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   Washington Post column on Ballmer

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  • From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
  • To: xml-dev@xml.org
  • Date: Sun, 07 May 2000 10:38:01 +0100

In today's Washington Post, in an admiring column on Microsoft's CEO Steve
Ballmer (cf.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19908-2000May6.html), David
Ignatius writes:

  Ballmer hopes to build Microsoft's new identity partly around a 
  computing language known as XML. Invented several years ago by two 
  Microsoft technologists, it allows easy exchange of information among 
  different devices, across the Internet
  (Washington Post, May 7 2000, pB7).

Does this misrepresentation matter? It scares me. Until that point, I was
reading the article sympathetically, reflecting that Ballmer may actually
be seeking to change, for the better, the way Microsoft works with its
partners, competitors and customers, as Ignatius suggests. Then I come
across this, and wonder who believes it.

The troubling part is that, if Microsoft actually believes it invented this
technology, that implies that they regard it as something they can change
in spite of the commitments of the rest of us. (We, after all, share no
claim to it.) If this standard is corrupted (and I'm not so concerned about
the wars over schemas, as long as the syntax and low-level data models/APIs
stay cross-platform and application-independent), the evolution of the
Internet as an open medium will be set back indefinitely, and Microsoft
will have missed the chance of a lifetime--denying it to the rest of us
while doing so. They can corrupt the standard simply by assuring that "XML"
means different things to different developers, nullifying the W3C
specification that describes it and trademarks the name.

As for Ignatius--well, it's pathetic. Apparently he did no research to
balance Ballmer's spin. (Mr. Ignatius, XML is a "profile" or
sub-specification of an international standard for data formats that has
existed since the 1980's, and which Microsoft ignored all these years in
favor of locking its customers into its own software packages, such as
Word, Excel, etc. XML wasn't "invented" by any two people, although both
Sun and IBM could, for different reasons, claim credit more legitimately
than MS for its development. Some skeptics believe that Microsoft, having
ignored or abused standards in the past, now embraces this one as an
advance-guard move towards commandeering the Internet and locking us into
Explorer, Outlook etc.)

Wendell Piez
Shepherdstown, WV

Wendell Piez                            mailto:wapiez@mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc.                http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street                    Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
Suite 207                                          Phone: 301/315-9631
Rockville, MD  20850                                 Fax: 301/315-8285
  Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML

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