On not being evil

by Volker Weber

I saw a few people mention that some recruiter at Microsoft tried to hire Eric Raymond and what he replied. That may have been a funny story, but I found this part to be much more interesting:

I had my serious, constructive converstation with Microsoft last year, when a midlevel exec named Steven Walli took me out to dinner at OSCON 2004 and asked, in so many words, “How can we not be evil?” And I told him — open up your file formats (including Word and multimedia), support open technical standards instead of sabotaging them, license your patents under royalty-free, paperwork-free terms.

I believe Steve Walli went back to his bosses and told them that truth. He is no longer with Microsoft, and what little he’ll say about it hints that they canned him for trying to change their culture.

This didn’t surprise me. Microsoft’s profit margins require a monopoly lock on the market; thus, they’re stuck with being predatory evil bastards. The moment they stop being predatory evil bastards, their stock price will tank and their options pyramid will crash and it will be all over.

That being the case, negotiation is pointless. Microsoft is not reformable. Jeering at offers like this is actually the most constructive thing we can do.

Let's just wait how Microsoft answers to the decision of Massachusetts to require all software to support open standards. For Office that would be the OASIS OpenDocument format. It is a well established, rich format and it would be a piece of cake to write file filters to that standard and provide an option to set this format as the standard for all Office applications. Either that or Microsoft could try to bully.

Don't judge them by their words. Judge them by what they do.

Comments

http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/linuxunix/0,39020390,39216391,00.htm alreadys tells us Microsoft's answer:

/QUOTE

Yates [Alan Yates, Microsoft's general manager of Information Worker business strategy] reiterated the Microsoft does not intend to natively support the OpenDocument format, which he said was very specific to the OpenOffice.org 2.0 open source productivity suite.

Microsoft has since confirmed this view.

A Microsoft executive said last week, after the report was released, that Microsoft will not support OpenDocument in its next version of Office 12 as it believed the format to be inferior and said is not compatible with older versions of Office, , according to InformationWeek.

Alan Yates, general manager of Microsoft's Information Worker Business Strategy, told CRN last Friday that Office 12 would not support OpenDocument because "the Office 12 formats pay special attention to compatibility with older document versions, [and] other formats do not concern themselves with this important issue."

/UNQUOTE

But indeed, let's wait for the real action:
- Is Massachusetts really going to abandon / forbid / delete / burn all .DOC, .XLS, .PPT etc? Or is the open format just a 'preferred' format.
- Is Microsoft really *not* going to provide an export/import utility? Even not a buggy one? ;-)

To answer the last question: I think Microsoft will play the all-or-nothing game and will not provide an export/import utility.
And if no-one else supplies such a utility, Massachusetts' decision would also mean that Massachusetts would have to leave MS Office, which is not an easy thing for typical office workers...

BTW: I think Eric Kriss' decision is the only way to be free and avoid Microsoft's Patent FUD.
The first step would be to make sure your IT systems handle .DOC and Co in the same way they handle viruses: don't allow it inside your organisation and inform the sender about that policy.

Sander Jonkers, 2005-09-13

@Sander: OpenOffice does provide an import filter for MS Office, so Massachusetts is not really dependend on Microsoft to provide one. Also you can save Office 10 or 11 documents as XML and with massive wizzardry applied create OpenDocument out of it (a job designed for the likes of Michael Kay).
It is a very laudable move from Massachusetts and opens interesting proceedings.
:-) stw

Stephan H. Wissel, 2005-09-13

I see Microsoft coming to Massachusetts in a few weeks with a big honking bribe^H^H^H^H^Hdonation of Microsoft Office products for the entire state government. In the past they have successfully bought off school systems that were planning to switch platforms.

Michael LeRoux, 2005-09-13

@Stephan:

Yes, people like you and me, who read and post on vowe.net, are able to use OpenOffice and import/export MS-Office-formats. You and I can switch, if we haven't already.

However, *normal* users are already confused if an icon is in a different place, let alone if Office-macro's are involved.

Sander Jonkers, 2005-09-13

Sander,
I recently "converted" my mother in law — who worked the last years in her job with MS Office products on a strict user-level — to OpenOffice. She's getting better around with Ooo than with MSO, it seems from her recent comments…

Regards,
/k

Karsten W. Rohrbach, 2005-09-14

Yes, it's quite possible to "convert" mothers-in-law and wives to OpenOffice. I only had to educate my wife that she shouldn't send .XLS documents to friends running MS Office. ;-)

However, do we kwnow of any large-scale company / organisation that exclusively uses OpenOffice? Because that was my point: converting all Massachusetts government workers and IT to OpenOffice is quite some task. I believe even Munchen / Munich hasn't been able to do that (I'm not talking about the Linux migration, just the Office migration).

Sander Jonkers, 2005-09-15

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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