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As a former MBA student (I finished my Master's Degree in IT instead of Business Administration), I find it amazing just how much our DOJ ignores the clear message of historical antitrust and genuflects at the altar of corporate greed.

In 1999, DOJ knew (and proved) that MSFT's illegal behavior endangered both competitors and consumers. Eight years later, DOJ seems to have suffered head trauma. The same behavior continues unabated, yet DOJ protests when the EU CFI does what DOJ should have done.

What is different? Campaign contributions and a different administration. I'm sure that the next DOJ will have lots of fun checking for connections between those contributions and the decisions made the past few years. It will be interesting to see whether any are found and if they are, who goes to prison for it.

Gary Edwards

Wheew! Nice writing Sam. How long have you carried that load on your back? You must be feeling very good right about now.

Can i add something to the the European motivational list? Whether they know it or not, they may have saved the open Internet, and saved it for generations to come.

This is a one - two punch the EU has delivered; coming off the mat, rocking the bad guys hard against the ropes, and then putting them down for the count.

Of course i'm talking about the ISO refusal of MS-OOXML, followed by this devastatingly brilliant legal ass whooping, with the DG Competition circling for the kill.

When we talk about open markets and fair competition, few associate that with our beloved Internet. But it is the web that is at stake here.

Having lived together through the file format wars, you know what i mean. But perhaps others don't?

We are both on intimate terms with MS-OOXML and it's application, platform, vendor specific bindings to MSOffice.

We are similarly on intimate terms with ODF and it's application specific bindings to OpenOffice.

One thing we know that much of the world is unaware of is that one of the things Microsoft has achieved with MS-OOXML is that it goes far beyond MSOffice. And does so in ways that starkly demonstrate how ODF is by contrast limited to the OpenOffice and the desktop office suite space.

MS-OOXML goes far beyond ODF in that it is bound to the MS Stack of desktop, server, device and web platforms. MSOffice is actually only a small part of the MS-OOXML story. Although no one should not diminish the importance of existing MSOffice workgroups as the the starting point of a vast migration of existing business processes and line of business integrated apps to the new center of a monopolist dream galaxy, the Exchange/SharePoint developer hub.

Where ODF targets the 1995 desktop office suite space, Microsoft is going for the whole enchilada with MS-OOXML; targeting the great convergence of desktop, server, device and web systems. MS Stack specific systems.

So here it is, the only possible conclusion our observations and years of work can arrive at: ODF is not the target.

Let me say that again. ODF is not the target of MS-OOXML.

I think it's all a side show; a slight of hand meant to send the world into an emotional tumble, off in the wrong direction. Off into the past.

The perception that ODF is the target is meant to buy Microsoft precious anti trust time. Time to run out the anti trust clock in the USA. Time to run out and run around the legal armies of Europe.

So if ODF is not the target, what is?


HTML is the target of MS-OOXML, and the Web the prize.

How could we have not noticed that there is no HTML in the MS Stack, only MS-OOXML with proprietary Smart Tags - .NET - XAML accelerant?

Easy, we want so bad to find that universal file format meeting the qualifications of open, unencumbered, universally interoperable, totally application-platform-vendor independent, with an acceptable citizen driven governance that we overlooked the problem of rapacious deal making big vendors who knee jerk commercialize the terms of interoperability, and deal it away in a heartbeat today for profitability tomorrow.

One could also argue that, hey, there is no ODF in the emerging MS Stack either. But so what? The Internet does not run on ODF. It runs on HTML!

Some time ago, when saving ODF in Massachusetts was the order of the day, we came up with our list of three challenges any Universal File Format must overcome to succeed - succeed through real world implementations.

The three challenges are:

.. Compatibility with existing file formats and documents, including Microsoft binary and xml documents.

..Interoperability with existing applications, including Microsoft applications.

.. Convergence of desktop, server, device and web systems. This is the great convergence, a Universal Interoperability that has always been the promise of the Internet, and remains the core of SOA, SaaS and Web 2.0 initiatives.

Interestingly, MS-OOXML meets all three criteria, but is noticeably limited to the MS STack of applications and services. It's actually a barrier to the great convergence we seek. But wow do they nail the the first two criteria! As one would expect since they own the secret binary document blueprints and over 500 million MSOffice application implementations of binaries and bound business processes.

ODF on the other hand was intentionally NOT designed to meet ANY of these criteria. These criteria are considered, "Outside the Charter and out of scope" by Sun and much of the OASIS ODF TC.

ODF ambitions are limited to the realm of desktop office suite file formats, even as many W3C grand convergence technologies are reused by ODF.

And then there is HTML. Or should i say HTML+, because the W3C has been busy? Very busy.

So busy that HTML+ can in fact meet all three criteria, matching MS-OOXML toe to toe. And none too soon i might add. It's only in the past few months, while most of the world was caught up in the ODF-OOXML-ISO world wind, that the W3C quietly made their move to save the Internet.

Noble as the W3C's efforts might be, i for one do not believe the Internet can be defended from the rape, pillage and burn Redmond has planned with MS-OOXML and the MS Stack. Lucky for us we have stalwart governments willing to take up the anti trust cudgel and level those who would seize that which belongs to all of us.

The EU has made their stand for free trade, open markets, open standards, universal interoperability, and a free and open Internet. And what a glorious legal gem of a stand it is! Beautifully done, with a precision of legal excellence that transcends corporate corruption and national merchantilist yearnings.

We needed a miracle, something, anything to temper the voracious Redmond appetite, and we got it. One, two, and a third punch waiting in the wings. Now it's time for the marketplace to speak with real world solutions that can solve the problem of transitioning existing documents, applications, and processes to the Internet. And we must do this soon.

In February, MS-OOXML will face some strong headwinds at ISO during the Ballot Resolution Meetings. Maybe they fail. Maybe they pull it out. Whatever the outcome, it is a guaranteed certainty that the MS-OOXML implemented across the MS Stack will not be interoperable with whatever ISO - Ecma comes up with.

It's also a certainty that ODF 1.2, as it is currently written, will not pass ISO. The May 2006 ISO Directorate refusing to grant ODF an exception to the interoperability requirements of international trade agreements has yet to be dealt with! (May, 2006? Yes, that's right ODF 1.1 has not come up for ISO consideration). The OASIS ODF TC is in fact unaware of the minefield awaiting ODF 1.2.

Meaning, the world faces the distinct possibility that come April of 2008, neither file format will qualify as an international standard.

Anyway. We'll deal with that. The EU has done their part. Now it's in the hands of those who believe in a universal file format, universal interoperability, and, a free and open Internet.

Nice bit of writing Sam :)


Sam Hiser

Thank you Walt & Gary for your comments.

The FT today (Tobias Buck in Brussels, who's coverage is excellent) has another piece that addresses my points from a different angle.

Stephen Kinsella, a Brussels-based partner at Sidley Austin who represents a pro-Microsoft software association called Act, says the US regulator’s attitude is very different today: “In the US we are seeing very little enforcement when it comes to dominance abuses. You very much see an attitude that says: ‘If you have got yourself into that position, good luck to you.’”

Michael Hickins

Hey Sam,
I find it incredibly ironic that the implication of the DoJ's statement is that customers are somehow unharmed by Microsoft's monopoly on the desktop. Things couldn't be further from the case. Microsoft abuses its dominant position every day, to the detriment of its customers.

Wesley Parish

For reasons beyond my comprehension, a song started playing in the recesses of what I am pleased to call my mind, after reading this piece; it's by a band called Smokie, and is a take-off of one of Cliff Richard's hits:

Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance,

To tell her how I feel,

And maybe get a second glance,

But I'll never get used to not living next door to Alice...

Alice, who the fsck is Alice

It's that last line that isn't in the Cliff Richards hit; it takes the schmaltz out of it quite.

I wonder if that is the reason why the European Union managed to hold Microsoft to their avowed declaration of "interoperability" - they don't know, or care, who the fsck is Alice.

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Sam Hiser




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