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Gary Edwards

Son of RTF

Sam, they have practice doing this. The same thing happened with RTF.

When Microsoft was the new guy on the wordprocessor block, they came up with RTF, an "open" file format that any application could implement. Consumers, with a little help from the mighty Redmond marketing machine, immediately recognized the value. An open file format ended document level application lock-in. Users could switch to the application of choice without the pain of loosing document fidelity. Or so it seemed.

Under competitive pressure, established wordprocessores provided RTF support as an option.

The stage was then set for Microsoft to push things to the next level. Now that consumers were able to move their documents, the next step was providing them reason enough to consider Microsoft's alternative products.

This was done through an aggressive campaign of OEM bundling with the Windows OS, and, the orchestration of competitive upgrades with shared DLL roulette. As in Russian roulette.

What happened is that Microsoft used the shared DLL distribution method to spike the performance of competitive products. These spikes were timed to coincide with heavily promoted competitive upgrades involving the targeted competitor.

The mechanism used was a well known Windows application developer requirement that patches, upgrades and product distributions always include the latest versions of shared DLL's. The Windows developer community became the primary distribution channel of loaded shared DLL's. (these are DLL's that all Windows applications use).

As a Windows developer back in the day, we always did our patch and upgrade distributions on a Friday evening as a bulletin board download. The proper shared DLL's were always included as required. On Monday morning certain sectors of our user base would be screaming that their WordPerfect or Ami Pro applications were broken. They had of course called the vendors, who, after tracking down the agent behind the systems change, told them to call us and Microsoft.

Calling Microsoft of course resulted in some sage advice that of course since Microsoft provides the operating system, MS applications would be far more stable and high performing. and oh by the way this week there is a competitive upgrade for that particular problem product.

We learned how to provide our users with an easy way to execute the fix. On install, existing shared DLL's were archived. At the first sign of problems, they were conveniently restored. No problemo.

This nonsense was so obvious that we could tell in advance which applications would be spiked simply by watching the competitive upgrades Microsoft was advertising in Computer Shopper.

As Microsoft applications gained market dominance, MS RTF was secretly extended. Users could import RTF files perfectly, but export was a total nightmare.

One-way interoperability. Get used to it because here we go again. MS Office Open XML has already been extended and is quite different than Ecma 376. As evidenced in a recent trial involving expert testimony from Andrew Schulman. Yes, the same Andrew Schulman who uncovered the Windows undocumented API's in the early 90's.

I wonder. Does this mean that the Novell OfficeOpenXML plugin for OpenOffice.org is now the reference implementation for Ecma 376? :)

I guess that would be good news for all the LiNUX distros signing on with Microsoft, agreeing to distribute the Novell version of OpenOffice. You know, the OfficeOpenXML version.

~ge~

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