Will Linux Benefit from Microsoft's SNAFU in Massachusetts?

by Tom Adelstein

David Berlind over at ZDNet wrote a remarkable article called Did Microsoft send the wrong guy to Massachusetts' ODF hearing?. If you missed this article, you'll have missed the equivalent of what Intel's Andy Grove called an inflection point. This one has the potential to have more impact than the release of the first Pentium processor.

David believes that Microsoft should have sent Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer to the hearing. In light of the continuing anti-trust litigation between Microsoft and the Commonwealth, one has to wonder if either Microsoft executive would have been appropriate.

Shortly after the announcement of the Commonwealth's decision to require the Open Document Format for all state agencies, Australia compelled its entire government to adopt the same. One only has to wonder who else will follow. I would expect all countries across the global to break Redmond's de facto standard.

How does this hurt Microsoft?

Consider it the equivalent of the breakup of a monopoly. What the US Justice Department did not do in court, Massachusetts did in practice. The value of Microsoft Office just fell drastically. Think of the tide retracting from the beach way back into the ocean. If you don't know what that means, then I suggest you run as fast as you can away from the beach and head to high ground immediately.

If I ran Corel, Word Perfect Office Suite would have a patch that made it ODF compatible immediately. Sun Microsystems already released their Star office 8 product with ODF early and expect a few others to follow suit. If you don't like Microsoft's Office productivity suite, you probably won't like their desktop either. It costs too much.

A Different World, Mr. Gates

Today, IT infrastructures stretch beyond the firewall. Vendors and supply chain management touch one end of the value chain, and customers and business partners touch the other end. The regulatory environment touches your infrastructure because of requirements stipulated in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Sarbanes Oxley, DoD 5015.2, Patriot Act, Employee Retirement and Income Security Act, Consumer Product Safety Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, SEC Rule 17a-4, NASD 3010 and 3110 and much case law, to mention only the main ones.

The regulatory environment alone demands resources we did not consider necessary five years ago. Now, even small-to-medium size businesses have to make investments in storage area networks (SANS), back-up facilities and redundant architectures. Requirements for open standards and application security can bring heavy fines and penalties for non-compliance. In February of this year, the SEC levied fines totaling $2.1 million against J.P. Morgan Securities for failing to produce all of the e-mail requested during an inquiry.

The search for an enduring document format led OASIS to invent ODF. Thirty years from now and under current laws and regulations, you just might have to retrieve a document from an archived data warehouse. Massachusetts wanted, no demanded, that ability immediately. Microsoft did not comply.

What About Linux?

Massachusetts plans to roll out Openoffice.org's Productivity Suite to its existing Windows platforms. But as many people understand, Linux has the better desktop environment for Openoffice.org and its cousin Star Office 8. Corel once ported the Wordperfect Office Suite to Linux and can do that again.

When one considers the need to cut IT costs in states, commonwealths and countries, then Linux starts to look even more attractive. Unbundled, Windows doesn't look as good as Linux distributions which come with Openoffice.org as part and parcel of the operating system.

Some Final Thoughts

Microsoft has essentially alienated the rest of the IT industry. I can't remember a single company that had so many people working in harmony against it, including IBM at the height of its arrogance. The Java Community Process provides just one example of an industry working again a company.

With all the pressure aagainst Microsoft, the levees had to experience a breach at some point. On September 23rd, I believe the levee broke. Only time will prove us right or wrong.

Respectfully submitted


2005-09-28 16:43:40
Microsoft stall the evolution
With Microsoft we still at the level of talking about word processor in computing. I say that long time ago:-)
2005-09-28 18:42:52
Corel is a member of OASIS...
...so hopefully they have a patch ready for their current suite and will make ODF the default in their next suite.
2005-09-28 19:56:19
OASIS did not invent ODF
I think it is very misleading to say that OASIS "invented" ODF. I
don't think OASIS as an organization deserves much credit (or any
credit, actually) for ODF. OASIS just happened to have the good
fortune of being chosen by the people behind the actual design of
ODF as a convenient place to work on developing the specification
for it. In much the same way that the people behind designing
RELAX NG (James Clark and MURATA Makoto) chose OASIS to work on
the spec for it.

Unfortunately, there is a deep amount of cluelessness and poor
decision making within the leadership and staff at OASIS -- so
much so that it often hinders the work of committees trying to
develop specifications there.

Anyway, IMHO, the credit for ODF should go almost completely to
the members of the OpenDocument TC, particularly to the TC chair,
Michael Brauer. And perhaps to Sun, who (I think) has been
subsidizing a large part of the work.

Credit if any should go to OASIS only to the degree to which they
stayed out of the way and let the OpenDocument TC do its work.

2005-09-28 21:19:41
OASIS did not invent ODF
Good points and well stated.
2005-09-29 21:12:45
"Shortly after the announcement of the Commonwealth's decision to require the Open Document Format for all state agencies, Australia compelled its entire government to adopt the same."

Do you have a reference for this? The nearest reference I can find is the decision of the Australian National Archive to use ODF. This is far from 'Australia compelled its entire government to adopt the same.' This is more like the Library of Congress saying they will use ODF, not the entire US Government.

2005-09-30 23:03:12
That does not metter so much any more
If the Munich municipality turn to Linux was to be act one of turning down M$ dominance this could be the begining of the act two. At the presentation layer.

Predator economy, not introduced but very well played by all migty M$, has its shortcomings. There are dumb monopols and smart ones (dumb ones maximize the profit - smart ones maximize the production level). The historical milestone for M$ to turn anything in favour of its survival is long gone and might be roughly estimated at first browser war times. Steve Balmer once compared Linux to comunism. Oh how he was right. He missed one simple point though - it is marxism in fact and not vrey deep inside in Marx political economy one can find two things possibly relevant to the point. The first one is that only labour (not the capital) creates new value. The second, and possibly more relevant one for the matter, is that incorporated in Marx philosophy is Hegel who proved that each an every one system is self destructive in its essence.

Have no fear ya Americans - destructivness is yet long to come to you. As the nation (system) based on sucking in the progresive minds historicaly (with Internet there is no need anymore to bother with Immigration office for the reason) the M$ already is just a done episode on evolution axis.

2005-10-02 19:03:24
2005-10-02 19:06:10
That does not metter so much any more
What a poor excuse for a comment: Political propaganda. How boorish.