decoration decoration

When you want to know more...
For layout only
Site Map
About Groklaw
Legal Research
ApplevSamsung p.2
Cast: Lawyers
Comes v. MS
Gordon v MS
IV v. Google
Legal Docs
MS Litigations
News Picks
Novell v. MS
Novell-MS Deal
OOXML Appeals
Quote Database
Red Hat v SCO
Salus Book
SCEA v Hotz
SCO Appeals
SCO Bankruptcy
SCO Financials
SCO Overview
SCO v Novell
Sean Daly
Software Patents
Switch to Linux
Unix Books


Groklaw Gear

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

You won't find me on Facebook


Donate Paypal

No Legal Advice

The information on Groklaw is not intended to constitute legal advice. While Mark is a lawyer and he has asked other lawyers and law students to contribute articles, all of these articles are offered to help educate, not to provide specific legal advice. They are not your lawyers.

Here's Groklaw's comments policy.

What's New

No new stories

COMMENTS last 48 hrs
No new comments


hosted by ibiblio

On servers donated to ibiblio by AMD.

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 11:22 AM EDT

Microsoft appears to be floating a balloon to see what the reaction will be. Andy Updegrove has blogged that the company's position now is maybe they'll support OpenDocument Format if there is enough customer demand:
It seems that "wait and see" is still Microsoft's stated policy, meaning that it is keeping a back door open to the possibility of supporting OpenDocument in the future.

Where do I get that? Nick Tsilas, a Senior Attorney at Microsoft I know, corrected me on this, emailing me about ten days ago as follows:

Andy, this is not accurate. I think what we have said is that features are dictated by customer demand and, until the Massachusetts-related activity occurred, Open Document was not even on our radar screens.

I later got back to Nick, and asked him whether he could confirm that this is current Microsoft policy. In an email on which he copied Microsoft General Manager of Information Worker Business Strategy (I had earlier interviewed Alan in connection with the article), Nick replied:

Yes-- I can confirm that the [above] is the company position. For us this has been, and will continue to be a matter of evaluating the flow of customer requirements, and this is a new issue. For example, while the timing may be suspect to some, our pdf development was the result of evaluating customer requirements.

So there is no line drawn in the sand, nor (to put it another way) has Microsoft painted itself into a corner. If OpenDocument picks up steam, a back door for support is ajar.

I am glad to see some progress, and I will applaud if Microsoft decides to do a 180 and support OpenDocument Format after all, subject only to a revision of emotion if their support turns out not to work well on purpose.

There is some misinformation in the blog entry, which is surprising since Updegrove is legal counsel for OASIS. The newly formed Open Document Fellowship was not formed by OASIS or any company, to my understanding. It's individuals, and it's growing like hot cakes, by the way, in case Microsoft wishes to know how people feel.

Here's how they feel: they want easy interoperability, they want clean XML, they want to be able to access documents 100 years from now without having to depend on Microsoft or any company, and they want Microsoft and FOSS to get along, and that means license terms that don't exile the GPL.


Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF | 229 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
OT goes here.
Authored by: Waterman on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 11:34 AM EDT
You know the drill.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 11:35 AM EDT
Of course they will support it. Like they ever had any choice.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections (if any)
Authored by: nsomos on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 11:35 AM EDT
The canonical non-anonymous corrections thread

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 12:03 PM EDT
In a way i have feared they would get in too soon, I hope the ODF guys are ready

for a really bad implementation.

I predict when Microsoft does implement ODF it will be a very poor job of it.
Hopefully the ecosystem can get strong enough before Microsoft shows up to
screw up the standard.

[ Reply to This | # ]

We should say maybe to Microsoft
Authored by: Chris Lingard on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 12:09 PM EDT

It was better when they said they would not support OpenDocument. Microsoft will only play if they can modify and extend, so that they can destroy any competition. That they will not supply what the customer wants is a damaging indictment of their business methods.

Will we see a future Microsoft system, with an embedded OpenDocument that is subtly different to the standards, and causes problems when stuff is imported or exported.

They claim:

For us this has been, and will continue to be a matter of evaluating the flow of customer requirements, and this is a new issue. For example, while the timing may be suspect to some, our pdf development was the result of evaluating customer requirements.

Since when have customer requirements been any concern or interest to Microsoft? A Microsoft system no longer belongs in the business world, they lack quality. A Microsoft system is not safe to connect to the Internet. The sooner Microsoft systems are recognised as only suitable for home use, to play games, the better.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF - easy solution
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 12:29 PM EDT
We can just hold a flame to Microsoft's feet if it's OpenDoc implementation is
poorly done or if it adds features not in the OpenDoc standard.

All we have to do is drop Microsoft's Office Product if it does not comply with

the OpenDoc standard.

The OpenDoc standard is just that - a standard. This makes it easy to judge if

someone has complied fully with the standard. And if you are not fully
compliant, you can't say you are compliant with OpenDoc.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Which Binary key?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 12:32 PM EDT
Some people say there is a "binary key" in MSXML, or as Gary Edwards
"That binary key holds a great deal of the information that we need about
the layout definitions of the Microsoft XML file format. We can do a
content-based transformation very well. Microsoft's content is in perfect XML
file format. Their styles, though, are locked up in that binary key. To make any
kind of exchange possible with Microsoft XML documents, we have to first figure
out how to cope with that binary key"

According to Brain Jones (MS employee), he claims there is no Binary Key:
I don't really know where the talk of a "binary key" is coming from. I
won't speculate whether that comes from lack of information or if it's just
malicious, but you can look at the formats yourself and you'll see that the
reports are 100% incorrect.

What is true?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 12:33 PM EDT
No one demands it.
Maybe some will pick/retain MS Office who wouldn't do it otherwise.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: Stumbles on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 12:35 PM EDT
And that's why I have gotten tired of the proprietary world and
switched to open source. There is in my mind a distinct difference
in how the two areas work and perceive things.

In the proprietary world, no matter the issue an individual may
have. Any change rests upon money. If only one user has an issue,
the likely hood of that person getting it fixed or added or whatever
the case maybe is slim to none. That is of course barring it being
something critical. In their eyes there has to be some critical mass
event horizon that has to be met before any action is taken.

In the open source world that event horizon is much less
pronounced and in some cases may not even exist. Instead, the
open source world looks at it mostly from a technical point of view.
One person can have a suggestion and the next thing you know
that is now incorporated.

The proprietary world likes to pontificate about it's ability to
innovate and other like adjectives. But the reality in my eyes are
they are more of a hindrance to such adjectives in that they move
so glacially slow, if at all.

Microsoft's pathetic argument about a lack of it's customer base
crying for interoperability is a complete and utter red Herring and
designed only to justify their unwillingness to cooperate. I find it
extremely hard to believe they have not heard their customer
based complain about such mundane things as incompatibilities
between one version of Office and the next. If Microsoft really was
concerned about such things they would have been fixed long ago.
Needless to say they would not currently be so obstinate about

You can tune a piano but you can't tune a fish.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Offoce ODF support depends on customer demand?
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 12:41 PM EDT
Well we have a customer (Massachusetts) demanding ODF. Let's see if Microsoft
really cares about customer demand. It hasn't so far, but then it has been
handed a monopoly on a plate prior to now, so why should it have cared? Now that
ODF has been adopted as a standard to ensure interoperability, there is a
choice. Microsoft can support it if it wants, but if it doesn't then who cares?
There are many other Office suites that support it.

Finally - freedom from enforced monopoly lock-in to one vendor/one vendor
controlled technology. God bless ODF!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: fxbushman on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 12:59 PM EDT
... until the Massachusetts-related activity occurred, Open Document was not even on our radar screens.

Oh, sure. They just now heard that some obscure group of geeks has proposed some sort of weird, inferior open standard. Yeah, I believe that.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Of course they will support it ....
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 01:18 PM EDT
just the way they support W3C web standards with IE. They will embrace, extend,
and cripple the standard.

With both IE and Office, they have roughly 95% of the market, and they will
implement the standard to their choosing. This is the Microsoft way.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Back-pedaling furiously...
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 01:21 PM EDT

If Microsoft was only waiting for customers to state a need for the Open Document format, how does one explain the call to arms that the Microsoft astroturf organizations raised? Massachusetts spoke. They stated their needs. Microsoft behaved incredibly badly in response to their stated needs. Microsoft customers might be more than a little miffed to have their requests for features met by such a PR campaign calling them names and questioning their decision for wanting or needed such a feature. Folks will put up with "How dare you tell us what you need!" for only so long.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 01:28 PM EDT
So what!

Last I heard Open Office runs just fine on Windows and it
does support Open Document Format.

If MS did decide to support Open Document Format and if MS
created documents crash and burn this is only another
reason to switch.

Think about it.

Open Office 2.0 is [or will be within a week] out [not the
beata or relice candidates but the next version].

This will be corrected and upgraded to a stable program
and integrated into the likes of SuSE, Red Hat, and
Mandriva by the spring release which will bring Linux
Desktop closer to being a complete substitute for MS.

The MS version of Open Office will be installable within 2
weeks and will be fullable stable by the spring of 2006.

At that point what does MS bring to the table except
monopoly, locked in programs, and high cost. At this point
one should expect that MS grip on world dominance will
start to slip. Slowely at first but faster and faster as
time progresses and people realize how thy are getting

MS sliding then raises a very instering situation as at
that point growth will cease, revenues will not be
increasing but decreasing, stock values will fall which
eventuall will lead to costs exceding revenue while
development cost score as MS attempts fruitabely to keep
up. Expected time frame for this will be 2 to 5 years plus
but MS crashing and burning is a given as the excess
profits of MS over priced products are rung out just like
an old ringer washing maching squezing water from washed

So the issue is not is MS going to support Open Document
Format but how much pain MS will suffer before it does.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How can MS just hear about ODF
Authored by: kawabago on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 01:36 PM EDT
When they were on the committee developing it from the beginning? Why were they
on the committee to develop an open format if there was no demand for it?

I hope MS does not support ODF because MS Office is a moat around Windows with a
difference. That moat keeps people in not out. ODF will drain that moat.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Considering Microsoft's record....
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 01:48 PM EDT
...both in quality of product and in anticompetitive business practices, would
it even be possible to tell if it's deliberate or accidental if they release a
broken implementation?
The poster formerly known as m(_ _)m

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 02:14 PM EDT
This is classic Microsoft technique to freeze the market. They are threatening
their existing customers with being left out of Microsoft's future

Microsoft will continue to consider and delay until they think the danger is
over. They have done the same thing many times. If they think they have to, they
will introduce a defective version of ODF which will only really work on Office
and they will blame everyone else. Unfortunately many of their customers will
believe them. If that happens I hope Sun or someone will sue them for another 2
billion. They may try to do this with PDF, if so I hope Adobe enforces their

When they were getting pressure for Unix versions they announced Unix versions
of IE and Foxpro, they delayed introduction and reduced features and when
predictably not may people bought they discontinued the products.

They have done something similar with the Mac version of Office, where they are
late and incompatible so Microsoft blames the customer for not buying a product
inferior to their main product, which is not necessarily the best product on the

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm curious
Authored by: overshoot on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 02:19 PM EDT
How much customer demand was there for previous MSOffice format changes,
including the two recent sorta-XML formats?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: Andrew Updegrove on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 02:58 PM EDT
Mea Culpa - I posted my entry after the first news stories came out about the
Open Document Fellowship, and before Carol Geyer issued a clarification on
behalf of OASIS. By the tim I saw Carol's statement, I had already forgotten
that I'd posted inaccurate information (I've now corrected it).

[ Reply to This | # ]

Did anyone actually experimented with Open XML
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 04:16 PM EDT
I am sure Brian Jones, having insight in the development, should know, I mean
giving wrong information about it, would surely backfire sooner or later.

Thing like images, in all honestly, are binary data, but should be disregarded
regarding "binary keys".

So the question is, did anyone experiment with the Open XML?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: blacklight on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 04:43 PM EDT
If I have it right, it took 100000 customer requests per month over the course of a full year to motivate Microsoft to get off their butts and implement PDF support? And Microsoft calls this "listening to the customers"? So Microsoft-speak for "listening to the customers" is everyone else's speak for "ignore the customers' requests"?

[ Reply to This | # ]

I can guarantee...
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 05:00 PM EDT
...that there is a version of MS Word already running in Redmond that fully
supports OpenDoc format. Implementing such a feature would have been
realatively very low expense for MS to do. Given my experience working for
several very large software development companies, we have always had people
developing software to do things like this (support possible future standards,
etc.) so that if and when these standards really came to be we could announce
immediately our support for the standard.

However, publicly disclosing this fact or publicly supporting OpenDoc is going
to be tough for MS. MS will see this as giving support to FOSS and thus
possibly leading to erosion of their customer base and thus large amounts of

The real question is what does MS consider sufficient "customer
demand"? Would it take several states? Would it take several large
corporate customers announcing that they will not only use OpenDoc but will also
be switching to OpenOffice? That is my guess. They will wait until some very
large existing customer says "You support OpenOffice or we will not
purchase licenses for MS Office." How large is large? My guess is that it
will have to be very large as this would put MS in an awkward position where MS
Word would have to compete feature for feature, dollar for dollar, with tons of
other word processors. There is no way that MS could compete in that

[ Reply to This | # ]

Too late!
Authored by: tiger99 on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 05:03 PM EDT
I think the Criminal Monopoly has shot themselves in both feet this time. Here is why:

Firstly, where marketing is concerned, timing is everything. A late product, even if technically superior, never succeeds, with one or two minor exceptions.

Secondly, large pieces of software need to be planned well ahead of time. Latehorn/Vista was a fine example of what Bill had, in his abysmal ignorange of good practice, always been doing, i.e adding, changing and removing features at far too late a stage in the program. Vista is only going to happen, and a year late, because Bill has now been removed from control of it. Office is likely a bigger piece of code than Vista (certainly if you compare any other OS, such as Linux, the kernel, GUI and essential utilities, to make it comparable to Windoze, to an office suite, the latter is at least as big. But of course few people procure a "bare" Linux, whereas everyone purchases a bare Windoze system, give or take Wordpad and such like minor utilities.) Now the same problem will apply, they are going to add a major feature at a very late stage. A very late, very bug-ridden disaster is guaranteed.

When you circumvent the proper development process, or don't have one to begin with, and significant software project fails, on time and on quality. No exceptions, no way, never. But there are a number of possible development methodologies, some applicable in a proprietary environment, and some to FOSS, with a lot of overlap, that can, if applied properly, result in a good final product, on time. But none of the methodologies that work allow major changes at a late stage.

This could be the thing that finally topples the Monopoly, the final application of the very methods, Bill's dumpster method, that has resulted in every one of their products so far being bug-ridden, unstable, insecure, bloated trash.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 06:01 PM EDT
Has anyone tried this:

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Uncle to ODF - Maybe
Authored by: webster on Sunday, October 16 2005 @ 09:48 PM EDT
M$ can't say they will support ODF because it will become popular and eliminate
their dear "lock-in" features. It will be hard to maintain a monopoly
with ODF.

ODF will force them to compete with price and features since all software will
be capable of producing ODF. Since many suites already have more features than
most people can use, ODF could cost M$ in market share and/or revenue. ODF is a
good thing, but M$ must fight it by hook or by crook.

The Massachusetts decision is the camel's nose in the tent. They must stomp it
out or suffer dearly. They ought to "hire" their opponents and
"invest" a few hundred million in politicians who could show their
appreciation with favorable legislation. Some one like Abramoff can tell them
what to do.

>>>>>>> LN 3.0 >>>>>>>>>

[ Reply to This | # ]

A reasonable next step: could MA say no to FAT and NTFS?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 17 2005 @ 06:18 PM EDT

One think I don't get is why this whole thing stops with office file formats. Isn't it also of interest to the state to insure that files in general are accessible in the distant future?>

Neither FAT not NTFS fill the bill. FAT because MS want's to assert patents against it, and NTFS because it is a closed, undocumented, and "secret" Microsoft "standard."

Since FAT and NTFS are all that windows has, with a little luck, couldn't that put Windows on the unapproved list?


[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft Says Maybe to ODF
Authored by: iraskygazer on Friday, October 21 2005 @ 03:00 AM EDT

I have a great example for the state of MA to show that their decision to go
with ODF is unquestionably correct.

I own a copy of "Office97 Unleashed" with a CD that came with the
book. There is a file called "Charts.xls" that Microsoft Office Excel
2002 can't open; a message box indicates there are too many errors in the file.
But Open Office 2.0 opens the file and accurately displays most of the graphs
and charts contained on the sheets within the entire spreadsheet.

This example shows how the open formats used within open source applications
can help to decode documents that can't be properly handled by the application
created by the company who created the original the format.

Here is a question that comes to mind when considering the fact that Open
Office 2.0 Spreadsheet was able to read the file but MS Office 2002 wasn't:

What does Microsoft have to gain by making future document handling
applications incompatible with its own older documents?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Groklaw © Copyright 2003-2013 Pamela Jones.
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners.
Comments are owned by the individual posters.

PJ's articles are licensed under a Creative Commons License. ( Details )