Sunday, October 26, 2003

XML as a controlling medium 

One criticism of MS Word is that proprietary format changes are arbitrary introduced to require customers to purchase expensive upgrades with little added value. Others complained of feature blot where new features were added, but that were of little value to the vast majority of users. The ultimate expression of this policy was an attempt to move to a subscription policy where you were required to pay, even if MS added no value to the product. The counter argument is that while each user uses only a small set of features, each user uses a different set of features, resulting in the value of a product that can be used by everyone to do anything. In the new release of Word, there doesn't seem to be any new user features, but there seems to be a sea change in the possibilities now open to developers using MS Word as a new kind of application client. Previously, this kind of integration was not possible, because of the need to keep free riders from copying MS technology and stealing the market. Now that it has established a stable monopoly, it can provide open formats to allow a new level of integration without worrying about competition. Here XML provides the medium of interaction and integration . This relates to the idea of aspect systems, which if they use different resources, can co-evolve without competition. Aspects represent a functional invariance across subsystems. An aspect system that represents the possible interactions between the agents is a medium. Aspects that represent the aggregate properties of a system are referred to as the collective. The original COM based architecture of MS constrains the collective of developers to be locked-in the MS products. The medium of XML becomes a conflict mediator between different types of developers including java, SUN, IBM, Oracle etc. MS has tried to compensate for this by introducing its own developer tools for working with MS Office.

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