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Microsoft Backer Turned Critic Says Office 2010 Breaks Standard

Computing standards have always perplexed us a little bit. What we at RCPU have never been able to fully figure out is why standards are so important? Oh, we understand the importance of them in theory, but in practice? Well, it seems to us that the biggest dog in the pack pretty much sets a de facto standard.

Such was the case with Microsoft for a long time until Redmond got all worked up about industry standards a few years ago and rammed its Office Open XML (OOXML) document format through as an international standard. Dominant regimes have, generally throughout history, wanted to give the impression of credibility -- it's one of the reasons why the Soviets had "elections," even though only one party was eligible to appear on the ballot. So, maybe Microsoft was going for the credibility angle.

(Note: We're not calling the folks in Redmond communists. Quite the contrary -- we at RCPU admire them for their bold version of capitalism. We're just saying that Microsoft's standards push seems kind of unnecessary and has the feel of an old-school regime trying to make itself look legitimate.)

In any case, one of the main proponents of OOXML, a gentleman named Alex Brown, says that Office 2010 is actually going to break the standard that he helped Microsoft establish. Microsoft begs to differ, as you might imagine.

Once again, though, this begs the question: Who cares? Office still has monster market share, so whatever standards it imposes are the ones people will use. Don't like them? Go build your own productivity suite to take on the champ. But be forewarned

-- many have treaded that path, and thus far none has returned. Lotus, Novell, Corel… the skeletons of their suites line the competition road to Office. Maybe Google Apps will survive, but it has a long journey ahead of it.

Now, if Microsoft really is essentially breaking its own standard, that's a poor showing on Redmond's part. If Microsoft is going to get all worked up about standards and legitimacy, then it should at least let the winner of its single-party election take office. But we're still not sure why -- or whether -- any of this matters.

Do you care about the OOXML standard? How concerned are you about standards-based computing? Sound off at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 04/08/2010 at 1:22 PM


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