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Mailbag: Microsoft and Standards, More

John writes that while new technology is great, backward compatibility is nothing to sneeze at:

I had a nightmare this past weekend. I dreamed that Office 2007 would not read all the old Microsoft Word documents. This was particularly terrifying, because I work at a courthouse and we have more than 10 years of historical and legal electronic documents from various Word versions that we may have to read and print. If the most recent version of Word won't do this, we will have to keep older systems and software versions for that purpose.

For 10 years, I have been telling people to move to a paper-less world, but the threat of unreadable electronic documents scares me. There has been a lot of noise in the past few years about electronic document standards. Microsoft seems resistant to the idea. The threat of having unreadable electronic documents in the public or private sector is very real and should scare people to think about standards. I have been using personal computers for almost 30 years and have many documents at home on hard-sectored 5 1/4-inch and 8-inch floppy disks. I suspect I may never see these documents again. Already, the 3 1/2-inch floppy is fading from use, but how many home computer users have photos and documents on such disks? New technology is great, but we must have a backward eye for both legal and personal reasons.

And Dave thinks that you can pan Apple's Newton all you want -- it still had a few things going for it:

In a recent article, you spoke about Apple's Newton as a big mistake, and rightly so. Even so, take a moment to reflect on what Apple got right. No matter what else Apple missed with Newton, one thing it got right was the form factor. Right now, it would be the ideal size to replace my ultra-Micro PC and my iPhone. In landscape mode, we could have a virtual keyboard that we could actually type on. In either mode, we would have a screen big enough for useful free-hand drawing. Don't get me started about how much better it would be for videos or the maps we use in navigation. Ideally, we could have it use cellular IP for everything, including phone and answering service. With the newer technologies used in producing the MacBook Air, we could have the whole package in a slim, light tablet. Wow.

In the world of personal computing, the future's so bright, you gotta wear shades.

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Posted by Doug Barney on September 09, 2008