Would It Matter if Microsoft Didn't Cheat with OOXML Approval?

Rob Enderle

I've been watching the approval process for OOXML with some interest. Never before have I seen a vendor that has the existing standard for anything challenged in this fashion. I'm not sure what it means for the market, but regardless of which side you are on, I think both sides can agree the process sure made ISO look like a joke. Seriously, when should an approval process look like a U.S. election (with hanging chads)?

 

Regardless of prevailing opinion that Microsoft cheated to get ISO approval, would it even matter if it didn't? Currently, there is no evidence that it has, even though there is an ongoing investigation. If I apply the teachings from the book "True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society," I'd conclude, probably correctly, that it doesn't. (As a side note, much of the coverage on this book has been on Apple fan behavior, which is actually a really small part of the book.) By the way, while the book has very little to do with tech, it should be required reading for all of us as it showcases how we are losing the ability to determine the truth, which could have significant adverse life consequences.

 

The Damning Evidence Against Microsoft

 

There isn't any on this vote; there is only an investigation, which so far just makes the process look bad. I may be nuts, but don't you have to prove guilt?

 

However, Microsoft currently has so much oversight from the U.S. and European governments that it seems to be an open book at the moment.


 

There is apparently an independent report saying that OOXML is actually better than ODF, and the editor of ODF has formallly gone on record saying that if OOXML lost, so does ODF, suggesting that there may have been good reasons to approve it.

 

Microsoft Isn't That Powerful

 

I'd like you to stop and think of the Mac vs. PC campaign that Apple is running where they nightly make Bill Gates look like a stupid, self-centered, untrustworthy twit. Now don't you think, given that Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates are close friends and Windows is Microsoft's most important product, were Microsoft that powerful, those ads wouldn't exist? Think for a moment what would happen if Sybase tried this with Larry Ellison and Oracle, or IBM with Michael Dell.

 

If Microsoft doesn't even have the power to protect its brand or the image of its founder, do you really think it has the power to overturn a vote that cuts across this many people? Remember when they gave Ferrari laptops out for Vista Web review? Fact of the matter is, it wouldn't work.

 

Why It Doesn't Matter

 

According to the research in "True Enough," and it is substantive, in this age of creative reality, people form opinions more on what they want to believe than the actual facts. In effect, folks will both selectively choose to read things that agree with their world view and selectively interpret evidence they are confronted with to confirm that view.

 

In fact, in the book, there was substantial evidence that when confronted with opinions that might conflict with what they believe, folks will conclude the source is suspect and the person writing or talking has been bribed. That appears to be the case in this instance.

 

This means that Microsoft isn't innocent until proven guilty -- it is guilty unless proven innocent, and even in the unlikely event such proof is even possible, the folks speaking out couldn't see it if it were 10 feet tall and standing on their collective chests.

 

The problem for Microsoft is that if enough people believe Microsoft cheated, they won't use the OOXML because they won't trust it or Microsoft. In fact, I expect folks to use this belief as yet another reason to choose a non-Microsoft solution broadly.

 

The Big Message

 

If we truly don't want to be able to tell the difference between fact and fiction, we are so incredibly screwed. For instance, if we agree that Microsoft taking away all choice is wrong, why would we also not agree that making the only choice ODF was equally wrong? Being free to choose only one thing isn't freedom, no matter what the choice is.

 

Let me put this into real perspective and step above Microsoft. I belong to a group called the Lifeboat Foundation, which is dedicated to saving the human race from extinction. Right now, a good number of members are convinced that we are building a device that will destroy the earth. Others are convinced that this device is critical to our future. If the people deciding have no more connection to the facts than the folks rendering their opinions on OOXML, we are either all dead or on a path to another Dark Ages.

 

In short, if we can't each at least try to make the truth matter, the approval of OOXML will be the least of our problems. It's not just Microsoft that's screwed, we all are.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 3, 2008 2:45 AM Andy Andy  says:
People are smart. When you breach the rules people shout. The government investigation has little significance. It is always difficult to prove "corruption" without raids and I guess that no real criminal corruption was involved. Just that the ISO process was compromised. A social contract was broken."If the people deciding have no more connection to the facts than the folks rendering their opinions on OOXML, we are either all dead or on a path to another Dark Ages."People are smart. People remember. People fight back. Reply
Apr 3, 2008 5:30 AM Michael Michael  says:
Hello? There is more evidence of impropriety in the current vote that you didn't mention. You forgot to mention how there were so many irregularities in the Swedish vote that their National Body had to Abstain (during the first vote) and was not able to recover in time for the second vote (thus maintaining their Abstention). You forgot to mention that many of the voting P- countries (in the first and second vote) joined with the sole purpose of voting for OOXML - and that these countries (1) have little interest in setting standards, (2) rank as the most corrupt nations on the planet, and (3) have halted work on other ISO standards because of their inactivity.There is evidence of impropriety in the Norwegian vote. The technical committee chair for Norway's National body said it himself. (FYI, the letter from the Norwegian National Body stating that there were no irregularities was with respect to the first vote, not to the second vote.) The NB's most recent statement that their vote was really, really, a YES, does not negate the accusation of irregularities because the statement comes from the people accused of the irregularities in the first place. Duh.Should I continue with Poland and Germany, or are you deaf? Reply
Apr 3, 2008 8:55 AM Kenneth Kenneth  says:
I think some issues are being confused in the article. For instance, the question of whether OOXML is better or worse than ODF is different than the question of whether OOXML should be an ISO standard. Lots of people may find ODF unacceptable for their needs. Many people may find OOXML useful. But that doesn't mean OOXML should be an ISO standard. An ISO standard should allow for implementation cross platform from different vendors - without having to beg for more information from Microsoft. An ISO standard should be able to get dates right. This is just the tip of the iceberg for why OOXML should not become an ISO standard. These reasons to not accept OOXML as an ISO standard would still exist even if ODF didn't. The author says, "Never before have I seen a vendor that has the existing standard for anything challenged in this fashion. " That vendor is MS. That makes OOXML the referenced "existing standard"? Besides the recent ISO stamp of approval, I don't think OOXML could be considered "an existing standard." I work in a document-heavy industry and I don't know anyone who saves documents in OOXML. The few Word 2007 users I know of all save their documents in the binary .doc format. To say "Microsoft doesn't have the power," is a bit nieve.Microsoft showed in Sweden how easy it was to "turn out the vote" from your "gold partners." The only unfortunate thing (for Microsoft) in Sweden is that they were caught. (Remember that email from Microsoft offering special "incentives" to partners to vote? Of course, Microsoft claimed that was an unfortunate exception.) Why is it that corrupt countries suddenly signed up to vote? Do you think Microsoft pursuaded them somehow? With the way Microsoft gamed ths system - which is no secret, just read the press - most people (even MS fans) would probably say that Microsoft "cheated." MS certainly didn't play by the spirit of the rules. MS may have even broken the law in some instances and may have abused their monopoly power. Reply
Apr 4, 2008 5:00 AM Foo Bar Foo Bar  says:
"if we agree that Microsoft taking away all choice is wrong, why would we also not agree that making the only choice ODF was equally wrong?"You are so naive, Rob... (*)Microsoft is not being forced to use ODF. They can use OOXML if they want.But why don't they give their customers the ODF choice? That's because, once we have a truly open standard, people will have choice in tha application arena: MS Office, OpenOffice, you name it.So, Microsoft is pushing their own file format, which is not designed to be interoperable, but just to pretend some openness.(*) In fact, if you look for Rob Enderle's past record on open source software, you'll find that he described Linux as a free-software scam, has compared some Linux advocates to terrorists, and predicted that SCO would win... (yes, SCO, the company now in bankrupcy.) Reply
Apr 4, 2008 5:01 AM Foo Bar Foo Bar  says:
Oh, I just found this mini-resume on Wikipedia:, is a consultant, writer, and widely quoted technical and legal analyst in the information technology industry. Microsoft, Advanced Micro Devices, the SCO Group, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell are (or have been) among his clients.[1]Enderle has been critical of Apple Computer and Linux, as well as Unix and the open source/free software movements in general. In particular, he has described Linux as a free-software scam,[2] and he has compared some Linux advocates to terrorists, predicting that one of them or perhaps a group of them will go too far at some point and do significant damage to the open-source movement, the ongoing litigation with SCO or their employers.[3] Nevertheless, Enderle was a featured speaker at the Desktop Linux Summit 2006.[4]Before founding the Enderle Group, Enderle was a founding analyst at Giga Information Group (acquired by Forrester Research), Dataquest (acquired by Gartner) [5], IBM, ROLM (acquired by IBM), and The Walt Disney Company.Rob Enderle has been a vocal commentator in the ongoing high-def format war writing for Digital Trends. [6] His credibility has been publicly called into question on the topic, being charged with claiming to be an independent observer while on the payroll of Toshiba. [7]--And, now, he's defending OOXML... Reply
Apr 5, 2008 4:20 AM Dave Dave  says:
Is this that same Rob who opined "The war is over and HD-DVD won" last January. The same Rob that crowed about the greatness of Vista.Are you one of those analysts who's business model is selling out? Microsoft's words not mine. Reply
Apr 8, 2008 1:03 AM Bruce Wolfe Bruce Wolfe  says:
You sound like a Microsoft apologist. Time to get with the program and support alternatives. Innovation and change is the only way technology grows, and not supporting the same old thing that continues to control the market. Forget what Durusau says. ODF would eventually create some alternative that the rest of us non-MS users would use thus creating healthy competition and a true open-source format. Reply
Apr 8, 2008 3:14 AM Rog Rog  says:
Excellent point!"... while the book has very little to do with tech, it should be required reading for all of us as it showcases how we are losing the ability to determine the truth, which could have significant adverse life consequences."That is the only part of this article that should be retained.The rest is nothing but the usual ranting we've come to expect from one of the web's primary sources of selectively misleading soundbytes. Carefully mixing misinformation with obsfucation, Rob once again manages to paint the public reaction to a rather blatant abuse of process by a convicted monopoly abuser as the petty grumblings of a bunch of also-rans to the logical ascension of a all powerful deity.There is certainly no shortage of information about the OOXML foray through the standards process. Anyone seeking truth need only skim through a few pages to see that, without even naming names or taking sides, there was something wrong with that process. And it is obvious that if the process is that broken, the result should be discarded until a proper process can be implemented.So take the message from the one paragraph in this rant that actually holds any truth, and avoid OOXML. (Not that you have a choice, since there is currently no existing implementation of it to use...)And maybe someday, Rob will actually read the book he touts so well. Of course, there is still the matter of comprehension... Reply
Apr 8, 2008 5:15 AM Ken Ken  says:
So do you trust this author? Do you think Rob E. is being sincere in his "opinion"? I do not believe he is being sincere at all. What are his motives? Is this how to make an honest living?What we need here would be some facts instead of spin...Please refer to http://www.grokoaw.net for more information on OOXML. Reply
Apr 9, 2008 5:39 AM Darcy Darcy  says:
@ KenAre you for real? You say we need facts instead of spin and then link to groklaw (IBM's FUD outlet), please tell me you're joking. Reply
Apr 9, 2008 12:41 PM Ken Ken  says:
So do you trust this author? Do you think Rob E. is being sincere in his opinion? I do not believe he is being sincere at all. What are his motives? Is this how to make an honest living?What we need here would be some facts instead of spinPlease refer to http://www.groklaw.net for more information on OOXML. Reply
Apr 11, 2008 2:57 AM Geraldo Geraldo  says:
Let me understand this argument a bit better: Microsoft didn't try to sway opinion on OOXML because it didn't work when "they gave Ferrari laptops out for Vista Web review".Oh, so Microsoft DID try to sway opinion by giving away laptops, but it didn't work so they learnt the error of their eways and never would do anything like that again.Wow Rob, I really feel so much better about Microsoft now. Reply
Apr 14, 2008 4:51 AM kenholmz kenholmz  says:
Rob, I believe I can comprehend what you are saying here. However, I see it as one facet of the big truth. Sure, human beings can deceive themesleves. The other part is all business. While no bullets may be fired, business competition is an ongoing game of psychological warfare. SCO is the poster child for this (although, hopefully not for too much longer). Steve Ballmer give a number for IP infringements found in Linux distributions, but offers nothing useful. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to allay suspicions at this point. I believe we are well past that point, actually. Reply
Apr 14, 2008 4:52 AM kenholmz kenholmz  says:
Rob, I believe I can comprehend what you are saying here. However, I see it as one facet of the big truth. Sure, human beings can deceive themesleves. The other part is all business. While no bullets may be fired, business competition is an ongoing game of psychological warfare. SCO is the poster child for this (although, hopefully not for too much longer). Steve Ballmer gives a number for IP infringements found in Linux distributions, but offers nothing useful. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to allay suspicions at this point. I believe we are well past that point, actually. Reply
Apr 15, 2008 5:56 AM kenholmz kenholmz  says:
I do apologize for the duplicate posting. It was not intentional.Dearest Darcy, you may complain about groklaw and spin but it is difficult to do it with a straight face when everything is referenced so well. You may not like the groklaw interpretation but you can at least view the source and decide for yourself. However, that site and this one are not the same. I don't expect long treatises with a multitude of references.I also don't believe the adjectives thrown at Rob do anything but give the writer some kind personal feeling of power. Rob Enderle writes and speaks from his perspective. He is more open to reason than some may think...again, he is more open to reason, though out opinions and interpretations. Rob knows I am squarely in the FOSS camp yet we respect mutual civility.Rob, about how much power Microsoft may have, leverage is where you find it and apply it. Microsoft still has great leverage in some areas. Those areas may be shrinking. In fact, I make my own prediction, Microsoft needs to adapt to the new era or it will not fare well. I think the non-distribution of Samzidat was a pivotal moment in time. I still home Mr. Brown will make the full text available online. I must agree with the one writer. Microsoft is not forced to adopt or to not use any protocol. They can go their own way any time. Conversely, a Microsoft standard is not an ISO or other standard until it becomes a standard that all can use. If Microsoft wishes to continue living in Bill Gates orginal proprietary hell then let them revel in their glorious past. Ballmer and Gates would have us living in their version of Brave New World (or is that Father Knows Best). I understand that IBM, Oracle and some others continue to wield power of their own. But this is about the desktop and about file sharing for the masses. Let the elite eat their own cake. Reply
Apr 16, 2008 8:36 AM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Everyone, just so you know I've responded to much of this in a follow on post located here: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/rob/?p=214 Reply

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