Glyn Moody is, of course, a quick-study. He's among the few who get it.
This post in Linux Journal ties Microsoft's new-found open source strategy and its document format strategy together to illuminate a major shift in Microsoft's tactical approach to defrauding the market.
We've been waving our arms up and down to draw attention in FLOSS circles to the idea that ODF v OOXML is vital to Software Freedom. Glyn tells more effectively why this is true.
Getting Microsoft software licenses OSI-approved and similarly getting Microsoft's proprietary document formats approved at ISO are like painting an old Chevrolet. But that's all they think they need in the enterprise...
This, I think, goes to the heart of Microsoft's open source strategy. As well as adopting those aspects of an alternative development model that it finds useful, Microsoft is aiming to blunt the undeniable power of openness by hollowing it out. If OOXML is an open standard, and some of its own software licences become OSI-approved, Microsoft will be able to claim that it, too, is an open standard, open source company. For many busy managers, subject to all kinds of demands – including increasing pressure to “go open source” - the difference between Microsoft's open source and real open source won't matter, in the same way that the difference between Microsoft's open file formats and those of the OpenDocument Format won't really matter. In terms of keeping people happy, what matters for many is the label – the appearance of going open – and Microsoft's moves aim to provide just that.
In many ways this new approach is exactly the reverse of that espoused in the famous first Halloween Document. There, the idea was to “de-commoditise” open protocols by adding proprietary elements. Today, the technique is to pseudo-commoditise proprietary standards by getting them defined as open.
This may be enough to satisfy the enterprise customer that he is achieving something different. Clearly, the substance is no different: it's a lock-in in sheep's clothing.
We are entering The Gray Period.
[According to this line of reasoning, the real failure in Massachsetts is that Microsoft gets to market OOXML's acceptance in ITD's policy as an "open" document format. The more desirable way forward would be to have Bethann Pepoli change the wording to "...open formats, such as ODF, and other proprietary formats we cannot refuse for practical reasons." ]
I just recalled that I made this very argument (together with Gary Edwards & marbux) back in December (2006) in the Novatica | UPGRADE article published in Spain...
"Interoperability: Will the Real Universal File Format please Stand Up?" (PDF, 9 pages, 123 KB)
Conclusion - The XML Cold War in a Changing Market for Software
To fully grasp the vendor lock-in and legal bind Microsoft and Novell are devising, it is important to understand how ISO/IEC ("ISO") adoption of EOOXML one or two years from now would result in a legally sanctioned extension of Microsoft’s monopoly in office document formats. Through its technology-sharing arrangement with Novell and its elaborate messaging around "interoperability," Microsoft audaciously seeks to reassert the old lock-ins while draping its behavior in the "open" language that is today in vogue.
The complete Special ODF Issue of Novatica | UPGRADE is here (PDF, 72 pages, 1.4 MB)