15 February 2007

Microsoft's Freudian Slips

I just love it when Microsoft feels moved to write one of its open (sic) letters. They are essentially corporate Freudian slips writ large, because they expose the real hopes and fears of the company, far from the more controlled environment of conventional PR. The trick to understanding them is to realise that they always mean the opposite of what they say.

So the latest missive, entitled "Interoperability, Choice and Open XML" is actually about lock-in, lack of choice and closed XML. To save you ploughing through all the MS prose, here's the key sentence:

This campaign to stop even the consideration of Open XML in ISO/IEC JTC1 is a blatant attempt to use the standards process to limit choice in the marketplace for ulterior commercial motives – and without regard for the negative impact on consumer choice and technological innovation.

Note the clever way that settling on one standard - rather like HTML, TCP/IP and the rest - suddenly becomes a way of "limiting choice". What Microsoft glides over, of course, is that the choice is within the standard. There are now a number of programs supporting ODF, with more coming through. That's choice. I doubt whether there will ever be a non-Microsoft program that supports fully its own XML format: there will be no choice, just lock-in under a different name.

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