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The Way Forward -- Georg Greve Responds to Groklaw's Comments
Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 04:53 AM EST

Georg Greve found your comments on his article, "Novell's Danaergeschenk" on Open XML intriguing enough that he has written a response, "OpenXML wrap-up after D12K", and I thought the best way to let you know about it would be to reproduce it here, which, thanks to his choosing a Creative Commons license, I can freely do. I also thought it would be useful because he addresses the "now what?" question. Novell gives no sign of changing course, so what should the community's response be? I believe this quotation is a helpful starting off point:
"I once preached peaceful coexistence with Windows. You may laugh at my expense -- I deserve it."
Jean-Louis Gassée, former CEO, BeOS

As you know, the now defunct BeOS was one of the nine examples used in the opening statement in the Iowa antitrust trial to illustrate Micorosoft's anticompetitive practices and how they affect the marketplace.

To my mind, the only answer that makes any sense is to insist that Microsoft support ODF, as it ought to do. It's an ISO standard. It works. There is support for it and demand for it. Pardon my simplicity, but why isn't Microsoft just supporting the ODF standard? Why should the world have to do things Microsoft's way, instead of Microsoft abiding by the standard everyone else was happy to agree on, a standard actually designed to make true interoperability achievable? I can't find anyone knowledgeable who thinks this Novell-Microsoft translator will work well. Steve Ballmer himself says it won't work 100 percent. So what exactly is the game?

An anonymous reader left this insightful comment earlier:

Recent discussion on ODF versus MS-OOXML has been based around the notion that these are two competing comparable formats. It is instructive however to look at what the actual objectives of the standards committees were.
ECMA TC45 - Office Open XML Formats
Programme of work:
To Produce a formal Standard for office productivity documents which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats This includes:
  • Produce a standard which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats, including full and comprehensive documentation of those formats in the style of an international standard, with particular attention given to enabling the implementation of the Office Open XML Formats by a wide set of tools and platforms in order to foster interoperability across office productivity applications and with line-of-business systems.

  • Produce a comprehensive set of W3C XML Schemas for the Office Open XML Formats, with particular attention given to self documentation of the schemas and testing of the XSDs for validation using a wide variety of XSD tools of the market and cross platform.

  • To contribute the Ecma Office Open XML Formats standards to ISO/IEC JTC 1 for approval and adoption by ISO and IEC.

Note the key phrase "produce a standard which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats" In other words, the objectives of the ECMA comity for Microsoft OOXML was simply to document the file format as used in Microsoft's new version of MS-Office.

By comparison, the objectives for ODF were:

OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) TC.
Statement of Purpose
The purpose of this TC is to create an open, XML-based file format specification for office applications.
The resulting file format must meet the following requirements:
  • it must be suitable for office documents containing text, spreadsheets, charts, and graphical documents,

  • it must be compatible with the W3C Extensible Markup Language (XML) v1.0 and W3C Namespaces in XML v1.0 specifications,

  • it must retain high-level information suitable for editing the document,

  • it must be friendly to transformations using XSLT or similar XML-based languages or tools,

  • it should keep the document's content and layout information separate such that they can be processed independently of each other, and

  • it should 'borrow' from similar, existing standards wherever possible and permitted.

In other words, the objective of ODF was to create an open format tied to no particular vendor's product, which is usable by everyone, and which is designed to work with other standards.

I think what this shows is that ODF and MS-OOXML are not intended to be equivalent to each other. MS-OOXML is the proprietary file format for a product Microsoft happens to be shipping today (or soon at least) and Microsoft is just doing what people have been asking them to do all along - documenting their file formats. ODF however is intended to be something much broader and more permanent than MS-OOXML. Another way of looking at it is that ODF is a document standard while MS-OOXML is a product brochure.

When people talk about ODF versus MS-OOXML, we should be clear that they are not comparable in their scope or in their objectives. Getting ECMA to rubber stamp someone's product literature doesn't make it a genuine industry standard. We should always clearly make a distinction between a genuine standard and a product specification and not let someone's marketing department obscure the difference between the two.

Make no mistake: the choice isn't between being able to interoperate with Microsoft, thanks to Novell doing interoperability work for them, or being stuck in some ODF ghetto, unable to read Microsoft documents. Everyone wants to interoperate. The question is how. The problem is Microsoft. The solution lies with Microsoft. They need to get with the program and follow standards like everyone else, instead of insisting the world bend to their ways.

It's not normal or acceptable that we can't all freely share documents with one another, no matter what operating system we like to use. We can send each other email, even if you are on Windows and I'm on Linux. Why isn't that the norm for everything? It ought to be. The bottleneck is Microsoft. FOSS software is happy to interoperate with any other software. Why won't Microsoft?

*********************************

OpenXML wrap-up after D12K
~ by Georg C. F. Greve, Free Software Foundation Europe

Publication of my article "Novells Danaergeschenk" on Groklaw.net has spurred quite some interesting reactions, like this interview with the Futurezone of the ORF, Austria's national public-service broadcaster, titled "Streit ums Dateiformat der Zukunft" ("Controversy about the file format of the future" -- sorry, German only). But there was also a very lively discussion on Groklaw with some very interesting and good comments, some of which I'd like to pick up and/or reply to.

Additional information

Many of the comments were focussed on exploring all the angles of the problems caused by and related to OpenXML, such as:

Fidelity of implementation

This comment points out that the article could also have highlighted a very common practical problem: Even if the specification is commonly known, the dominant player can easily introduce small incompatibilities that will break interoperability for competitors, strengthening the "Incompatibility is always the fault of the competitor" mechanism that I outlined in the article.

This is indeed quite common, and Microsoft's treatment of Kerberos is good evidence that such a behaviour can be expected for OpenXML. As this comment points out, Microsoft appears to have reserved the right to take legal action against competitors that implement the actual instead of the published specification. But that may not be the only legal angle. Since the OpenXML format contains DRM "functionalities," this comment fears there might be ways to bring up TRIPS/DMCA/EUCD-like legislation against reverse engineering of the true format.

I did not examine these issues in depth for two reasons: I wanted to keep the article as short and simple as possible and to keep it as OpenXML specific as possible. That being said, there is significant economic gain for the dominant player in "not quite" adhering to any standard, and few sanctions for such behaviour. Precisely for this reason establishing and maintaining Open Standards is so difficult.

In my view, this experience makes a strong point for mandating Free Software reference implementation(s) as one of the criteria for Open Standards in software, as I have also explained in my article "Sovereign Software" for the first UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF):

    The only way to prevent this sort of thing seems to add one more criterion to the definitions above: ''The standard must have at least one Free Software implementation and all implementations that seek to be compliant with the Open Standard must be regularly tested against the Free Software implementation(s), which act as the common reference base.''
    Because Free Software is, inter alia, defined by the freedom to study its implementation, this allows all players in the market to study the common reference base not only in specification language, but also in language, and regular tests against that base can help curb deviations from the Open Standard.
    Free Software also provides the freedoms of use, modification and distribution, therefore most vendors can also simply include that implementation in their own software, further reducing interoperability barriers.

More examples for wanting only one standard

As Groklaw reader Toby Thain points out in his comment, the internet itself could also have served as an example for why having more than one standard for any given purpose is harmful. This is quite true and you might want to keep this in mind for debates. In the article I avoided it deliberately, though, as I sought to use an example that was closer to daily life for non-technical people.

Doing the math on OpenXML

This comment on LWN.net points to a blog entry by Andrew Shebanow of Adobe, titled: Is Office Open XML A One-Way Standard? Ask Microsoft. Based on the article by Microsoft's Rick Schaut that explains why the Mac version of Microsoft Office will not support OpenXML until sometime next year, Andrew Shebanow does the math and comes to the conclusion that implementing OpenXML amounts to 150 work years.

In conclusion, Andrew Shebanow not only questions the economic viability, but also voices scepticism about the chances for a truly compatible implementation that maintains fidelity between the implementations of different vendors. So overall it seems that Rick Schaut has essentially confirmed the issues raised by IBM's Bob Sutor about OpenXML being a one-way standard for migration to Microsoft.

Principles of standardisation

Another insightful comment was this explanation by Diehl Martin about why Open Standards are important to break the vicious cycles of forced upgrades.

There were also some comments that are better described as related or follow-up articles, and very good ones at that. This anonymous article deals with standardisation on a more philosophical level, from the article:

    I don't, however, think that it's inappropriate to ask a vendor to change their software to comply with a standard. Do we seriously give MS Office the standing of a national language? The standing of English, or French, or Spanish, or Chinese, or Japanese? Do we really have no right, in the standards process, to ask Microsoft to change their software? Well, not so much change their software, but to implement the standard the other way around - for MS Office to implement the standard, not for the standard to implement MS Office, which is obviously why it's 4000+ pages, and getting bigger.

Difference to .doc import?

Related is also this comment that discusses how OpenXML (unlike ODF) has never been meant to be a universal document format. Putting OpenXML up against the Open Document Format is described as pure marketing spin, and referring to OpenXML only being incremental change to the old ".doc" and ".xls" formats.

The comment continues that importing an OpenXML file will be no different from importing ".doc" and ".xls" files into OpenOffice or some other program. In fact, I also received a few questions asking why I consider it a good thing for OpenOffice.org to support reading .doc files, while I disagree with the notion of adding OpenXML.

The answer is simple: The two questions have entirely different backgrounds and situations. Before there was an ISO standard universal document format, all applications had to try and support as many formats as possible, because this was the only way to achieve interoperability. And while there were some file formats that would have allowed better interoperability, e.g. the Rich-Text Format (RTF), they were not used by default by the dominating vendor. So writing import/export filters for OpenOffice.org was the only way to get a foot into the door, and has helped the technology field arrive at a truly universal Open Standard: Open Document Format (ODF).

Now an Open Standard exists, is ISO certified and supported by many different applications. It should be the only format used by governments and companies -- for all of the reasons outlined in the Groklaw article and this one. And while it is good to maintain support for legacy formats from the time when there was no standard, including ".doc," adding support for OpenXML only serves to help undercut the existing Open Standard by use of market power, technological tricks and political efforts.

Additional reading

Of course some comments also suggested additional reading, such as this comment, which references an article by Nicholas Petreley that is based on an Information Week article by Cory Doctorow, discussing the wider picture in which this debate is taking place.

Ways forward

Creating public discussion and awareness of a problem is often the first step in solving it, but it is not sufficient. In the comments there were several practical suggestions, which I'd like to support and encourage people to participate in.

Support Open Document Format (ODF)

As several people have pointed out, constructively supporting the use, spread, adoption and legislation for truly Open Standards, such as the Open Document Format (ODF), is one of the most useful things people can do. This includes using ODF yourself for cooperating online with others, as this LWN.net comment proposes.

Funny enough, all of this brings to mind RMS' essay We Can Put an End to Word Attachments of 2002, only that it would need updating to recommend the Open Document Format, boiling down to: I am very sorry, but I could not read your attachment because it was saved in a format that my office could not read. Could you please resend the document in the universal document format "Open Document Format" (ODF), the international ISO standard for document exchange?

Naturally the message should be adapted to the situation, recipient and context in order to have the right tone. If people feel attacked or criticised for having used the "wrong" format, such reminders may end up being counterproductive. But discarding the possibility of changing social habits is no less counterproductive, and ignores evidence to the contrary: Just ask all the people who are now sorting their garbage for recycling and compare that to the position they took 30 years ago.

Support ODF plugin for Microsoft Office?

Although it might seem strange to suggest that anyone should improve a Microsoft product, we should also consider the usefulness of improving the ODF plugin. Making it very easy for all users of Microsoft Office to interact via ODF would provide a major advantage for ODF over OpenXML.

Community comments to the ISO process

Another comment on Groklaw proposes to turn the incorporated denial of service attack that is OpenXML back on Microsoft by extensively commenting on each of the 6000 pages of specification during the review process prior to the ISO vote.

Preventing ISO acceptance of OpenXML could indeed be an important step, and while one might have sufficient confidence in the ISO process to work better than that of ECMA, some support on this side might be very helpful.

Linguistics

Finally, I was (for the most part positively) surprised by the interesting discussions that arose from my usage of the terms "Danaergeschenk" and "Salomonian," including Bob Sutor making Danaergeschenk the word of the day on his blog.

Danaergeschenk

Although I think some people might have taken this a little too seriously, there was some interesting discussion regarding my use of "Danaergeschenk" in my article.

Some people felt that I should have used "Trojan Horse", which is a common expression in both German and English, but that never really occured to me for various reasons. I checked this page for a translation of Danaergeschenk, and ruled out Trojan Horse for various reasons: The Trojan Horse wasn't Trojan, it was Greek, for which Danaer or "Danaos" is original Latin term. It also isn't common to return horses to the stores around christmas. And as some people right pointed out, the terms have different connotations and emphasis.

So after some consideration, I decided to go with "Danaergeschenk", even though I knew this was entirely unknown to English speakers, which is why it was briefly introduced in the beginning. Given that words like "Fahrvergnügen" made it into English, I thought this might prove to be a fun addition, even if people followed this advice and simply called it D12K.

Salomonian

As far as "Salomonian" is concerned, I did not expect it to be that difficult, as king Solomon is a very common reference in German. For those who'd still like to know how it was meant, I believe this comment explains it quite well.

I guess that usage of both these words are owed to my humanistic education, which had me study Latin for six years. My apologies to all who felt I subjected them to the pain of that education subsequently.


The author is initiator and president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and his personal blog is available at the Fellowship of FSFE.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

  


The Way Forward -- Georg Greve Responds to Groklaw's Comments | 293 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Correction here
Authored by: GATECH96 on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 05:15 AM EST
You know the drill, you know the thrill.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic here
Authored by: GATECH96 on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 05:19 AM EST
If you have 'em.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Recycle bin
Authored by: GATECH96 on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 05:27 AM EST
AKA trash can for unwanted stuff here, including but not
limited to Windows Vista, Office 2007,...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thank you for your comments
Authored by: RPN on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 05:49 AM EST
Thank you for your comments which I found interesting.

It's dumb in a way but I had not really thought about how to handle people
sending me documents to date. Leading on from that you can avoid some of the
'upset' if the document is invited by asking, politely, for it to be submitted
in an ISO approved standard like ODF up front. If you routinely get documents
sent in make it known you infinitely prefer the ISO standard of ODF. Sure some
will still thoughtlessly send you MS formats but it starts the process, it helps
emphasise there is an ISO standard out there etc. I shall be putting a little
note on my website next time I edit it even though few send me documents and
trying to remember to do so when I am 'inviting' documents in other ways. Simply
to make the point politely up front I have a prefered standard has value in
'spreading the word' there is one out there; even if many will ignore it.

Richard.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Two-Level "Standard" ?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 06:14 AM EST
To Produce a formal Standard for office productivity documents which is fully compatible with the Office Open XML Formats

The OOXML format is or will be a standard in the sense that it will be consistently used by MS's own software. It is quite common for large industries to have internal standards, often secretly held. In the past it was for example screw threads (eg Whitworth) and steels (eg Babcock and Wilcox's BW series). In this however they are careful to refer to OOXML as a "format", not as a "standard". If they said it was a standard, MS might be expected to clean it up (I gather it is an absolute mess) and put it entirely into the public domain. Instead, the proposed public standard is only to be "compatible" with MS's internal standard - the new standard only to be compatible with another new standard!

Why create two inter-related new standards? Clearly MS wants a two-level "standard" - a public one with basic inter-operability for the "poor relations" (users of Open Office or other rival's Word-Processors) and their own "superior" version with ever-changing bells and whistles for Word. This should leave enough incompatibility to cause a nuisance when exchanging documents and thus leave the "poor relations" getting flak for not using Word on Windows, and MS software perceived as leading the market.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Way Forward -- Georg Greve Responds to Groklaw's Comments
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 07:44 AM EST
"I am very sorry, but I could not read your attachment because it was saved
in a format that my office could not read. Could you please resend the document
in the universal document format "Open Document Format" (ODF), the
international ISO standard for document exchange?"

Then again, that's not very helpful for the sender, and just *might* project an
unprofessional image to the sender ("hmmm these people don't use MS Office
and all pros I know use MS Office... so they're probably not pros"), which
is exactly the kind of thinking MS hopes for.

We should also readily provide tools to ease this conversion. After all, the
sender probably will not have a clue
- what is this OpenDocment thing?
- how the hell do I get my Word file converted to it?

A simple, unobtrusive ODF filter (integrated with the "save as"
function) would do wonders. If it works right. However I don't see him/her
downloading 60MB OpenOffice just to convert his document to ODT.





[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Re-worded - Authored by: Alan(UK) on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 08:11 AM EST
    • Presumably this is what MS Mean when they say... - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 08:21 AM EST
    • re-imaged - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 12:11 PM EST
      • re-imaged - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 01:28 PM EST
      • re-imaged - Authored by: Alan(UK) on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 03:04 PM EST
        • re-imaged - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 09:23 PM EST
      • re-imaged - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 03:35 PM EST
      • re-imaged - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 04:35 PM EST
    • Re-worded - Authored by: grouch on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 05:52 PM EST
      • Re-worded - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 02:56 AM EST
      • Re-worded - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 05:02 AM EST
Problem and Solution are in the common way
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 08:11 AM EST
Here is nothing new or astonishing. The schema is always
the same, since thousands of years.

Everybody know that the devil and his representants here
want to be refered, rise to the side of God, or even
higher. One method for this is substitute the truth by
something 'similar'. What they dont can destroy, that
they corrupt and take over.

However, sense of this is, to separe, to bring forewards
some and to let behind other, and this separation is
extremly strong and effective: the logics as a part of the
creation put that any chain is only so strong like its
weakest member.

Everybody for heself must stay awake, observe, decide to
do the correct, and even resist to the wrong.

Its the domain of the devil everything what's generical
(such, as, rules; things which exists abstractly and can
be multiplied without big efforts), however being
imperfect - not truely 'existing' - it needs to
incoorporate anywhere and dominate that, in so much copies
as possible. This includes any deal with abstracte
things, and people specialized on this rule appearently
this world.

However, that imperfectness of the generical things will
cause their end, like all evil is autodestructive. Where
come the rules from, whom 'creates' the natural laws, are
they pre-given and make it sense to ask if there would
not be possible an alternative world ? And is it good,
or, rather, bad, that like same people (inclusive, law
people like judges) thinking, the rules (or abstract or
generical things) dominate the real, individualized,
concretized things totally (inclusive the live, dignity,
needs, of each individuum) ?? Everything indicate that
the rules are nothing more than 'remains' of facts what
happened before (and the generator of truely new facts
seems to be the free will in anything) - so that anything
existing has two aspects: its being and its action. In
the beginning, the world had no limitations (or illimited
free degrees); each fact what happened however is a
consumed fact or 'trueness' what cannot more be revoked by
an opposite trueness and thus represent one limitation for
the future, so that f.ex. the first happenings appears us
today as the natural forces. This means that abstract
things and the 'dealers/owners' of them are not so strong
as commonly believed; although they cannot be destroyed,
new rules which practically 'limit' them will be produced
by new decisions/actions which fall outside these existing
rules. Patents etc. try to avoid this and conserve the
existing rules, but its 'owners' stop with this their own
progress and live.

The only correct thing is freedom, not to obey existing
rules but make his own decisions, which will limit them.
Also here, like always, the evil dont need to be fighted
in another manner than simply do the good and correct at
his side, but observing that this and oneself dont become
corrupted.

And, in the history we observe that there are common ways
how cultutes, people, states doom. In one (or some) of
these manners, the USA are fallen already. The european,
asiatic etc. people must go their own, other way, observe
not to fall too.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Fight fire with patents?
Authored by: RTH on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 08:27 AM EST
I think it is perfectly clear that Microsoft's mentality is that they hurt,
badly, if there is any other player in the market but them. They have pulled
enough evil, illegal tricks over the years to give us no doubt about that. The
only reason they haven't been more destructive of the open community is that,
being available free, they have no simple economic attack (such as they pulled
by making IE free) that will work on this community in the way their previous
thuggery has worked on companies for profit.

I think, therefore, that the suggestion earlier that we need to question whether
we should be merely trying to co-exist, has some merit. Should we, and how can
we if we should, compete in such a way as to actually make M$'s software
uncompetitive?

While we have the unjust and stupid patent system, we might consider turning the
tables and using it against MS.

For example, suppose one of us invents a new kind of application that promises
to be popular. How about, before releasing it, patenting the critical element
without which the program cannot function, and releasing it free for all usage
in programs executing under free operating systems, but not release permission
for any price for programs executing under non-free OSes, either directly or
indirectly via an emulator?

In other words, get some killer apps out there that only run under linux, bsd
etc., and protect the critical element of the IP, so that they cannot be
reprogrammed for commercial OSes. The actual copyright licence can be anything,
free or commercial, as no reliance is being made on copyright to protect the key
idea. Just a thought. If nothing else, pulling this strategy off successfully
would get software patents off the table very quickly, I wager.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Way Forward -- Georg Greve Responds to Groklaw's Comments
Authored by: Sean DALY on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 08:34 AM EST
Thanks, Georg, for this.

It is useful when discussing Microsoft's support of standards to look at how poorly it supports even its own standards. Look at the Microsoft pseudoformats RTF and CSV.

  • Rich Text Format: Microsoft's recommended method of saving current Word documents for use in pre-2000 versions of their software; the default export format for pre-SR1 Word 97. Yet, anyone who has ever wrestled with RTF implementation knows that Microsoft's stewardship and documentation of this "standard" are pitiful. I described here a list I built of the versions with dates (this information is unavailable from Microsoft). Arbitrary changes to this specification are directly linked to feature changes in Microsoft Word. To my knowledge, Microsoft has submitted this nine-revision specification to no standards body whatsoever; it remains an unreliable means of archiving formatted text. Should you be in a rush to deploy Word 2007, and you wish to access any documents more than six years old, be sure to install and configure the optional RTF converter; Microsoft has dropped Rich Text Format from the standard Word converter list. And should you download and run the Windows executable which contains the Microsoft Word file of the RTF documentation, read the license carefully: you may not use RTF for any commercial purposes without the consent of Microsoft, and you cannot store any electronic versions of the documentation, either.

  • Comma Separated Values: This is the main method (aside from copying and pasting) of getting tabular data out of Excel for use in any other software. Although the format name seems self-explanatory -- values delimited by commas -- the reality is much more complex. In non-US locales, the Windows system delimiter is used; in Europe, this is usually the semicolon -- this breaks CSV import across locales (files must have extensions renamed). Microsoft has never documented CSV; anyone needing to figure out how to escape commas, or semicolons, or quotes, or double-quotes, needs to set out on a journey of trial and error. Fortunately, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine has a cached version of a now-offline hacker's page here. And a concerned user created an IETF Request for Comments a year ago ("...there is no formal specification in existence...").

Microsoft offers over 70 integrated filters in their Office product suite for opening and saving documents, but OpenDocument Format is not among them. Their refusal to integrate ODF is very clearly meant to protect the Microsoft MOOX format.

Brian Jones of Microsoft, the Office program manager who criticized ODF and the Massachusetts ERTM initiative, mentioned RTF and HTML as examples of Microsoft's commitment to interoperability. RTF's failure as an archival format has clearly shown that for Microsoft, long-term archiving of documents -- that is, more than three years -- is a very low priority.

Microsoft can act in its customers interest by publishing the secret proprietary binary formats in which "billions" of documents are locked up. There's a good reason why they don't do so: it would weaken their monopoly stranglehold on their customers' documents.

Sean DALY.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Way Forward -- Georg Greve Responds to Groklaw's Comments
Authored by: John Hasler on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 09:05 AM EST
this comment fears there might be ways to bring up TRIPS/DMCA/EUCD-like legislation against reverse engineering of the true format.
I don't think that the DMCA could be used that way. The anti-circumvention portion of the DMCA makes it clear that its purpose is to protect the interests of the owner of the copyright in the protected material. From the DMCA:
to “circumvent a technological measure” means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner;
Thus if you send me an OpenXML document in which you own the copyright and give me permission to reverse-engineer it I don't see how I could be in violation.

Also, the DMCA contains a specific exemption for reverse-engineering for compatibility.

See DMCA

---
IOANAL. Licensed under the GNU General Public License

[ Reply to This | # ]

Community comments to the ISO process
Authored by: Winter on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 10:06 AM EST
I think the community can demand from the ISO that new ISO standards honor
existing ones.

MS ooXML does break EVERY ISO standard it touches. From the bug in the Excel
date counting (1900 was NOT a leap year), to language and country codes, date
adn time formats, SVG, xForms, and on and on.

Even the internal "standards" between Office applications are
inconsistent.

Until MS ooXML does NOT itself follow ISO standards, how can it become an ISO
standard? That would mean there would now be TWO ISO country codes, date
formats, SVG and xForms standards.

Rob

---
Revenge, Justice, Security, and Revenge, chose any two.

[ Reply to This | # ]

job recruiters are notorious for not accepting non-msft standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 10:13 AM EST
What do you do when you want to apply for a job, and the recruiter insists on a
word document? It happens all the time.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Interoperability
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 10:27 AM EST

And while it is good to maintain support for legacy formats from the time when there was no standard, including ".doc," adding support for OpenXML only serves to help undercut the existing Open Standard by use of market power, technological tricks and political efforts.

Like it or not, Microsoft will push Office 2007 and its Office XML format (which is clearly not "Open") on the unwashed masses which is almost guaranteed to be the default format. Millions of non-technical computer users will have their documents saved in this new format. If Office 2007 offers to convert legacy documents to the new format when opened (and says this is "recommended"), almost every non-technical person will say "yes".

If OpenOffice then refuses to support the new Microsoft format as best as is legally possible, there will be an audience of people who will NEVER choose OpenOffice over Microsoft Office.

The majority of computer users are non-technical computer users and want their software to "just work" so they can accomplish their tasks quickly and effectively (which can take us into the completely separate discussion of strict ahderence to GPL-only vs providing migration steps on non-Free platforms). This class of people will see document incompatibility as a HUGE barrier of entry for a new office product.

If you have philosophical reasons for wanting to switch, you will be more willing to take the effort to give up what you know and feel comfortable with to move to something that satisfies your philosophy, recreating your work when it's not compatible with the new program. The typical computer user has no such philosophical reasons to switch, and any sparks of dissatisfaction with the current monopoly which could be used as a lever to encourage migration can quickly be quenched by the thought that they might have to recreate their work all over again, on top of having to learn something new. Now consider this in light of businesses or governments and budgets, where time spent is money lost.

Interoperability is of vital importance to the continued spread and adoption of OpenOffice. Why do you think Microsoft is trying to lock customers into its software by restricting interoperability? They have fought from the technical end, and failed. Now they pretend to embrace the technology side, and fight it from the legal end, where they have far, far more power.

-M

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS ooXML is to ODF what Xanadoo was to the WWW
Authored by: Winter on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 10:52 AM EST
Comparing MS' pseudo standard to ODF is comparing the Xanadoo project with the
WWW.

The Xanadoo project was highly exclusive: It was basically a Publisher to
Consumer system with a forbiddingly cumbersome copyright payment system build
in. In contrast, the WWW was... incomparable and successful beyond human
comprehension.

The same holds for the MS ooXML pseudo-standard. It is intended to exclude new
developments and user input. In contrast, ODF is... incomparable. ODF can (and
will) change content history like the WWW did. And MS is dedicated to prevent
this development from happening.

Think about ways to create content in community manner and what can be done with
it. Think up whatever scheme you want, eg, school children writing course books
together (OLPC), engineers discussing complex designs on-line with amateurs,
every type of content processable with a browser, every on-line document a wiki.
It is all possible with ODF.

It is also all IMpossible with MS ooXML. And that is the whole point of MS'
pseudo standard: Exclude others from developing new ways of content processing
and managing.

As a closing idea. How about buying an electronic book and reading the Gutenberg
Project's library. Currently, this is not doable, because the texts are
unformatted and as such, difficult to read. However, someone, somewhere will
write a Gutenberg2ODF filter and suddenly, I want an electronic book myself!

MS will do everything to destroy this possibility. Everything. Because ODF will
liberate content creation and consumption from the MS tax. Innovation must be
crushed to keep computer use taxable.

Rob

---
Revenge, Justice, Security, and Revenge, chose any two.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Interoperability In Our Time speech
Authored by: DannyB on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 11:16 AM EST
Would the "Interoperability In Our Time" speech begin something
like...

I have just returned from signing an armistace with Microsoft where we will
receive $340 Million...


Would it also mention that patent lawsuits would be delayed for 5 years?

---
The price of freedom is eternal litigation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How Many...
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 11:19 AM EST
How many Micro$oft employees does it take to change a lightbulb?

None, they just get Bill Gates to declare Dark and industry standard.

That has been floating about for decades, it just seems relevant to this
discussion.

-- Alma

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenXML's 4000+ Page Specification
Authored by: Weeble on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 11:36 AM EST
Just for comparison, how big is the ODF spec?

---
You Never Know What You're Going to Learn--or Learn About--on Groklaw!
(NOTE: Click the "Weeble" link for Copying Permissions and Contact Info.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Way Forward -- Georg Greve Responds to Groklaw's Comments
Authored by: PolR on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 12:03 PM EST
And while it is good to maintain support for legacy formats from the time when there was no standard, including ".doc," adding support for OpenXML only serves to help undercut the existing Open Standard by use of market power, technological tricks and political efforts.
This seems to me a little too focused on the present and not enough on the future. ODF adoption will not occur overnight. It is a process that will take years. While it is true that OOXML (I can't bring myself to write "Open" when referring to OOXML) is not currently legacy, several organisations will implement Office 2007 now and move to ODF later. In five or ten years from now, OOXML will be legacy.

Another way to put it is that to refuse to support OOXML is making an ultimatum to the market. This is saying pick ODF now because if you choose OOXML there will be no turning back. This does not seem a very good strategy to me. We want Office 2007 adopters have a way to change their mind. While promoting ODF we should be respectful of the user's preferred migration schedule.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Text Only Files
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 12:33 PM EST
More and more job agencies that I work with are putting the files that they get
into searchable databases.

For that purpose the complex formating in .doc files actually gets in the ways
and the results are often unreadable. I maintain a separate
"text-only" file and often send that along with the .doc file.

For boards like "Monster" I cut and paste right out of the text file.
It's alot cleaner.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft incompatible with the standard?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 01:46 PM EST
Reading some of the comments here and in the article leads me to ask the
following question:

If Microsoft are or become incompatible with OOXML can they still call their
implementation OOXML?

Presumably at some point the standards organisation can say "Your
implementation does not comply with the standard".

What happens then?

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Micro Channel document format
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 01:49 PM EST
I really think it would help if we in the industry started to refer to M$'s new
formats by IBM's failed hardware licence scheme. They where created for exactly
the same reasons and are offerd to others on the same basis. You can use your
equipment/access your own data but a fee will be collected by the parent company
no mater what third party provides hardware/software.


Cheers
Mark

[ Reply to This | # ]

Superb Shot from Microsoft
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 02:07 PM EST
The bullet will take 5 years to get to its real target,
but then, when people will realize they are infringing MS
patents, they will probably file a class action against
Novell.
Microsoft will only have to put a few dollars (probably
indirectly) to get the skin of it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Salomonian?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 02:21 PM EST
I guess I wouldn't recognize it because of the spelling.

I know King Solomon's life quite well, from the intrigue surrounding his mother
Bathsheba to him building the Temple in Jerusalem that was the dream of his
father, King David, to Solomon's 300 wives and 700 concubines (which is a record
by far, King David only managed something on the order of 20 or 30 all told),
clear down to Israel being split in two under the reign of King Solomon's son
and successor.

But Salomonian makes me think of salmon, instead of Solomon. I don't think I've
ever heard his name morphed into a word quite like that, even though I think
that everyone knows the story about the two women who fought over that baby.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Way Forward -- Georg Greve Responds to Groklaw's Comments
Authored by: sailorxyz on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 02:30 PM EST
Why not just implement the CSS style sheet correctly i.e. set up a print sheet?
Then there is no need for any - printable - efforts (buttons etc) it just
happens automaticly.

Regards

---
Sailorxyz

[ Reply to This | # ]

"self-documentation" means "no documentation" ??
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 04:05 PM EST
I found this section from the ECMA's objective to be quite interesting:

"Produce a comprehensive set of W3C XML Schemas for the Office Open XML
Formats, **with particular attention given to self documentation of the
schemas** and testing of the XSDs for validation using a wide variety of XSD
tools of the market and cross platform."

(** emphasis added **)

This kinda sounds to me like an objective to NOT write documentation but,
rather, to rely upon the (inherent?) self-documenting properties of the XML.

However, given the reported miniscule number of changes that ECMA made, as well
as the obsfucation born out of what is apparently a poorly organized and overly
confusing schema, it doesn't sound to me like the term
"self-documenting" applies very well.

Which leads me to conclude that this sounds like a weasly attempt to AVOID
meaningful documentation of the format.

Assuming this is so, the anonymous reader whom PJ quoted may have actually
overly-credited ECMA's contributions when he wrote:

"In other words, the objectives of the ECMA comity for Microsoft OOXML was
simply to document the file format as used in Microsoft's new version of
MS-Office."

I think it may be more correct to say that their role was to simply RUBBER STAMP
it, as is.

~ray

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Billboards are up!
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 07:26 PM EST
"Novell gives no sign of changing course"

That's true. In my area there is a new billboard that reads:

" BiPartisan Computing

Microsoft Novell
Windows Server Linux SuSE Enterprise"


[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Bipartisan - Authored by: Jude on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 08:50 PM EST
Fahrvergnügen???
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 07:41 PM EST
"Given that words like "Fahrvergnügen" made it into English,
..."

They have?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Trojan Horse
Authored by: mrcreosote on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 10:36 PM EST
With any luck it will end up more like Sir Bedevere's Rabbit.

---
----------
mrcreosote

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Way Forward -- Georg Greve Responds to Groklaw's Comments
Authored by: John Hasler on Tuesday, December 12 2006 @ 11:13 PM EST
> Given that words like "Fahrvergnügen" made it into
> English...

They did?

---
IOANAL. Licensed under the GNU General Public License

[ Reply to This | # ]

Exchanging Documents
Authored by: grayhawk on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 01:29 AM EST
The problem of exchanging documents doesn't start with the likes of MS but with
the lack of educated users. People don't even realize that even exchanging a
document in the Windows' world can be fraught with incompatibilities since MS
Office isn't even compatible with itself. When you create your work document
using the latest version of MS Office and send it to someone who might be using
Office 2000 or even Office 95, they won't be able to open it or even if open
have the proper formatting. Users assume that everyone has the same software as
they do and don't realize that newer versions of a software's file format won't
be compatible with its older cousin. They also forget that not everyone runs a
Windows computer. There are beside Linux machines, Macs and Unix boxes out
there in the network world. It is time people are educated on proper document
exchange techniques and shown how to use document formats that regardless of
what the recipient's machine runs for OS or software, they will be able to
receive, access and use the document. I get professionals taking my Linux
courses at my college and they often don't even realize that newer software file
formats my not be useable by older versions of the same software by the same
company, and that doesn't just mean Office software but all software. This is
not just a Microsoft issue but a issue for ALL software manufacturers and
developers.

---
It is said when the power of love overcomes the love of power, that it is then
and only then that we shall truly have peace!

[ Reply to This | # ]

One-way interoperability is a standard Microsoft business strategy
Authored by: dwandre on Wednesday, December 13 2006 @ 02:40 AM EST
And has been for a long time. In the early office market Microsoft provided
filters so that you could convert any other format into Office. Once Office
became dominant, they stopped providing the filters. Same for the OS/2 command
interpreter - it was part of NT but disappeared. Their standard defense against
claims of unfair competition are "We will do it if the marketplace demands
it" and in the case of ODF they interpret the demand to be for a converter,
not built-in support for generating ODF-compliant documents. This should not be
a surprise to anyone. The question is will they get away with it again?

[ Reply to This | # ]

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