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Why I Took This Job

Why I Took This Job

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I've been in my new job for three weeks as Technical Evangelist for Open XML. While I was pretty familiar with technical aspects of Open XML before taking this job, during these three weeks I've learned a whole lot about what is going on in the standardization process. It has been interesting and enlightening, particularly watching the opponents of Open XML do their thing.

 

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New blog: EricWhite.com/blog

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So far, I've been pretty quiet, but I plan on blogging more now. Some of the cool projects that I have coming up are things like how to make really good use of custom schemas within Open XML. I'm also working on an article for OpenXmlDeveloper.org that debunks the myth that it is difficult to work with bitmasks in XSLT.

 

But before I dive into these technical projects, I want to tell why I took this job.

 

o    First, and foremost, I took this job because standardizing Open XML is the Right Thing To Do. Having this be an open standard will benefit the entire world. It is a great standard. The markup is easy to use - I can vouch for this because I have read a good portion of the spec, and written a whole pile of programs that use Open XML.

 

o    In addition, I have joined a great team of dedicated people who are committed to meeting the needs of our customers. This standard is what Microsoft's customers want. This standard is what many, many non-Microsoft customers want. I love working with people who are dedicated to doing what’s important.

 

I've been at Microsoft for only 2 1/2 years, and it is still amazing to me how focused we are on meeting customer needs. It is like a mantra. And as I am exposed to various groups within Microsoft, I see the same theme, over and over: Are you meeting the needs of your customers? How can you measure that? How can you improve? I personally attribute much of Microsoft's success to this culture!

 

Well, this is what our customers are asking for. When governments (who are also Microsoft's customers) pass legislation, they are expressing this need in the strongest terms. Really, and truly, Microsoft is simply responding to our customer's needs with Open XML.

 

This standard presents incredible market opportunities for third party developers and for open source advocates right now. In the past, I owned and ran (with lots of help) a small software business. I was accustomed to making business bets - identifying a need, and the spending the time, energy, and money to create products and services that filled the need. I have to tell you, if I were not so happy and engaged being an employee of Microsoft, I would be jumping all over this. Given that files stored in the Microsoft binary formats can be converted to Open XML with no loss of fidelity, there are orders of magnitude more documents that are accessible using Open XML than any other file format in the world. Period. I can think, off the top of my head, of at least a dozen compelling business opportunities. This is a new market, easy for people to enter, that will make a lot of money for a lot of people.

 

So will the world be better off when Open XML is an ISO standard?

 

In a word, yes.

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  • I've been in my new job for three weeks as Technical Evangelist for Open XML. While I was pretty

  • I've been in my new job for three weeks as Technical Evangelist for Open XML. While I was pretty familiar

  • Positive mind (the one you have) is exactly what you must have to change the world, make things interesting and provide great products and services ! Keep this mantra and make meaning, this is the secret of the sucess : good luck for your new job !

  • "Well, this is what our customers are asking for. When governments (who are also Microsoft's customers) pass legislation, they are expressing this need in the strongest terms. Really, and truly, Microsoft is simply responding to our customer's needs with Open XML."

    This is as wrong as it may get. When governments decide they are heavily lobbied by Microsoft. You are passionate about "open standards"? So am I. And I am pretty annoyed that Microsoft lobbyists derail open standards regulations of our governments, pervert open standards with their own alternative definitions, with lobbyists and representatives that are an insult to professionals working in the field.

    Microsoft is a company in the ICT sector that strongly pushes against interoperability regulation while other market players got real.

  • Reasonable people can see things differently, but from my point of view, I see other corporate interests who are promoting their own agenda. I find it pretty disingenuous that people have been calling for Microsoft to open up file formats, and now when Microsoft does so, the same people complain. And if Microsoft partners who have an interest in this want to participate in the standards process, this is not a case of Microsoft co-opting the process. If it were not in their own self-interest, those partners would not participate. With respect to lobbying, Microsoft is not the only corporate interest who is lobbying. We all know who the participants in this battle really are. Open XML isn’t in the best interests of *some* other corporations. That doesn’t make it a bad idea.

    And, the TAC (Telematics between Administrations Committee, managed by the European Commission), specifically said "Therefore, it is recommended that ... Microsoft should consider the merits of submitting XML formats to an international standards body of their choice". (http://europa.eu.int/idabc/en/document/2592/5588)

    This sounds like a very strong request from a customer.

  • Reading Reed. my colleague Reed Shaffner has started blogging. This should be fun. Reed is the driving

  • Reading Reed. my colleague Reed Shaffner has started blogging. This should be fun. Reed is the driving

  • You can't say that the European Commission WANTS to use Open XML and WANTS it to get standardized. It rather rejected the format with an argument. Microsoft needs to offer much more when they want to succeed with their standard, i.e. to open up. Governments will play harder than in the past. It is a simple matter of procurement interests. It is clear that generally speaking ODF is the better tool to put Microsoft under open standard discipline. Simple competition and ODF provides more openness. Everyone is also well aware that a double standard would enable Microsoft to crush competitor formats by simple market power.

  • Hi Gerd,

    The problem with ODF is that it simply can't represent the corpus of existing documents faithfully. To augment that standard so that it is even adequate is years of work. Open XML is about standardizing access to people's existing documents.

    I find it interesting that self-serving people want to place obstacles in the path of people who want to use *their own* documents in a standardized format.

    To deny people access to their own documents in the name of "opening up" is the height of double-speak.

  • "people have been calling for Microsoft to open up file formats, and now when Microsoft does so"

    They wanted the Binary formats opened, not to get a new and incompatible format that requires a new development effort to deal with.

    "The problem with ODF is that it simply can't represent the corpus of existing documents faithfully. To augment that standard so that it is even adequate is years of work. Open XML is about standardizing access to people's existing documents.

    "I find it interesting that self-serving people want to place obstacles in the path of people who want to use *their own* documents in a standardized format.

    To deny people access to their own documents in the name of "opening up" is the height of double-speak."

    OK - what is "faithfully?" The new interface to Office is not faithful to the old. There is no guarantee that page breaks will end where they did or that diagrams and charts will be exactly the same.

    You did hit the nail on the head: MSO-XML is about standardizing on Microsoft products as the only way to access the existing documents, as the binary formats are not standardized and are not easily available outside of Microsoft.

    Were you as interested in self-serving people when suits were dispatched to Florida? An elected representative in the Florida state government made the outlandish suggestion that Open Source software should be investigated. www.linux.com/feature/61481

    Or www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2002/07/54141 Nothing like leaning on the president of a foreign country, eh?

    Work on getting all the old formats through ISO, giving a point of reference to see just how faithfully MSO-XML is to it. The binary formats -are- the foundation of MSO-XML, aren't they? Users should get to see what the foundations look like before trying to build on them.

  • Dave S.,

    What we heard from our customers is that they wanted an XML based format. XML APIs are becoming more and more sophisticated (LINQ to XML, Ruby XML apis, etc.) We really don't want to deny our customers the ability to use these great APIs when processing documents.

    Regarding the pagination of converted binary documents, this is the very reason for many of the famous compatibility settings, i.e. lineWraplikeWord6, autoSpaceLikeWord95, etc. One of our customers, a large oil and energy company, generates 20,000 documents *per day*, and have been doing so for years. They expressed the need for compatibility (specifically including pagination) in the strongest terms.

    Regarding the binary formats, the documentation for the binary formats has been available for some time. Further, in response to requests for even easier access to the binary formats, Microsoft has agreed to remove any intermediate steps necessary to get the documentation, and will post it and make it directly available for a direct download on the Microsoft web site.  Microsoft will also make the Binary Formats subject to its Open Specification Promise (see www.microsoft.com/interop/osp) by February 15, 2008.

    So, I think you are getting what you want!

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