Microsoft, Standards and the Way Forward

There is an old joke that goes something like this: How many Microsoft engineers does it take to screw in a light bulb? None. They just define darkness as an industry standard. You can find this joke in many forms on the web.

There are two news items this week of note on the Microsoft / standards front.

First, Microsoft appears to have decided to seek an endorsement from the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) for its Office XML Reference Schema (the new file format for it’s Office productivity suite). This seems to be in response to efforts by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to use the OASIS-stewarded OpenDocument Format (ODF) as its standard. Why does this matter? Digital records management: many organizations are seeking ways to preserve documents over the longer term — and at the base of this are document standards. You can find excellent discussions of this move and its implications at ZDnet and Microsoft Watch.

Second, Microsoft has proposed extensions for RSS and OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language – an XML format for outlines that allows exchange of outline-structured information between applications running on different operating systems and environments). What are the implications for this? Think of being able to share items such as calendar entries across the web, between applications on different machines and potentially different software. Think back to Lotus Notes — at the heart of which was replication. The ability to replicate and synchronize information across the web will open a range of new applications and uses. Ray Ozzie will make his mark on Microsoft — as he did with Lotus. He is one of the industry’s luminaries, pioneers and leaders. This technology is worth tracking. Want to know more? Try this article on ZDnet.

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