Microsoft vs Standards: reacting “with jealousy and defensiveness”

I read an article with a good insight into Microsoft’s behavior:

Microsoft itself is an essentially developer culture, not an Apple consumer culture or an IBM enterprise culture. When it sees developers flocking to a new standard, it reacts with jealousy and defensiveness. I’m not thinking of Linux this time, but the reaction to Sun Microsystems’ Java. As the Internet grew in importance, Java seemed to be the right language at the right time. Microsoft reacted by changing Java on Windows to make it run better there, and, incidentally, to divide Java developers into those in the Windows camp and those outside it. Sun sued, because its Java license says if you adopt part of Java, you adopt all of it. That kept it a common standard on all platforms. Microsoft e-mail disclosed during the discovery phase of the trial that it had wanted to drive a wedge into the unified world of Java and gain ownership over part of it. Microsoft settled with Sun out of court for about $200 million. Later, Sun sued Microsoft for anticompetitive behavior in 2002 and as Sun fell on lean times, the two again settled out of court, this time for $1.9 billion. The lesson I drew from this experience was that Microsoft was on shaky legal ground when it did what it did with Java, but it couldn’t help itself. If there was something that developers wanted, then Microsoft needed to own it, or at least “own” the Windows developers devoted to it.

This is totally in line with what Microsoft did when it became clear that an XML-based office document format was going to be a new standard. Adobe controls PDF and Flash; Microsoft wants to replace them with their XPS and Silverlight.

Its further backed up by what Ballmer said back in October: “I would love to see all open source innovation happen on top of Windows”.

The big historical example of this of course is Internet Explorer, which failed to comply with web standards; even today, Sitepoint explicitly states: “In All Fairness … Internet Explorer Still Stinks”

with IE7 Microsoft made great strides in correcting the most glaring and painful issues that plagued developers in IE6. But the unavoidable truth revealed by this reference is that Internet Explorer is still miles behind the competition.

Now, unless you want the same future Microsoft does: where you are locked into their formats, you can do just a few simple things to avoid the traps Microsoft has laid:

If you’re stuck using Windows, try to avoid Vista; XP, while not great, is a better alternative.

If you’re stuck using Microsoft Office, use Sun’s ODF plugin to save your files in an open format.

Ditch IE for Firefox; there are literally (at least) an eighth of a billion people using it.

Use a media player like VLC.

If you can’t use Linux, can you use a Mac?

If you can dual-boot or use Linux use a non-Microsoft-approved distro.

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One Response to “Microsoft vs Standards: reacting “with jealousy and defensiveness””

  1. Web Browsers in the Internet Age « Limulus Says:

    […] Microsoft; in hoping to stop the exodus from IE to FF by adopting real standards to make it more developer friendly like Firefox, they have now lowered the bar for people to migrate from Windows to Mac OS […]

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