Analysis of IBM’s Intentions

If you haven't read this, it will be thought provoking at the very least. I've known Jonathan for a very long time and find this posting to be a good one.

 Read it here.



Comments (9)

  1. orcmid says:

    The problem is that this is a speculation based on a rational but unsubstantiated argument.   Although Jonathan is an articulate guy (and great photographer), I don’t think this adds anything in comparison to careful fact-checking, staying on the level, keep opening up, and getting the work done, the only way you will earn lasting creds for OOX, it seems to me.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for your doing that.  

    Speculating motives, however interpreted in economic and business-model postulations, is nothing better than what people do about Microsoft day in and day out.  Please don’t stoop to that level.

    I’m perfectly able to believe, as a simple illustration of speculation, that there is an echo chamber within IBM that simply goes ballistic and irrational over Microsoft, having never forgiven abandonment of OS/2 and, more than that, fostering the whirlwind that left the PS/2 grab as mere bleached bones in the sand.  Heck, they’re probably still resentful that they failed to lock up PC-DOS.  

    And, you know, they eventually do listen to customers (although getting out of the PC business probably adds a little tone-deafness to that).  I see repeated demonstrations that Microsoft listens to customers (and the market/industry) too, however reluctantly at times.

  2. orcmid says:

    Afterthought: All I meant by offering an alternative speculation is to point out that the behavior of IBMers in this contest is as easily explained as being personal and irrationally inconsistent with good business.  There might even be some idealism at play.  

    Of course, it can be personal at high levels (and hence particularly dangerous), but that wouldn’t be anything new in corporate and commercial (and political) and other competitive realms of life, would it?  

    This too shall pass.

  3. jasonmatusow says:

    Thanks for the comments Dennis.

    – Jason

  4. Wesley Parish says:

    I read until I came to the statement "However, the problem if you are in IT services business is that complexity is your friend. Any reduction in complexity dilutes the value you can offer to your customers. This, in my view, is why IBM seems to be so focused on preventing customers from having to right to choose between two open standards for their document formats."

    Now anyone who has studied even informally the history of railways knows the joy that the use of several different rail gauges brought to the customers.  They know to the tips of their tightly curled toes, just how much less complex it was for the customers to transfer manually from one railway company’s tracks and rolling stock to another to another company’s, just to get from one city to another.  They know just how complex it was to have the companies competing with each other on services like delivery times, delivery quality, timetables, etc, instead of competing on such vitally important matters such as which tracks went where.

    In other words, I don’t believe him, I think he’s seriously in error, and I can’t think of any major technical developments in the history of technology where complexity decreased as a result of having two opposing standards, instead of one.

    If you doubt me, just ask NASA about the benefits of the decreased complexity involved in using two measuring standards, the metric and the imperial.  Just throw in a few positive complimentary comments on Mars probes such as the Mars Climate Orbiter as well.

  5. jasonmatusow says:

    Hi Wesley –

    I think there are some very big differences in software and railways. There is no translation possible in between two guages of tracks. In software, the translation between to standards may be significantly easier.

    That said, multiple standards is one of those tough questions. There are many ISO standardized (never mind others) digital image formats. There are mutiple standards for document formats already (at the ISO and non-ISO levels), yet the world seems not to have come to a halt. There are many, many instances of multiple standards.

    I am not advocating multiple standards. I advocate for competition in the market for implementations. That has a funny way of sorting things out (OSI & TCP/IP). There are also times where standards fall short in specification, but are fine in implementation due to the work of those building the software. (x.500 for example)

    Public saftey etc. standards are a different story – I get that. But I have a hard time seeing either ODF or Open XML as a public saftey issue. Even with the lame argument of emergency service responders as I have seen some try to tie this current industry fracas to.

    I’m not quite sure why we aren’t all singing the praise of XML as the base standard, and then pleased to see the richness of choice as vendors implement it in many different ways.

    Anyway – good to hear from you as always.


  6. Wesley Parish says:

    Oh, I have no doubt, Jason, that two competing document standards won’t cause the world to grind to a halt; I also agree that it’s hardly a major public safety issue – unless for example, a public safety document is released in one format and the other format is used exclusively by the recipients and they have not a clue in the world about how to read it, and a tsunami, earthquake or some such disaster strikes either recipient or issuer.

    That said, the issue that Jonathan focused on, was the complexity of having only one standardized document file format, as opposed to the simplicity of having two standardized document file formats.  Ergo the sheer complexity of using solely metric as opposed to the utter simplicity of mixing metric and imperial. 😉

    As far as his claim that individual ODF implementations means that the standard will fragment – I regard the implementation as the reference implementation, and the other ones as secondary.  In relation to networking, the is like the BSD TCP/IP reference implementation and anybody else can either borrow or write their own – much as they did with TCP/IP.  How many times was TCP/IP independently reimplemented, and how many times did it fragment?  (I’ve used TCP/IP in at least two versions in various versions of MS Windows – 3.x-9x and NT-based – I’ve also used it on several *nix implementations – that’s immaterial, as long as they talk to each other.)  Jonathan doesn’t consider this question.

    As far as his claims about the ease of implementing MS OOXML goes, versus the difficulty of implementing ODF, it’s perhaps worth asking why it took a certain amount of pressuring both Port 25 and Brian Jones, to get the ActiveX controls functionality abstracted so that it could be reimplemented in a *nix environment.  And that’s only the tip of the iceberg – but Jonathan doesn’t seem to have considered *nix as a possible platform to implement MS OOXML on.  IBM’s probably thinking of WASCE running ODF natively on zOS and zVM running zLinux as a guest.  They probably don’t have the time to try to reimplement ActiveX themselves, and there’s probably company policy against it as well.

    In other words, I can’t take Jonathan seriously.

  7. W^L+ says:

    I think that analyzing intentions is, for Microsoft, a losing game.  There is little rational reason for attempting to make OOXML a standard, especially under the present "we want it free, but not really" licensing, unless one is a monopolist seeking to maintain control of the market.  Anyone who looks at intentions is bound to question why the company opposes a vendor-neutral, cross-platform standardized XML file format and tries to push in its place a standard that is tied to said vendor’s applications and operating systems.

    The records in the court case in Iowa show pretty convincingly that there is a long track record of using these kinds of things to suppress  competition and consumer choice.  Forgive me if I am not convinced that your corporate motives are altruistic here.  History seems to show that your concerns about "choice" relate to a choice of which Microsoft software someone purchases, not which software from any vendor.

    OOXML seems more a case of "not invented here" and monopoly-preservation than anything else.  Endless cries of "consumer choice" do not a consumer advocate make.

  8. jasonmatusow says:

    I have never asserted that our motives are altruistic. I’ve said it many, many times on this blog that our business plan has not deviated for a long time. We will build great software, and sell it. The things we do in response to customer needs, or to advance the state-of-the-art for software are all done within the context of our business plan. There is nothing hidden about that agenda.

    It was asked of us, by others (competitors, partners, customers, governments) to open up the doc formats for Office. We also had a strategic goal of moving our format to XML-based technology because we believe to be the optimal technology path moving forward.

    I have never understood why IBM and SUN get such a pass from the broader community on “openness.” They do legitimate work with the community – but it is absolutely not altruism. There is long-standing hyperbole around their motivations to “openness.”

    I think it is safe to say that you and I would intepret industry activities differently.

    Thanks for the comment.


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