31 October, 2005

Mass and Microsoft: and the beat goes on...

To continue to introduce myself: I'm basically a New Zealand Viking, with a presence on IRC, web, and now, on blog. Don't expect too much out of me, as I'm only learning stuff, mainly to do with Linux and programming, but also don't expect that I'll be totally vapid either. You may even find that I'll play with things, just because I like to play with things...

Mass vs Micro: is this fight open?

First, I recently took a look at the October Open Document Format invite-only discussion, and had read the recent Groklaw article and link to the Harvard Law School audio/video feed. By the way, Pamela Jones and the team run a really tight ship at Groklaw. Well done. The fact that Mass. Executive has voted for OASIS Open Document Format is certainly a signal for other organisations to consider the format, along with Microsoft's XML offering and Adobes' PDF format, of course. I also note, as David Wheeler does, that it IS only one department of Massachusetts state government, but still, it's a pretty important move to make. My beef is with the internal wrangling that Microsoft must be undergoing right at this moment, "do we support it, or don't we". Simply put, my impression is: they wish to retain or even extend market share and lock-in (or lock-out of competitors). They feel they can only do this by exercise of their "proprietary" crown jewels, that "retain fidelity" of the author's creation, though only in the manner that Microsoft decide that an author should lay out her document. If they are able to achieve this, then they guarantee themselves a revenue stream. If on the other hand, they cannot achieve a lock-out of competitors being able to create any "documents" in any layout and format that they wish, then Microsoft have lost the chance to maintain their revenue stream, at least from the simple requirement for the creation and exchange of documents. We all know that Microsoft isn't the only kid on the block. Hell, they even have pretty decent software in the Office arena. The recent release of OpenOffice.org 2.0 is a big signal that now, there's another contender, and Microsoft won't be getting any money from people's use of OpenOffice.org.

Rights of an author not to be left out

Authors obviously have the right to create documents. They also have the right to control what those documents look like, and to control who their documents can be accessed by, and in what manner. The argument (at least from Microsoft's view, perhaps) is that Microsoft should be able to say "We'll support the author's right to control these items, but we'll use a layout mechanism (a schema) that doesn't have an implementation diagram on public show" - in short, the "binary blob" in each Microsoft XML document that has been described in other places. In comparison, Open Document Format shows the layout mechanism in plain view. Arguments can of course be made on either side of this, but I think OASIS have done the right thing. More later.

No comments: