CyberTech Rambler

June 30, 2008

Tim Bray’s comment on Secretary General Bryden’s comment and a redux of Billy G crushing of Netscape

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:42 pm

Time Bray let loose what he thinks will happen with ISO OOXML approval. If I read him correctly, he is saying nothing will happen, i.e., it will be approved. If so, I agree with him. I do not think there will be any last minute upheaval. I will be surprised if there is. Nevertheless, I think the appeals should be lodged, they make it clear that there are National Bodies who cares about the ISO standardization process and forced ISO to take its head out of the sand and render a judgement.

While I agree with Bray that “Let’s bear in mind that a favorable outcome for the appeals would mean, in effect, ISO acknowledging that they’d made a big high-level mistake. And then let’s not hold our breath waiting for transparency or neutrality. “, I will say that since ISO is mainly a Western organization rather than a “Chinese one”, we have better chance of seeing ISO swallow the bitter pill. Even then, I severely doubt it. If ISO wants to nip it, it has plenty of chance after the BRM and before the appeals. If there is one, the necessity for the BRM muddle through 800+ comments is the final nail in the coffin that OOXML is a technical failure.

This week everyone is bombarded with the news that Bill Gate is stepping down as full time Microsoft employee. In this bombardment of news story, we see the US AntiTrust suit against Microsoft for crushing Netscape see the light of day again. A lot of commentators latched on to the fact that what Microsoft did wrongly in that case is the overzealousness in crushing Netscape. Bundling/exclusivity agreements are the normal tools of the trade, nothing wrong with them and they normally increase competiton and benefit consumers. Therefore, under normal circumstances, Microsoft is on the right side of the law. However, there is a very thin line between agressive competition and abuse of monopoly power, which Microsoft step across to the wrong side in the browser war. To tell the truth, this line is so thin that even today I find it difficult, even retrospectively, to see where agressive techniques by Microsoft definitely cross the line in this case. However, cross the line they did. In most of the important, insightful analysis of Bill Gate’s and Microsoft fortunes, the commentators’ agree that Microsoft did not know when the cross the line. Bill Gate’s obvious irritation when giving his deposition more than amplely demonstrated this fact. I believe most of his “I do not recall” is acting prescribed by his lawyers. However, the body language is his. My other take in the deposition is to ask everyone who bought Microsoft Computer Dictionary released in 1997 to ask for a refund, since it cannot even get a definition for common terms that its company supremo Bill Gates can agree with.

Fast forward to OOXML passage through ISO. Microsoft used very agressive tactics. I have also no doubts that other parties used similar tactics before. The differences is, this time, it is perceived that they outdo others in agressiveness and fatally for them, they did it in public, when everyone is watching (and waiting). Again, Microsoft know it is using very agressive tactics, but probably do not think it cross the line between agreesiveness and rule bending.

Did I believe the rules are bended? Yes. they are bended beyond breaking point. ISO must put a stop to it happening in future, and decides what to do with the current OOXML case. As a “face saving” measure and a compromise, I am willing to accept that OOXML as ISO standard (to give Microsoft a way to step down from the podium), but (in upholding the principle that OOXML is defective) will insist that the next revision of OOXML must overcome all the problems identified, no matter how long it takes. If it takes 10 years, so be it.

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