Tim Bray recommended that I check out the recording of an invitation-only event at Harvard's Berkman Center. The general topic was open standards, but the Massachusetts vs. Microsoft tussle over OpenDocument format was central to the discussion. Tim writes:
To help understand the context, there is this guy in the room from ACT who was pushing back pretty hard against the new Massachusetts policy. His arguments are lifted pretty well word for word from the Microsoft talking points, which was useful as the event might otherwise have been a love-in. [ongoing: Boston ODF Day]Yesterday was a nice day for a bike ride, so I transcoded the RealAudio to MP3 and headed out for a listen. The guy in the room turned out to have been Morgan Reed, public affairs VP for the Association of Competitive Technology (ACT), an organization that Groklaw thinks is a shill for Microsoft. In its recap of the event Groklaw writes:
Maybe they aren't a front for Microsoft. Maybe they just happen to agree on absolutely everything, and just happen to talk like each other too. [Groklaw: The Berkman Center's Video of the ODF Conference]
I won't even speculate on ACT's motives, because I know nothing about the organization or its history, but let's suppose for the sake of argument that Groklaw has correctly identified an unhealthy relationship between Microsoft and the ACT. If the Berkman Center's intent was indeed to avoid holding a love-in, why invite a proxy for Microsoft? Why not invite Microsoft itself, along with third parties (me, for example) who have studied Microsoft's use of XML?
From my perspective there's FUD coming from all sides of the debate. In fact, I myself have been accused of fudding in this column, by an email correspondent who wrote to explain to me:
A big part of the problem is that the MS-XML includes a binary portion that describes the formatting. The requirements to use their schema are WinXP, Office 12 and IE-6, until someone reverse-engineers their schema and works around the patent (DRM issues!). Theres a *really* good description of why this is bad at [link]That link points to recent (9/23/05) statement by OpenOffice.org's Gary Edwards who wrote, in a ZDNet comment thread:
From an interoperability - transformation perspective, MSXML fails miserably. Every MSXML file has a binary key in the header.
This puzzled me. I didn't think I'd ever seen such a binary key in an Office 11 XML document. So I created a document, did a Save As XML, and as expected, found nothing but clean and properly-namespaced XML. Dare Obasanjo's Myth of the Office XML Binary Key has more on this Snopes-worthy matter.
I've often been called a Microsoft bigot by open source advocates. And I've just as often been called an open source bigot by Microsoft sympathizers. So I believe I can say with reasonable impartiality that in this case, more diversity would have made the Berkman Center's ODF day better.
Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2005/10/31.html#a1331