Why open up?

I was over filming Mike Arcuri today. He’s a Group Program Manager over on Excel. He was showing me the new business intelligence features in Office 12.

You know, for those of you who say Office is dead it would be good to watch this video over and over when we get it up (it’ll be up in a few weeks). Office has a lot of kick left in it.

Huh? Last night I sat next to a director of finance and treasury for Starbucks while flying back from Oakland. He was using Excel to fiddle with numbers. He told me he loved Office and couldn’t live without it. He also told me that Starbucks opens five new coffee shops every day and chided me for working for a slow-growing company. Whew!

So, what does this have to do with opening Office up?

Well, Escamillo puts it pretty well: “Good. Now Microsoft Office must compete based on merit rather than file format compatibility and OpenOffice.org must compete based on merit rather than “use us because our format is open”.”

Oh, and Steve: have you watched the earlier video of what’s coming in Office 12? The guy from Starbucks hadn’t. Which explains just how big a challenge it is to get people to upgrade. Getting people to pay attention just isn’t easy. If it were the market would flip to new things every few years. Oh, and if it WERE easy we’d all have 60 million readers.

That doesn’t take away from what Steve’s saying. Attention IS important. Why? Because the attention system will either be siloed in the next 12 months or it’ll get built out.

Look at the decisions made in 1997 around instant messaging. IM clients are still siloed (although they are starting to be joined finally).

I sure hope attention doesn’t go the same way, although there are lots of pressures to silo that too.

Oh, just to make this post a little more confusing. Office is still going to sell like hotcakes because of Windows Workflow Foundation. That’s the new way that businesses are going to make themselves more efficient. The end points on such a system are all Office.

For those who are trying to figure out why Microsoft would make it possible to compete with Office, that’s where you gotta look. In all the Web 2.0 hype, you all missed this and there’s a big story here for enterprises and for developers.

Maybe we need to add AJAX to that so you’ll pay attention. :-)

The A list letting a newbie into the club? Nah!

Hey, David Newberger, what makes you think you can crash our little party?

Don’t worry David. I am still trying to figure out how to make it onto the A list myself. Getting on Digg is harder than getting on Slashdot!

By the way, David, keep it up. Your writing has been getting better with each post.

One thing: don’t chase us. That’s lame. Make us chase you! Show us how it’s done. Yeah, I think you have the fundamentals down, which is why I’m checking in on you, but have some fun at this. Oh, and who said we are successful? You’re only successful if you’re having fun. A good blog is authoritative and passionate. Follow your passions and everything else will fall in line. And, if it doesn’t? You’ll still be doing what you love.

Chris and Ponzi? A fight? Or great PR?

Geekstreak, in a post titled “Relationship Wars” wonders if Chris and Ponzi are having a fight on their blogs just to get attention.

Oh, no, I’ve seen this one winding up for a while. I TRIED to get Chris to go snorkeling, but sounds like he’s causing trouble while on vacation in Hawaii.

Hey, Chris, you should have listened to me! It’s not too late to save the trip. Get off of your computer. Go snorkeling (it’s worth the ear infection). And have a few of those drinks with the little umbrellas in them. Trust me, they are good! :-)

Are we shipping something tonight? Heheh.

The famous countdown clock by the main flagpole says “0” and “Xbox 360.” That must mean something is shipping today.

Oh, yes!

And they are waiting in lines at stores around the world (seriously, they are, we’re getting the reports as we speak — Bill Gates is rumored to make an appearance at the local Best Buy tonight). Anyway, is there a disturbance in the force? Well, when Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine and keeper of all things “Long Tail” you know something is wacky: “I never thought I’d say this, but by the standards in this industry Microsoft is actually looking relatively innovative.”

Anyway, I hope to start my countdown clock up again. How many posts can I get to without mentioning GYM again?

Microsoft standardizes Office formats – Jean Paoli interview

I just interviewed Jean Paoli, co-inventor of XML (he usually works a few doors down from my office in building 18, so we talk often). He has been bragging to me for days now about what we just announced 22 minutes ago (that Microsoft is going to standardize its Office document formats up).

Here’s Brian Jones’ blog entry on the announcement (he works on the Office team on file formats).

Here’s the announcement covered by ZDNet/CNET’s News.com.

Here’s the interview, which I did over email this morning (he’s in France working with the team there on this announcement):
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Q: Just what did we announce today?

Jean Paoli: Today is an incredible day that I have been waiting for over many years: we are offering the Office XML file format technology behind billions of documents to customers and the industry as an international standard. Together with Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel, NextPage, StatOil and Toshiba, we are co-sponsoring the submission to Ecma, the international standards body, of the Microsoft Office Open XML document formats. We will work together to standardize the formats for approval as an Ecma standard. Our intention is also to submit the result of the Ecma work to ISO for approval as an international standard. This is our press release and a few other documents we published on the subject (The official press release is here.)

Q: Are these formats really open?

Jean Paoli: Yes, and the Standardization process will make this even more clear as we work with the committee members. Ecma International is a very respected organization and is extremely serious about openness in the standards they create and support. The technical committee that will oversee it under Ecma International is open to anyone who is an Ecma member. By working with participating companies like Apple , Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel, NextPage, StatOil and Toshiba and other Ecma members who would want to participate, we hope to create an open standard that will enable customers, technology providers and developers around the globe to work with the Office Open XML formats without barriers, with or without Microsoft products.

Q: Do I need to sign, or agree to, any licensing agreements to use the formats?

Jean Paoli: No, for the specifications and in our work with Ecma International, we are offering a broad “covenant not to sue” to anyone who uses our formats. This is a new approach that continues our open and royalty-free approach. We think it will be broadly appealing to developers, including most open source developers. (by the way you did not have to sign anything even before this announcement.)

Q: How do I know that there isn’t some sort of hidden Microsoft agenda?

Jean Paoli: The only agenda is widespread support for the Office Open XML formats. It takes more than Microsoft to really win the trust of millions of customers for a standard technology.

You know I have always believed in the power of open formats and was really frustrated from the discussion that went on the Internet around our formats for the last 2 months. The data is always the property of the customer. It was our intent since the very beginning of our XML vision to have the maximum number of people to use XML in Office because the range of applications is so wide and universal. Documents could be integrated in so many processes, across platforms. But we wanted customers to be able to take advantage of the XML schemas they had already been developing and using, rather than pushing a new schema on them. That’s why we thought our support for custom defined schema was so critical – and now by submitting the new Office Open XML formats to Ecma International for standardization, we are providing a way for others to be able to take advantage of our support for custom defined schemas as well.

The only agenda we have is providing Office customers with the reassurance that they will be able to access their documents for generations to come. Microsoft Office will do well by expanding the use of Office in new ways. Customers and others in the industry will also benefit.

Working with Ecma to standardize the Office Open XML file formats means that the new international standard will be documented in great detail, making it an extremely stable file format. This stability delivers two main advantages: first, it enables the ability to archive billions of documents for millions of public and private-sector customers worldwide, and second, it enables partners to develop a wide set of tools and platforms, further fostering interoperability across office productivity applications and with line-of-business systems.

Q: Why is Microsoft doing this?

Jean Paoli: It is good for customers, good for the industry, and good for Microsoft. –and the formats are now mature enough to be able to do it via XML technology, without creating support problems, etc. Two years ago this month, we announced the creation of the Office 2003 Reference Schema program, where we provided documentation along with an open and royalty free license to enable companies throughout the industry to work with custom-defined schema our XML-based schemas for their own solutions. While the feedback we have been receiving on the Reference Schema program is rewardingly positive, some of our customers suggested that it might also be useful to submit the formats to a standards body, and we began to seriously think about this as we started working on Office “12,” and approach Ecma International about it this spring. By working with Ecma International as well as our fellow committee members, we hope to enable customers, technology providers, and developers around the globe to work with the formats without barriers, creating a broad ecosystem of products, applications and services that can work with the formats, whether they use Microsoft Office software or not.

Q: You must be happy today Jean?

Jean Paoli: I am extremely happy today. You know, for more than 20 years, I always believed that documents should be expressed in an open format so the data and content can be reused by anyone and any software, cross platform. Previously, the technology was not up to this challenge. Our Office XML format in 2003 was a great step, but this will be seen as a nice milestone, when the industry really received a big signal that our work was truly open for everyone to use. Today, is a great day for this vision . -Jean