Microsoft to Publishers: We’ll Do the Thinking For You

Not content with pandering to publishers by viciously attacking Google as a scofflaw, Microsoft is also insulting their intelligence by promoting Microsoft-proprietary Windows-Vista-centric solutions for digital publishing. New evidence just in of their unilateralist intentions: Microsoft has officially resigned their membership in the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF).
So what’s Microsoft’s beef with publishers and vendors coming together to establish open interoperable standards, unencumbered by patent minefields? Well, in the same AAP speech that attacked Google. Thomas Rubin dropped some hints (emphasis added):

We’ve also invested heavily in making the online reading experience richer and more engaging. One of my favorite examples is the collaboration between Microsoft and The New York Times to create the Times Reader. Times Reader is a technology that combines the readability and portability of the printed New York Times newspaper – the hardcopy, if you will – with the interactivity and immediacy of the Web … Several other news publishers, including Associated Newspapers, Forbes, and the Hearst Corporation, have recently begun rolling out similar digital reader applications based on Microsoft technologies, and the results are very impressive. Another innovation that’s a personal favorite of mine is the British Library’s “Turning The Pages 2.0” technology. It was recently launched in late January and is built on Microsoft’s .NET 3.0 engine which is integrated into Windows Vista

Since Microsoft has obviously set out on a path to unilaterally establish a digital publishing platform tied to their monopoly OS platform, why should they support open standards and an inclusive process that involves publishers as more than just passive recipients of the latest Microsoft technologies?
I’m a big fan of engaging experiences and liberating digital reading from browser and online-only limitations. But, doing this in a Windows-centric way is playing along with Microsoft’s monopolistic strategy. No criticism of the early adopting publishers intended: newspapers are in a fight for their lives and justifiably experimenting like mad to find a formula that works. But as this gets beyond the stage of experimentation, publishers should be looking for open standards that work across PC operating systems and devices, and that don’t create vendor lock-in.
And I trust that Microsoft will eventually revisit their strategy. Publishing is not the music business and an iTunes-esque single-vendor-lock-in approach is simply not going to be successful. The publishing community demands open, interoperable standards and while collaborative standards development can be painful, it is a necessary process. And the IDPF has been moving fast, with OCF (single-file container format) approved and OPS (a major revision to the XHTML-based OEBPS standard) nearing completion. Microsoft hasn’t actively participated in IDPF in several years but they are always welcome back. Hopefully they’ll be ready to share toys and play nice.