Over the years, the anxiety about data being kept in proprietary formats has grown proportionally with the size of the archives. No longer able to keep a lid on these misgivings amongst many of their larger clients, Microsoft have decided to create an open standard to allay these concerns.
This has arisen primarily because of Microsoft's paranoid world view. The mature and well-established ODF (Open Document Format) has been developed and generally supported by Microsoft's arch enemies IBM, Sun et al, and is hence regarded as a poison chalice by Microsoft who prefer to have their own "Open" Standard. Once adopted, they intend to throw the full and substantial weight of their MS Office application behind OOXML, slyly embedding hidden proprietary time-bombs in it, as it is rolled out.
The success of OOXML is very much tied to the ongoing success of MS Office, and since this and just about everything in the MS stable has now been hog-tied to Vista, it transpires that to a large extent, the success of OOXML will be determined by the success of Vista.
Oh Dear! I have some bad news about Vista. Having finally tried the new flagship, I can announce, entirely from the benefit of personal experience that Vista truly "sucks". It sucks with a profound lack of quality and a murky, slimy and putrid depth of "suckieness" that I haven't encountered since Windows 95!
This poses a problem for Microsoft. As we all know quite well, the number of real life customers who actually walk up to a shop counter and lay out six crisp new fifty-dollar bills for a freshly shrink-wrapped copy of Vista could be counted on the fingers of one hand. The vast bulk of Vista "sales" are installed on new machines, rolled out by chain stores to customers, many of whom don't know much at all about computers. (Actually, if you wanted to, you could buy Vista quite cheaply these days -- since the new policy of discounting -- an ominous sign for such a "promising" new entry in the market).
The kindest thing anyone can do for this pathetic OS is put it out of it's misery quickly. And from anecdotal evidence that is exactly what is happening ... Users, who know how to, are replacing it with Windows XP ... Some of them using "hacked" (pirated) copies of XP, since they reason that they have already paid for Vista (indirectly as part of the total sale price) and it "sucks" so comprehensively --- why would they pay up again? Those that don't know how to, are paying someone else to replace this sad excuse for an OS with the more stable and much faster antecedent. (which can still be obtained legally as replacement).
So, the question remains ... just how many of these "sales" subsequently have the OS removed and replaced with XP? That is a very worrying issue for Microsoft.
The corporates are keeping their powder dry. For the time being they will sit on their installed base of XP and watch for proof of the success of Vista. But they won't maintain their vigil for much longer. I would estimate that the corporate sector will watch for another six to twelve months or so. After which, if there is still no signs of life, Vista will be pronounced "Dead On Arrival." It would be a pity to kiss off all those billions spent on advertising ... But it's hard to see where Vista can go without some semblance of an installed base.
I could mention the amount spent on development. But if Microsoft actually did any development, there does not seem to be any evidence in the finished product. There was lots of money spent on unnecessary frills and redesigning menus ... and strangely enough a great deal of effort was devoted to slowing the operating system down --- or so it seems, because the OS is certainly busy doing something ... but nothing that delivers any visible benefit to the user! And I am sure the budget was bigger than the combined GDP of several small countries -- but there is no evidence of improved quality in the merchandise as shipped.
Now I could be wrong. Computer users, world-wide, may be a flock of global sheep who, while occasionally bleating, but otherwise remaining passive, will allow themselves to be herded by the good shepherds from Redmond, into the huge, sucking maw of Vista. But I have to say that I would be surprised indeed if this product succeeds in the current market. Something this bad just can't be good -- I know that being "really, really, really bad" has been a great strategy for success, in the past, for some horror movies, novelty pop songs, country and western music of the "kick-me-in-the-face-cos-I-lurve-you" variety, and rap music of the "gangsta" variety -- but it doesn't work that way for computer operating systems. And what if? -- God forbid that it should ever come about! -- some of the flock stray outside the fence and discover Ubuntu?
Microsofties and Microserfs are still doing their best to reassure us that SP1 will solve problems and improve performance. And yet already Microsoft have announced that the life of XP will be extended -- there are even rumours of an imminent release of Windows 7! Such an event is so unlikely that there is speculation abound that Windows 7 will regress into re-badged XP (so that Microsoft can pretend that Vista never really happened?). But the only thing that might get Microsoft out of the hole they have dug for themselves would be if Windows 7 metamorphosed into re-badged BSD (no doubt shipped by a world wide web squadron of flying carrier pigs).
Is there a whiff of panic in the front lines?
We shall see.