On Competition

Some years ago, I played Quake competitively on a national level. Back then, I always preferred to set my character’s color to bright yellow. Some folks would choose brown or green in an effort to blend into their surroundings, but not me. I wanted you to see me coming. I was still going to kick your ass, and I wasn’t going to leave you any excuses.

I’m not sure I realized it before, but this pro-competitive spirit has really stuck with me. I don’t often find this attitude in business — but when I do, it’s like a breath of fresh air.

Take, for example, David Weiss’s recent comments about office-suite file-formats (David works in Microsoft’s Mac BU). You should read the whole post, but here’s an excerpt:

Once upon a time, it was decided that we needed to move to a more open file format. XML was the obvious choice. There were and are a lot of good reasons for opening up your file format. I’m not going to discuss these at length, but one of these in particular is that folks are not forced to use your application to both read and write files that others can use. This is a good thing.

Allowing anyone to read and write your file format is a bold move because it says in essence, “We don’t need a locked-down file format to compete. The format can be available for everyone, and we’ll compete on the ease of use and efficiency of our applications. We have what we think is the best interface for reading, creating and managing Office documents, but if someone has what they think is a better way to build Office documents, wonderful, we welcome it!”

When I read this, I realized why I like this kind of thing. This is yellow-shirt Quaking. Every time I see a business engaging in some anti-competitive behavior I think to myself: wimps!

Take contracts, for example. If your cell or DSL provider was really committed to superior service, they would not lock you in. Lock-in is cowardly.

Warranties, on the other hand, are brave. If your product comes with a lifetime warranty, you are making a bold statement about your faith in that product.

I’m going to keep looking for yellow-shirts. I bet there are a lot out there.


1 Response to “On Competition”

  1. 1 molo September 4, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    That might be nice if thats actually what they were doing. Instead it is an incomplete specification with semantics that say things like “this tag means to format this block like Word97 formats the block.” Then you realize that the Word97 formatting is not in the specification.. and that their patent sharing promise only covers what is in the specification. And don’t forget the name. “Mirosoft Office Open XML” was chosen deliberately to confuse people with “Open Office”.

    I’d be surprised if anyone besides MS ever makes a full implementation.


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