On The Road Again


Next week I will be on the road talking to editors, analysts, and leading thinkers in the industry around standards. Microsoft has a history of looking at standards through the exclusive filter of its products. In many ways this silo-ed approach has been effective on a product-by-product basis, but has not served us as well looking across all standards engagements.


There is no one kind of standard, nor one kind of standard setting organization. Industry-driven partnerships and special interest groups such as Univeral Plug and Play (UPnP) are very different from industry consortia (OASIS, W3C). More formal still are the national organizations such as (ANSI), and of course the most formalized of all are the “umbrella” orgs of ISO, IEC, and ITU. People refer to the work products of these groups (specifications – essentially documents that describe a technology) as “standards,” yet each body has its own twist on submission process, membership, voting rights, working group participation, intellectual property policies…the list goes on.


Microsoft participates in >450 standards bodies and working groups year after year. Depending on the product group we are more deeply involved in standards than in others. Our networking, media, hardware, mobile devices, server applications…all have teams focused on standards engagements. We support thousands of standards throughout our products.


Yet, our primary focus is on building unique value in the products. So, the question becomes one of the role of standards. How narrow should their focus be? Where are the lines to be drawn on required elements, optional functions, and outright unique creations beyond the specification? Customers do not want vanilla software. They want solutions to their problems and they want systems to be able to communicate effectively. It may be that effective translation is more important that uniform functionality.


So, as I head out on the road I want to keep my ears open for input as to how you think we should be doing things in the standards arena. Feel free to post comments here – I will most certainly be taking careful notes this week.


Comments (3)

  1. Nektar says:

    To many people Microsoft has a very negative image around standards. To many in the software world Microsoft is seen as the company that takes but does not give. The company that takes advantage of good ideas in standards but extends them only in order to make its products better and does not give anything back from their own innovations to the standards bodies. Microsoft has the image of a company that will find excuses in order to make its products incompatible with standards, whilst at the same time using standards participation to its advantage.

    Generally, Microsoft has the image of a company that does not like doing anything with standards unless it will give it direct advantage or economic opportunity. The company that does nothing in order to help the community. The same goes with its open/shared source effords.

    A recent example of failure is the one with SenderId. Everyone has yet to understand why the SenderId efford failed. A Microsoft licensing issue (patent) it seems. But if might have been better if Microsoft had tried more and in a more giving way?

  2. jasonmatusow says:

    Nektar – thanks for the direct feedback. Companies participate in standards to provide a more favorable environment for the products they seek to ship. That said, there is no question we have room for improvement in how we engage in standards.

    We are rethinking our approach to standards. The fact is, our standards engagments have tended to follow the more silo-ed model of our product groups. We are building an internal community to more effectively reach across product teams and to build more tribal knowlege regarding standards. In this way, we can be more directed in our choice of engagmenets and are more likely to particpate in overall constructive fashion. This is – of course – the intent of our work. The results of the work may take some time to play out.

    Thanks again,

    Jason

  3. Mike says:

    "Companies participate in standards to provide a more favorable environment for the products they seek to ship."

    I call bullshit.

    The reason companies and individuals participate in creating standards is not to screw eachother over, but to collectively create the best possible platform to continue to build upon. For everyone!

    From your own words: Microsoft only participate to build benefits for itself. I extrapolate and state the obvious: at the expense of every other directly or indirectly involved or affected being on the planet.

    If Microsoft really is about to change and become more cooperative it has probably an order or five of magnitude more to present to prove that point than any new company would have to – because Microsoft has the documented history of breaking laws, screwing everyone they can over, and basically behave as bad as anyone can without being thrown off the planet.

    I, and I’m sure *EVERYONE* else, would really appreciate a Microsoft where cooperation with standards organizations and keeping the "fights" to Quality Of Implementation. You mentioning "tribal" seems more like you’re still in the thinking of tribal warfare and "killing" competitions by any other means available THAN superior quality of implementation (of a standard).

    I’d say a snoballs chance in hell is greater than anything of this happening.