I've been in my new job for three weeks as Technical Evangelist for Open XML. While I was pretty familiar with technical aspects of Open XML before taking this job, during these three weeks I've learned a whole lot about what is going on in the standardization process. It has been interesting and enlightening, particularly watching the opponents of Open XML do their thing.
So far, I've been pretty quiet, but I plan on blogging more now. Some of the cool projects that I have coming up are things like how to make really good use of custom schemas within Open XML. I'm also working on an article for OpenXmlDeveloper.org that debunks the myth that it is difficult to work with bitmasks in XSLT.
But before I dive into these technical projects, I want to tell why I took this job.
o First, and foremost, I took this job because standardizing Open XML is the Right Thing To Do. Having this be an open standard will benefit the entire world. It is a great standard. The markup is easy to use - I can vouch for this because I have read a good portion of the spec, and written a whole pile of programs that use Open XML.
o In addition, I have joined a great team of dedicated people who are committed to meeting the needs of our customers. This standard is what Microsoft's customers want. This standard is what many, many non-Microsoft customers want. I love working with people who are dedicated to doing what’s important.
I've been at Microsoft for only 2 1/2 years, and it is still amazing to me how focused we are on meeting customer needs. It is like a mantra. And as I am exposed to various groups within Microsoft, I see the same theme, over and over: Are you meeting the needs of your customers? How can you measure that? How can you improve? I personally attribute much of Microsoft's success to this culture!
Well, this is what our customers are asking for. When governments (who are also Microsoft's customers) pass legislation, they are expressing this need in the strongest terms. Really, and truly, Microsoft is simply responding to our customer's needs with Open XML.
This standard presents incredible market opportunities for third party developers and for open source advocates right now. In the past, I owned and ran (with lots of help) a small software business. I was accustomed to making business bets - identifying a need, and the spending the time, energy, and money to create products and services that filled the need. I have to tell you, if I were not so happy and engaged being an employee of Microsoft, I would be jumping all over this. Given that files stored in the Microsoft binary formats can be converted to Open XML with no loss of fidelity, there are orders of magnitude more documents that are accessible using Open XML than any other file format in the world. Period. I can think, off the top of my head, of at least a dozen compelling business opportunities. This is a new market, easy for people to enter, that will make a lot of money for a lot of people.
So will the world be better off when Open XML is an ISO standard?
In a word, yes.