard for something is inappropriate or even silly. But I think you are making an assumption about what a standard is for that is incorrect. A standard is not intended to be the ?one true way? to do something for all time. If that were the case, we wouldn't be able to develop improved technologies - only entirely new ones.

    Standards are intended to be documented, known descriptions of how something works so that everyone who adheres to the standard can interoperate. They do NOT mean that there can be only one way to do something that is standardized. And the introduction of improved technology in the same ?space? that is then subsequently standardized is normal and a sign of healthy innovation.

    As an example, take wireless. We had 802.11b, and 802.11a (to avoid interference with home wireless phones), then later 802.11g to provide improved bandwidth over 802.11b, and soon 802.11n. Each of these standards had a purpose and deserved to exist. The job of the standards body was to clearly document how the standard worked so that anyone could use it. If we take your attitude toward standards and apply it to wireless, should we have all settled for 802.11b and said "OK, we're done. Anyone who tries to make another wireless standard is out of line"?

    Another important aspect of standards that the head of ECMA was articulating is that standards bodies cannot and should not be in the business of "picking winners". The market should do that. It would be madness for a standards body to bless the first decent effort that came to its door and then try to define a category for that standard and disallow all the other attempts to introduce standards in that area. The implication in your comments is that somehow there is a ?best? way to do something and if we all just thought about it and made a decision that could be the end of it. This doesn?t match the way industry or the economy works.

    In all industries the normal way to operate is to allow the market to generate ideas and then (optionally) document them in detail so they can be standardized. Then the market determines which are successful among the defacto and dejure standards. This was seen with VHS/Beta, the various CD formats, DVD formats, etc. As a consumer you often don't see the alternate standards (as with CD and DVD) because the industry players agreed early on to just use one of the standards because it was in everyone's interest. With VHS/beta the players didn?t agree and the market decided for them. You see that brewing with HD-DVD and Blu-ray. And it will happen with OpenXML and OpenDocument. As a consumer you might want just one format for simplicity, but letting the market decide the best standards (and there can be more than one successful one as we saw with wireless) is far preferable to a standards body legislating the winner.
    • VERY good answer...

      It's exactly like you explain!
      And when there are documented open standards, a program can chose to implement one, two or all of them.
      Other standards that devellop is HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol, for transfer web pages) and SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). Those has developed to new needs, but is if correctly implemented compatible with the old ones.