The Pebble and the Avalanche

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Current Revolutions in Business and Technology

by Dr. Moshe Yudkowsky,

author of The Pebble and The Avalanche: How Taking Things Apart Creates Revolutions


Wed, 2007-Sep-05, 08:07

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Microsoft Fails to Fool Standards Organizations

Several years ago, Microsoft felt threatened by a new international standard called VoiceXML, which allows developers to easily create speech recognition applications. In an apparent attempt to sabotage the standard, Microsoft pushed a competing "standard" out the door — it was standard, according to Microsoft, not because of community acceptance but because Microsoft considered anything it did as a standard. Although the competing went nowhere, Microsoft did manage to introduce fear, uncertainty, and doubt into the marketplace long enough for Microsoft to gain (and squander) a toehold.

This time around, threatened by a genuine open standard for office word-processing documents, Microsoft is waging an international campaign to have its Open XML format adopted by an international standards organization. Luckily, Microsoft's effort failed; unfortunately, Microsoft can continue to push its standard.

The stakes are high: some US states and some European countries are rightfully concerned that their important state documents are in closed, proprietary formats that are impossible to read without Microsoft's help; they've proposed the use of Open Document Format, a genuine non-proprietary standard recognized internationally. This trend threatens Microsoft's closed ecology, and they've been fighting hard to prevent adoption of rules that mandate open formats.

And apropos of a theme that appears in my book: Don't forget to read the discussions of Microsoft's alleged ballot-stuffing and bribery (example) as they attempted hijack the vote.

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