Follow the Code: Microsoft and Open

The Register, certainly not the most pro-Microsoft web publication (note: sarcasm), today states: “Apple more closed than Microsoft”

Transitioning to Apple-bashing is a simple journalistic mechanism to attract eyeballs. I am going to ignore the anti-Apple sentiment.

The interesting statements are: “however, the Microsoft of today, while not totally reformed, is a lot more open and well behaved than it was, say, 10 years ago.”

One highlighted recent ‘negative’ on Microsoft is the OpenXML as an ISO specification.

Personally, I am a proponent of open file formats. Completely open specifications, no patent encumbrances, for all to implement read/write and change. It is very important that our descendants are able to read and write the digital files we are creating today. By publishing the file formats for our binary and XML out of Microsoft Office is an excellent start. ISO puts the format in the hands of the world.

Yesterday Microsoft released more toolkits for OpenXML support (including Java)and an OpenXML/ODF interop kits:

My advice is to not listen to the idle rhetoric of any vendor: watch the code and see what ships. That is the ultimate test.

Ray Ozzie: by Steven Levy


From Wired 16.12 “Ray Ozzie Wants to Push Microsoft Back Into Startup Mode”

“I think we’re going to take a lot of people by surprise” – Ray Ozzie, TechReady8

Steven witnessed Ray’s presentation at Microsoft’s internal TechReady8 conference: a rare treat for an outside journalist. What he saw was Ray Ozzie presenting at his finest.

Before joining Microsoft, I spoke to Mike Seyfang. One of my reasons for joining was to be a part of the Ray Ozzie smartness. In my first year inside the firewall, Ray Ozzie’s teams were very stealthy. Quiet.

At PDC late this year, Ray didn’t present quite as passionately (maybe not so scare the developer-centric audience) – but he started to publically show his vision for the future of computing.

Microsoft has moved from the “PC” centric model. This shift started with the hiring of Dave Cutler, one of the Digital architects of VAX/VMS. From his work at Microsoft came Windows NT. A server-grade operating system that arrived on mass consumer/business desktops 9 years later with Windows XP.

Windows NT, and its successors, did breed a family of robust server operating systems; and applications that moved Microsoft into the heart of the enterprise: the server room. This dramatically shifted Microsoft’s product strategy, and how it engaged with large organisations. No longer just the menacing PC on the desktop to an enterprise IT architecture, from soup to nuts. And the revenue followed.

In the midst of this shift from desktop to server room, Microsoft has seemed to ignore the Internet. standardised protocols, freedom of choice, open source, creative commons licensing, disruptive business models, loosely coupled applications. Microsoft only noticed when its enterprise-customer defensive wall was attacked. Like guerrilla attacks: the skirmishes were many, but the barbs were survivable. Revenue still flows.

Witness Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan (for the Greeks, British, USSR and Coalition) and Pictish-lands (for the Romans) : guerrilla warriors ultimately win.

Ray Ozzie is the navigator that is changing Microsoft’s course from within. The fleet of supertankers that is Microsoft cannot turn quickly: unless facing imminent death as Apple did in 1995/6, large organisations have a momentum that is difficult to unwind.

We are witnessing the same shift today with a move into the cloud. Simply put: the platform is a collection of loosely coupled devices connected by the internet. Not PCs on desks, nor servers in racks in every organisation around the world.

The IT company most effected by this change in platform is Microsoft.

Ozzie felt that after losing its antitrust case, Microsoft had tempered its bullying behavior. “This is a different company,” he now says. “It doesn’t feel evil; it doesn’t feel inconsistent with my core beliefs.”

The fleet is turning. Ozzie has navigating the direction. We’re off.

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