Microsoft: 'I Drink Your Milkshake'
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've almost certainly noticed Microsoft's
shift toward a more
, interoperable and standards-savvy approach to development technologies.
It's a trend that started with the release
of the .NET source code and promotion of XML-based
open file formats for Office, and recently culminated in the Feb. 21 "Interoperability
What's remarkable isn't that Microsoft is playing nicely with others; the company
has enjoyed a long history of fruitful partnerships, often with unexpected partners
like Apple, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems. Rather, it's the way that Microsoft
seems to be turning its vast and remarkable ecosystem toward the emerging threat
and opportunity posed by open source development and standards-based Web services.
You see, in the past, Microsoft would identify a key market opportunity or
threat and target it with a compelling offering. So Microsoft Excel was set
against Lotus 1-2-3, MSN was set against AOL and Internet Explorer competed
with Netscape Navigator.
But how does Microsoft compete against a movement? The rapidly growing web
of standards and open source solutions serving the enterprise poses a real danger
If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em. Then Beat 'Em.
Unable to simply set a product against this broad phenomenon, Microsoft instead
mirrors the actions of Daniel Plainview in the acclaimed movie There Will
Be Blood, and proposes to drain the momentum and revenue right out from
under the competition.
The Office Open XML (OOXML) file format is a case in point. Faced with an established
open source XML standard (OpenDocument Format) and the real possibility that
government and regulatory bodies might mandate a move off the proprietary binary
Office formats, Microsoft launched OOXML as an industry standard. More than
that, it's moved aggressively to deploy an ecosystem of partners, on display
at the recent Interoperability Lab in Cambridge, Mass., to surround ODF's position.
You can almost picture Daniel Day-Lewis describing his long straw as it reaches
across the room and saying, "I drink your milkshake. I drink it up!"
Just as Plainview surrounded a sought-for oil field and drained its wealth
right out from under the owner's deed, Microsoft is shifting the competition.
Instead of simply going head-to-head against ODF or Web services or competing
browser platforms, Redmond is going over, under, around and into the competition.
It's co-opting standards-making processes and adopting mature industry standards
even as it opens access to its once-hidden IP.
The good news for developers is that we can expect Microsoft to become increasingly
engaged with both open source- and industry standards-based projects and efforts.
We can expect to enjoy broader and deeper access to Microsoft IP than ever before.
And we can expect more partnerships like the PHP project with Zend Technologies
and the Mono and Moonlight projects with Novell. This is all welcome news.
But don't think for a moment that Microsoft isn't anxious to monetize or leverage
every precious ounce of IP it can muster.
In less than a week, we should learn the results of the long-running OOXML
standardization battle in the ISO. Win or lose, this is just the beginning.
Even without ISO imprimatur, Microsoft will make its file format spec a major
contender. It's breaking down the competitive value of ODF by opening its own
standard, by enabling an ecosystem of rich solutions around OOXML and by making
available the vast leverage of the Office and Windows platforms.
And Microsoft is working to apply this same model across the entire enterprise
Web space, from Web services to rich Internet application runtimes. To turn
an old phrase: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Then beat 'em.
What do you think of Microsoft's open and interoperable strategy? E-mail me
Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/25/2008 at 1:15 PM