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OOXML: The Return of the Champ

This is the way it used to be when the New York Yankees were dominant, when the Steelers or 49ers were winning Super Bowls, and when Manchester United couldn't be stopped (and, actually, those days for Man U seem to be returning). They might fall behind here and there, maybe lose a game, maybe even lose a championship...but then they would collect themselves, rally and unleash fury upon their hapless opponents, reminding them who was boss after all. That's pretty much what Microsoft did with Office Open XML.

Oh, Redmond has taken it on the chin lately. The EU got a shot or two in. Google has been working the body. Apple publicly humiliated Microsoft with the best ad campaign of at least the last 25 years, and Redmond mostly wounded itself with Vista. But this week, the champ came storming back the way champions do -- love them or hate them (and please, please don't get your editor started on any of the sports teams listed above; he hates or once hated them all).

By the time you read this, OOXML will be an industry standard. Yes, that's right -- after failing the first time to garner the required number of votes, Microsoft's document format roared back and won the approval of the International Organization for Standardization. That means that Microsoft has legitimacy in the eyes of an independent -- well, more or less independent -- standards body.

Of course, we're sure that Microsoft, uh, strongly encouraged a few delegates from a few nations to change their votes -- which lots of delegates did. And, really, OOXML's acceptance isn't all that big of a deal for partners and users, practically speaking; after all, Microsoft document formats are also de facto standards.

But now, all of those government agencies charged with implementing standards-based computing are free to turn away from open source and run back to sweet mama Microsoft if they so choose. And whatever momentum open source had gained by taking the standards route in IT departments has certainly slowed -- if not come to a screeching halt.

Really, though, what can we learn from this event? There's an old boxing adage that says that a challenger has to knock out the champ in order to beat him; a decision by the judges will never do. Well, in this case, nobody could knock out the champ -- not the open source movement, not rival vendors, not bloggers, not the trade press. OOXML's status as a standard might not affect our everyday work lives all that much, but it does remind us of one thing: Microsoft is still Microsoft, and, when it wants to be, Microsoft is still the boss.

What's your take on OOXML becoming a standard? How powerful do you feel Microsoft still is in the technology industry? Sound off at

Posted by Lee Pender on 04/02/2008 at 1:21 PM


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