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RE: [xml-dev] "Open XML" et al... Blech... Re: [xml-dev] Microsoft buys the Swedish vote on OOXML?


Lock-in occurs when feedback based on near neighbors becomes irreversible
leading to a natural monopoly.  The question is then whether or not prices
are optimum for the customers.  If they aren't, a competitor has an easy
time taking over niches where price breaks count.  Looking at the adoption
of some products, it is obvious that this tends to be the early adopters,
hobbyists, start ups, etc.   Outside of Microsoft's competitors who are
fueling this controversy, those and the venture capitalists who will benefit
in reducing MS dominance in any software area by their manipulation of the
start ups.

But government interference is not always the best possible outcome.
Copyrights aren't enforced and patents become a means of exclusion.  What
about the case where the government finances the start up then allows it to
obtain patents on information developed by open sources such as OASIS at the
point of market emergence?

Doesn't happen, Mike?

Yes it does.  Remember HumanML?  The OASIS initiative ran for several years.
It produced prototypes and drafts, but mainly it produced an open list with
a lot of research into emotion engines for simulators.  It was derided on
this list and elsewhere.   Yesterday this showed up in the trades:



Look at the dates at the end of that paper.  Note who financed it:  DARPA
and NPS.  DARPA is the same organization that set Mosaic in motion having
seen the work at the US Army and other companies such as EBT.  NPS is one of
the bigger sponsors of VRML/X3D where HumanML spawned.

The government is not a singular good force for business.  It manipulates
the market too just as IBM is doing this time.   It's a rough game.  MS
plays to win because when one looks around, so is everyone else.

There is no "natural" monopoly.  There is competition, winners, losers, and
that profoundly unnatural but shining example of fools who become tools not
by being unintelligent or untalented but unbelievably na´ve or worse, so
enchanted with their place in the priesthood they are more than willing to
entice the na´ve to offer up their work to knife and bleed for the gods of
open source.

Ayn Rand was right.


From: Michael Kay [mailto:mike@saxonica.com] 
> I'm unsure about a 'natural tendency' to converge on a single 
> software product, but individuals are often constrained by IT 
> policies. 

Ken, Everything you say about the history of how MS Office came to beat its
competitors is true, and it's an excellent analysis. But in other markets
you can be the dominant player with 30% of the market; with software
products such as Windows and Office, once you're in the lead or perceived as
being in the lead, there's a tendency for that 30% to become 90% because
even the people who prefer a different product find that it's easier to
follow the crowd rather than following their own preferences - and that's
all to do with interoperability of documents and transferability of skills.

It's true that the choice is sometimes at the corporate level and sometimes
at the personal level, but it amounts to the same thing: for every person
who chose MS Office because they liked it, there are four or five who use it
because it's easiest to use the same as everyone else. That's what's makes
it a natural monopoly, almost like public water supply. And in other areas
where there are natural monopolies, we don't allow the owner of that
monopoly to set arbitrary prices and make $40bn profits on $50bn of

Of course free enterprise is a good thing and governments shouldn't
interfere. But if governments didn't interfere then there wouldn't be any
copyright legislation and MS wouldn't be making any profit at all. MS are
wealthy because we, as citizens, have elected governments who have given MS
a license to print money. I'm not saying MS didn't make some good decisions
that led to them winning the jackpot - but the jackpot shouldn't be there to

Michael Kay


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