The ugliness of it all
I shall not complain that much about what happened with OOXML. In fact, the act of standardizing OOXML has not really brought any significant advantages to OOXML. ODF is an ISO standard and so is OOXML. That’s what I call a draw, and Microsoft has been battling hard for a bloody draw, as in the end, the word has spread and everybody now knows about the insane amount of pressures Microsoft has applied to the ISO, the IEC, the ITTF and the national standards bodies. But what will be the outcome of all this? Let me outline the following steps in Microsoft’s strategy in regard of standardization. This can be described as a pincer movement.
First, Microsoft will try to kill ODF. They can try to do this at two levels: at the level of the OASIS ODF TC, and at the level of the next iteration of ODF, ODF 1.2 (due sometimes this Fall and later to be brought on to the ISO). You can rest assured that Microsoft will exert pressures on the OASIS ODF committees either by attempting to stuff it, or by pressuring players such as Novell, Patrick Durusau, or even Sun Microsystems. One of them is a puppet of Microsoft, bound by heavy investment of Microsoft disguised as a legal and business partnership agreement (Novell), another one made an odd trip not that far from Redmond and came back with a completely new view on OOXML and ODF (P. Durusau), while another one has a strong legal settlement with Microsoft and may not afford to lose it for obvious business reasons (Sun).
Another way for Microsoft to attack ODF would be to oppose the standardization of ODF 1.2. They will use the same tactics they had with OOXML, but in the opposite direction. It will be funny to watch how the ISO and the national standards bodies will switch all of a sudden to a demanding stance on ODF 1.2, which will only be an iteration of an existing ISO standard. I am afraid we will witness such a shocking twist in the standardization bodies’ attitude. Romania, for instance, might completely change its happy-go-merry stance it had on OOXML (Approve without comments, twice) to an eagle-eye, unforgiving and watchdoggish scowl of ODF (Disapprove with… interesting comments). Heck, they might even use their former “laxist” attitude they had with OOXML as an excuse to block ODF, those masters of cynicism.
But all this is just one wing of the pincer movement I am describing here. The other part of the strategy was however clear ever since the beginning. OOXML is the first chapter into an attempt by Microsoft to shove its own technologies to the ISO. Next in line will be XPS. If you don’t know what XPS is, check it out from the source. Yes, you got that right. PDF reloaded. Now with more patents, OOXML dependencies, and legal traps. What’s the advantage you ask? None. But the respectable industry players we saw in every national standards body (understand: Microsoft’s partners) will insist that it will offer them clarity and a potential new source of revenue. This time though Microsoft got really clever: They went where Adobe had forgotten to go for ages, to the printing industry. This time we will see HP really coming out with flowers for Redmond. In France , HP never joined the works of our committee but they got really supporting of OOXML all of a sudden, around Friday night and after somebody (obviously being married to a woman of Italian descent with a nice hat, blue eyes, brown hair, ) had been given instructions to play nice with Microsoft. What you say, “is the French government bending to the will of Microsoft? Is it weaker than corporations?” Depends whom you ask, who you can contact, and who you supported. Enough said. Back to XPS.
Well XPS is, believe or not, a standard in the making. And since it is being “developed” (ah, the game of mirrors, illusions and appearances) by the Ecma, it will be pushed through the very same Fast-Track process the Ecma has been lavishly endowed to use with OOXML.
Would you believe me if I wrote that I knew what’s in store after XPS? Let’s bet I know it. After OOXML shall come XPS. And once Microsoft will have locked the whole industry with its document formats, they will try to do the same with multimedia formats. Expect the future Windows Media formats, their proprietary video codecs to follow the same path. Their glue shall be Silverlight, which in turn rests on Windows Presentation Foundation and the .NET framework. The license shall be the famous OSP, effectively barring GPL implementations and leaving many other issues, such as the RAND mode applied on the covered technologies, in the shadows, but always as a critical factor to consider. Novell will follow, as usual, with incomplete and patent-riddled implementations that you will only be able to safely use with Novell products.
And then? Then, as Shakespeare once magnificently wrote, then there shall be silence. At last, silence to win, silence to dominate, silence to influence, silence to pressure, and silence to silence them all.
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