Microsoft Scores Major Standards Win...For Now

In what must be considered a major win for the boys up in Redmond, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has given its approval to Microsoft for its Office Open XML (OOXML) document format.

After a bitter battle that lasted over a year, the format, which serves as a guide for interchangeable Web-based documents, was given a thumbs-up by 24 of the 32 countries voting. Those results gave OOXML a 75 percent approval; it needed only 66.66 percent to be officially ushered in as a standard.

This endorsement represents a come-from-behind victory of sorts, as OOXML suffered a loss in its first round of ISO voting last September. But in this second go-around three-quarters of the core group -- including the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany -- voted yea. Among the 10 countries who registered, dissenting votes came from Brazil, Canada, China and India. The decision is also significant given that it will most certainly influence how large companies and government agencies both here and around the world spend their software dollars.

Microsoft's victory, however, may not yet be totally secured. Late yesterday, reports were swirling of certain "irregularities" in the voting conducted among the 87 national standards bodies. Reports had IBM at the head of the mob marching toward the Microsoft castle holding torches and pitchforks. These objections could result in an appeal of the votes. Such an appeal would have to be registered in the next two months.

Apparently, Microsoft is fully expecting a counterinsurgency. Microsoft's Jason Matusow wrote in his blog that he expects to see "IBM/et al driving an orchestrated process attack in the hopes of overturning the ratification of Open XML, or at least to discredit what has come out of this long, global process."

Over the past year or so, the OOXML standard has been pitted against the Open Document Format (ODF), also an interchangeable document format backed mainly by archrivals IBM and Sun Microsystems. ODF, which is now under evaluation for use in some 70 countries, received the ISO's approval back in 2006.

Setting a meaningful standard in this space is proving extremely difficult, but given the future software dollars up for grabs here, it should be.

Intel Hopes To Put the Internet in Your Pocket
Intel tried its hand at marketing the future yesterday by predicting that the next big deal in consumer electronics will be devices that allow you to carry the Internet in your pocket. And -- oh, yes -- by so proclaiming, it's getting a rolling start toward marketing its own upcoming entries in this market.

At an event over in Shanghai, Intel trotted out a number of wireless gadgets that will be positioned in the competitive landscape somewhere between smartphones, led by Apple's iPhone, and very lightweight laptops. Intel is calling its upcoming devices, appropriately enough, Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), which leaves little room for debate as to what they are. Intel thinks the "pocketable computing" devices will make their way into retail stores by June.

The company is already trumpeting its advantages over other chip makers for cell phones because the Intel chips will be more compatible with processors used in desktop and other mobile systems. Fair enough. Oddly, however, the first wave of MIDs is aimed at data and not communications, which means they won't be a participant in the smartphone sweepstakes.

But company executives at the China-based event say they expect to see an explosion of mobile Internet devices built primarily for data, which should keep them hopping for some time to come. Intel, if you recall -- and you might need a very good memory to do so -- bailed out of the cell phone business a couple of years ago by selling off that business.

Intel will leverage its new Atom chip in the new devices, which it believes will give consumers more than adequate performance while using as little as half a watt of battery power. Most laptops today, for instance, consume 35 watts. A handful of companies have promised to deliver devices built around the chip including Lenovo, NEC, Sharp and Toshiba.

But the question many are asking is whether Intel's too late to the game, a game that figures to be -- well, to quote Laura Dern's character in the movie Wild at Heart -- "hotter than Georgia asphalt."

Dovetail Aims To Fast-Track Products Online
Dovetail Internet Technologies has come up with a smart and practical product. The Shrewsbury, Mass.-based company debuted a system yesterday that makes it a whole lot easier for manufacturers to get their products online by sidestepping the gorpy aspects of Web site content management. This is something that small and medium-sized companies with limited IT resources will find useful.

The company's "novo" system has a back-end database that makes it possible to segregate content from design. This sets the stage for manufacturers to carry out a more straightforward method of supplying content updates. In so doing, overworked site managers can better apply their talents to updating the content of their sites and not be distracted with design issues.

Dovetail's president and founder Michael Villa told us he believes there are far too many small IT shops out there struggling -- and unsuccessfully -- to keep their Web sites populated with the latest information in very fast-changing markets. They're crying out for something fresh to help them out, but also need a solution that doesn't require a high level of programming talent.

"We weren't going to get into the business of providing simple Web tools, there are already too many of those. We were more interested in getting at more comprehensive solutions," Villa told us.

Another nice aspect of the product, especially for smaller companies, are the buying options. Users can either license the product and own their particular solution outright, or they can choose a subscription model which allows them to pay as they go.

Mailbag: Jail Time for Hacker?, IBM Irony, More
Lafe reported yesterday on the conviction of an 18-year-old hacker who hacked into over a million computers worldwide. One reader wonders whether jail time is really the way to repay him:

And having stolen lots of money, he does not have to pay any of it back. Instead, the citizens who pay taxes will pay for his stay behind bars. How could this picture be changed so restitution is instituted and he meets at least some of his victims and has to pay them back in person? Would that help his "I'm doing it because I can get away with it attitude"?

With already overcrowded prisons, we should be looking for a restorative solution.
-Francene

IBM was temporarily suspended by the EPA over a contract bidding issue, not an environmental one, but this reader got a kick out if anyway:

Ironic that one of the most vocal "GO GREEN DATACENTER!" cheerleaders would get slapped with EPA sanctions!
-Anonymous

And Joe shares his thoughts on Bill Gates' suggestion to Congress to loosen U.S. Visa rules:

I hate to disagree with you on this issue, but after seeing how major companies import lower-paid workers -- not because they have a lack of good enough developers, but because they had a lack of developers willing to work for half the rate of domestic workers -- I am disillusioned with the management of big business in general, as well as political leadership...Republican and Democrat.

Not only do they bring in workers under false pretenses, but they are harming the future prospects of this industry in this country, in my opinion. Gates' self-fulfilling prophecy (there will be a shortage of domestic workers as the incentive to enter the field diminishes) is a way to cut costs in the vast majority of cases. It drove me to go get my MBA to look for a different direction. I am not against immigrants -- except the illegal, undocumented variety -- but dislike business leaders lying to me.
-Joe

Tell us what you think on any of the topics we've covered here! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com.

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