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A Little Reader Feedback

Right here in the middle of the week, we're turning things over to you, the reader. That's right; it's Reader Feedback...Wednesday!

We start with Larry's comment on OOXML becoming an ISO standard (a topic that, incidentally, seems to have produced a record number of comments on the blog site). Larry says:

"I know we have 'independent standards bodies,' but maybe they need to take a new look at what it means to be standard. If any product has 90 percent market penetration, it is by definition a (de facto) standard. Microsoft should have never been put through the hoops they went through to get OOXML standardized by the non-standard (other than paper), no-market-penetration standard. This indicates that the (independent) standards bodies can be manipulated by other competitive entities to make a de facto standard a non-standard. How ironic."

Larry, we're with you on this one. The interesting thing about OOXML's victory (subject to lots of challenges) is that it shows Microsoft's prowess in the industry. The fact is, though, that Microsoft document formats have been standards for a long time because they're what people actually use. OOXML's win is kind of like Microsoft dunking on an opponent rather than going for a layup -- not entirely necessary, but a nice little statement all the same.

And then there's the sad story of Avistar, a cautionary tale of Microsoft's darker tendencies. However, says Pat, this story, like any other, has more than one side:

"I would suggest that you might be a bit more careful before taking sides. I'm the CEO of a small company that peers networks and has tools for managing video conferencing. We have known, talked to and tried to work with Avistar for the last four years and have watched as they played the same game with Polycom, RADVision and Tandberg.

"From a product perspective, they were outdated, inefficient and lacked a lot of what was needed, but going after and threatening companies for payment was their prime revenue stream.

"I say hats off to Microsoft for not taking the BS [BS meaning 'boring stuff,' of course. Hey, it's a family newsletter. --L.P.] they were dishing out. They were weak because they sold almost nothing; they were not industry-compliant, had strange views on what the world really needed and simply missed the mark and felt that threatening all in the industry was a great path.

"Well, in life, be careful what you wish for. Live by the sword, die by the sword. They might have finally met a company that did not want to be blackmailed."

Interesting! We'll be looking further into this, and we can certainly understand Pat's perspective. However, we're still disturbed that Microsoft would use its position of power to apparently put a smaller, struggling company out of business and steal its stuff. We're not saying that Avistar's a babe in the woods here, only that two wrongs don't make a right and that Microsoft still comes off as a big bully in this case.

Thanks to Larry and Pat for their contributions. Have a deeply held grievance or a word of praise for anything you've read in RCPU? Send it to [email protected]. (And don't stop commenting on stories on the blog site, either. Keep the banter going. We love that activity, even if your editor, unfortunately, reads comments but rarely has time to join in the fun. We're jacks of all trades here, after all, and there's still a magazine to produce. There are no full-time bloggers in this neck of the woods.)

Posted by Lee Pender on April 09, 2008


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