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Proprietizing Standards
Friday, July 20 2007 @ 10:25 AM EDT

I offered to let any participants in the meeting in Portugal regarding Ecma-376 respond to the meeting notes we published from one member of the committee, Rui Seabra.

While we wait, there is more on that front, this time from India, where the technical committee there is still considering Ecma-376 issues. Earlier, we mentioned to you some questions that Dr. G. Nagarjuna, Chairman FSF India, submitted to the Working Committee, Board of Indian Standards on Wordprocessing. In this Issue Sheet [PDF], we find answers from Microsoft's Vijay Kapur, followed by responses from Dr. Nagarjuna.

For example, here's one such exchange:

Backward compatibility for all vendors: Can any third party regardless of business model, without access to additional information and without the cooperation of Microsoft implement full backward compatibility and conversion of such legacy documents into MS-OOXML comparable to what Microsoft can offer?

Mr V. Kapur: Implementing backward compatibility is an application function not a file format specification requirement. The ECMA 376 specification is capable of faithfully representing information in the legacy binary file formats. This point was treated in detail in the response to the question raised by Dr. Nagarjuna. Microsoft can offer? Availability of Binary File Formats -- It is to be noted that Microsoft has made the .doc, .xls, and .ppt binary file format specifications available under a royalty-free covenant not to sue to anyone who wishes to implement all or part of these specifications in their products. Anyone can get access to the specification now, using the method described in the following Knowledgebase article at the link: - How to extract information from Office files by using Office file formats and schemas (relevant extract below)With both format specifications being available for a developer, a converter can be written in such a way that a DOC or XLS document can be converted into an Open XML document with content and representation intact. This point should be treated as closed as there is no contradiction.

Dr. Nagarjuna: Availability of the specification of binary formats does not solve the problem of another vendor's ability to implement. What is required is a mapping between the existing proprietary formats and OOXML if the stated objective of OOXML, namely, to faithfully represent legacy formats in XML is to be met. The link provided by MS is not an article. It is misleading to say so. MS did not publish the specification of proprietary documents at any accessible place. They are promising to provide to those who sign an MOU with the company. This is unacceptable since, implementing this standard mandates the need for private understandings. That is not the purpose for which standards are specified. They are specified precisely to eliminate such a requirement. The question asked was a very serious and a CORE issue: the answer given is not satisfactory. A satisfactory answer to this consists in publishing the mapping between OOXML and proprietary documents. Since this is not the case, the issue is open, and forms a sufficient reason to vote against OOXML.

I strongly urge any of you interested in OOXML to read the other exchanges most carefully. You will find them illluminating. Today is the last day to write to Massachusetts, I believe, for those who wish to. The address is standards at . Here are two other documents from the process in India, also PDFs:

While I haven't seen any reaction officially from Microsoft about the shocking events in Portugal, Microsoft's Jason Matusow does present what I assume is their reaction to getting caught stacking the deck in committees all over the place. You can see an interesting chart on the US committee on Rob Weir's blog in a July 15th entry. After some snarky remarks about people who are against OOXML, Matusow concludes like this:

IBM is welcome to their opinion of the standardization of Open XML. They are working in more than 100 countries to oppose its adoption and will push as hard as they can to achieve this goal. They are advocates for the technologies that best fit their products and business model – their actions regarding Open XML are in their best interests…not that of their customers. If they don’t want to support the Open XML standard in their products, they are not obliged to do so. Working to defeat the standard is 100% an industry competitive play and not about customer benefit.

As you can see, he spins this ODF/OOXML saga as if it were just a couple of vendors doing their level best to beat each other in the marketplace. This isn't between Microsoft and IBM. It's a lot more than that. And IBM isn't the only major company in opposition by any means. Google opposes its adoption, for example, as you can see in this email to the Standards Council of Canada:

Google would like to dissaprove, with comments, the request from Microsoft to for their OO-XML to become an ISO standard. Please add the comments to the site. Our comments are in the file objections.pdf, attached to this message and referenced in ISO_Comment_OOXML.pdf

But it isn't just companies. There is a great deal at stake for the public. I'm not a vendor. I'm just an individual. Yet I care. If there is a noticeable flaw in the standards process, it's that the vendors don't represent me. I don't benefit at all financially from any decision anyone makes, so how does Jason explain why I care?

Here's one reason I care: I want a level playing field, so as a customer I can freely choose between all products available. I don't want to have to use Microsoft products or be dependent on them for anything. I don't mind if I choose to use them, but I don't like to be forced. Whatever standard is chosen, it should be one that makes it possible for everyone to equally use the standard and get equal results. OOXML can't offer us that, in that it appears to favor Microsoft, which is retaining certain proprietary information or only making it available under NDA. As a customer, that bothers me in a standard. I think it should. And proprietary extensions bother me, even if one can get access up to a point by signing an NDA. No one should have to contact a vendor and sign an NDA to use a standard. Period. It puts control of the standard in the hands of a vendor, a single vendor. And what, precisely, are the terms? Are they carved in stone or can Microsoft change the terms whenever it feels like it?

And second, I want to be able to use GNU/Linux in peace. OOXML's patent promise worries me, because it doesn't seem to cover future versions. Is the plan to turn around someday and use patents to crush Linux vendors and end users who don't pay the Microsoft patent tax? Or use patent law to limit what the competition is allowed to do? Or just let the proprietary extensions achieve that goal? Such goals do not belong in a standards process. I also haven't forgotten this worrying language in Microsoft's Open Specification Promise:

Q: Is this OSP sub-licensable?

A: There is no need for sublicensing. This promise is directly applicable to you and everyone else who wants to use it. Accordingly, your distributees, customers and vendors can directly take advantage of this same promise, and have the exact same protection that you have.

Q: Is this Promise consistent with open source licensing, namely the GPL? And can anyone implement the specification(s) without any concerns about Microsoft patents?

A: The Open Specification Promise is a simple and clear way to assure that the broadest audience of developers and customers working with commercial or open source software can implement the covered specification(s). We leave it to those implementing these technologies to understand the legal environments in which they operate. This includes people operating in a GPL environment. Because the General Public License (GPL) is not universally interpreted the same way by everyone, we can’t give anyone a legal opinion about how our language relates to the GPL or other OSS licenses, but based on feedback from the open source community we believe that a broad audience of developers can implement the specification(s).

Thirdly, I, as a customer, have a stake in the standards process being honestly followed. Technical merit should matter. I find it deeply disturbing that Matusow ends this report on South Africa's TC voting no on OOXML with the thought that he thinks Microsoft will be able, I gather, to prevail despite the technical committee's overwhelmingly negative vote:

On Wednesday the 18th the SC34 mirror committee for South Africa held a meeting that, as I understand it, was originally intended to be informational but instead resulted in vote and the conclusion that the SC34 mirror committee was not the right entity to be casting the official vote for South Africa. In other words, it will be another 3-4 weeks before South Africa casts its ballot, and just like all national body votes, will be part of the ballot resolution process that may not happen until early 2008....

Many countries will vote yes, some will vote abstain, and some will vote no. Those that vote no will likely include comments and those comments are the primary focus of the ballot resolution meeting. Following that, some of the no votes may move to yes. In other words, it is best to keep your eye on the long-term picture in this process.

Normally, bodies do follow the recommendations of the technical committee. And why wouldn't they? How else do you decide if an offering should be a standard? Stacking the decks to get the votes you want despite the technical concerns? I'm not sure I've understood him precisely, so perhaps he'll clarify.

For myself, I don't forget the Halloween Documents. I know they laid out a plan to hinder FOSS. Remember this one?:

In addition to the attacking the general weaknesses of OSS projects (e.g. Integrative / Architectural costs), some specific attacks on Linux are:...

  • Fold extended functionality into commodity protocols / services and create new protocols

Blunting OSS attacks...

De-commoditize protocols & applications

OSS projects have been able to gain a foothold in many server applications because of the wide utility of highly commoditized, simple protocols. By extending these protocols and developing new protocols, we can deny OSS projects entry into the market.

David Stutz makes a very good point: in competing with Microsoft's level of desktop integration, "commodity protocols actually become the means of integration" for OSS projects. There is a large amount of IQ being expended in various IETF working groups which are quickly creating the architectural model for integration for these OSS projects.

Is that not pretty much what we are witnessing in the OOXML story?:

1. De-commoditize protocols - by adding proprietary extensions to a standard.
2. Prevent standards organizations from making it possible for FOSS to easily interoperate.

Now, I don't care how proprietary Microsoft wishes to be itself. It can DRM itself up to its eyeballs for all I care. I don't use the stuff, so it doesn't affect me. And when I read about their latest patent application, the one that proposes riffling through all our personal papers on all our computers so as to report to advertisers what we are interested in, I note it with alarm for my friends and loved ones who still use Microsoft software and make a mental note not to let a company that can come up with that idea anywhere near my computer, but other than that, I just laugh.

But when you proprietize standards, you touch me. And that is precisely what is happening with OOXML. Microsoft's own expert at the Portugal meeting said so pointblank: Microsoft will add proprietary extensions, he said, to do things ODF can't do. Now, as someone else on the committee pointed out, proprietary extensions are not the only choice. Microsoft could open up so we can all interoperate on a level playing field. I believe that is the EU Commission's goal. Proprietary anything isn't appropriate in a standard, because it forces those of us who are not interested in proprietary software to use it or deal with it anyway. It compels those of us who wish to avoid that vendor to have a relationship with it against our will. And it gives the vendor control and a head start in the market, which is exactly what standards are supposed to prevent. It's Microsoft saying, "I've got mine. I can open my documents fine. Too bad about you. Your solution is to limp along in Linux or buy our products or pay for our patents. One way or another, you have to pay us." That, to me, is a subversion of the standards process.

That's the good part to Microsoft, I suppose, but it's the reason I don't like it. I shouldn't have to do business with Microsoft, unless I want to. And you shouldn't either.

Finally, I want to control my own documents. I wrote them, and I wish to control them. This is the part I hope Massachusetts thinks about carefully. An important goal of government is to preserve documents so they don't become inaccessible to the public. Proprietary extensions by definition slam that door in your face, because you then lose control over your own documents. You can never have access now except through Microsoft, and if you think that company is going to be around in fifty or 100 years, you need to ask: are you positive? Can you guarantee it? And even if they are, whose documents are they now? Yours? Or Microsoft's? Who controls access?

If your goal is to avoid lock-in to a single vendor, then proprietary extensions should scare you silly. It doesn't matter then how many companies use the format or how many business partners want it or even if it is a de facto standard -- you are now dependent on one single vendor. That unhappy fate is precisely what ODF, and only ODF, can prevent.

So, why not just bite the bullet, merge ODF with Ecma-376, and make it possible for everyone to interoperate freely as we already can in email? I can send an email to my friends from my Linux computer or my Mac and they can still read it just fine, even if they do use Windows and love HTML email. I remember Eric Kriss told ComputerWorld why not:

He said technical people at Microsoft told him it would be “trivial” to add support for ODF to the new Office 2007. The resistance to doing so came from the vendor’s business side, according to Kriss....

As part of his e-mail exchanges with Gutierrez, Yates didn’t deny Burke’s involvement in promoting the amendment sponsored by state Sen. Michael Morrissey that sought to take away much of the IT division’s decision-making authority.

So, evidently Microsoft knows how to make ODF capable of doing whatever it has to do for true interoperability and without annoying translators that I doubt will ever really work well. It would be "trivial", the man said. They just don't wish to, for business reasons, and so they fight it. That is fine for Microsoft, but what about standards bodies? Is it reason enough for them? Massachusetts? Is it enough for you? If so, why?


Proprietizing Standards | 406 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: Trollsfire on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 10:38 AM EDT

Please put any corrections here so that the original text may be updated.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Off topic thread starts here
Authored by: Totosplatz on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 10:40 AM EDT
Please make links "clicky" - see instructions in red

All the best to one and all.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Winter on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 10:48 AM EDT
"As you can see, he views this ODF/OOXML saga as a couple of vendors doing
their level best to beat each other. "

PJ, I have to disagree.

The remarks of Jason Matusow are part of a well orchestrated strategy of

Microsoft will always deny that there is broad support for ODF and oposition
against OOXML.

They do that by never, ever admitting that there is ANYONE pro ODF/anti OOXML
than one single large company. First ODF was a Sun-only standard or just OO.o
(Star-office). Later it becaume a IBM-only standard.

This strategy is used to hide the fact that OOXML indeed is a single vendor
standard. Only MS and their henchmen are in favor of it.

In their fight against the world, MS have always taken the position that they
should accuse the world of their own vices (or crimes).

So the attacks against IBM are all designed to hide the broad ODF support from
the public.


Some say the sun rises in the east, some say it rises in the west; the truth
lies probably somewhere in between.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Proprietizing Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 11:08 AM EDT
great article PJ -

you have hit the nail on the head

this is exactly what microsoft is doing and I hope somebody at the doj does
their job instead of turning their head.

here's to hoping the proprietary closed microsoft's xml standard finds it's way
to the ISO restrooms so it can be properly used.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Proprietizing Standards
Authored by: David Gerard on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 11:12 AM EDT

I've just been rereading the Halloween Documents, as leaked to Eric S. Raymond in late 1998. sr/halloween/halloween1.html

The list of strategies outlined in these leaked memos for combating open source software is all precisely the approaches Microsoft is taking against ODF:

1. De-commoditise (proprietise) protocols.
2. Corrupt standards organisations.

The second point is shocking to many readers on Groklaw, but is outlined in Halloween 1 as standard practice in 1998 for Microsoft attendees at IETF meetings.

Vinod Valloppillil: "OSS projects have been able to gain a foothold in many server applications because of the wide utility of highly commoditized, simple protocols. By extending these protocols and developing new protocols, we can deny OSS projects entry into the market. David Stutz makes a very good point: in competing with Microsoft's level of desktop integration, "commodity protocols actually become the means of integration" for OSS projects. There is a large amount of IQ being expended in various IETF working groups which are quickly creating the architectural model for integration for these OSS projects."

Unnamed 'former Microserf': "Only half of the reason MS sends people to the W3C working groups relates to a desire to improve RFC standards. The other half is to give MS a sneak peak at upcoming standards so they can "extend" them in advance and claim that the `official' standard is `obsolete' when it emerges around the same time as their `extension'."

The soundbite remains the same nine years later: For Microsoft to win, the customer must lose.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Discussion about Newspicks items here please
Authored by: tiger99 on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 11:31 AM EDT
As it seems to have been agreed to be a good idea.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Proprietizing Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 11:32 AM EDT
Anyone can get access to the specification now, using the method described in the following Knowledgebase article at the link:

Is this perchance the same documentation that the EU has examined and stated is incomplete and unimplementable without further information from Microsoft?

Is Microsoft's requirement for signing a MOU a means of gagging those who read it from reporting the same in public?

[ Reply to This | # ]

There is one thing Microsoft can't fix
Authored by: kawabago on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 11:36 AM EDT
If there is a requirement to use open standards IMPLEMENTED BY MULTIPLE VENDORS,
this would lock Microsoft out of the competition. Since the goal of
standardization is to achieve vendor independence, it makes perfect sense to
require multiple implementations of a standard before it can be used. No one
but Microsoft can implement OOXML so this is a bar they can't jump over and it
is a reasonable requirement when defining a standards based software procurement
process. I don't believe a converter from OOXML to ODF will qualify as an
implementation since you still have to buy Microsoft if you want to use OOXML.

[ Reply to This | # ]

why PJ cares...
Authored by: jiri on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 12:06 PM EDT
> how does Jason explain why I care?

You're a committee of IBM lawyers, remember?



Please e-mail me if you reply, I usually read with "No comments".

[ Reply to This | # ]

Proprietizing Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 12:26 PM EDT
Jason Matsuow said
IBM is welcome to their opinion of the standardization of Open XML. They are working in more than 100 countries to oppose its adoption and will push as hard as they can to achieve this goal. They are advocates for the technologies that best fit their products and business model – their actions regarding Open XML are in their best interests…not that of their customers.
I say
Microsoft is welcome to their opinion of the standardization of Open XML. They are working in more than 100 countries to promote its adoption and will push as hard as they can to achieve this goal. They are advocates for the technologies that best fit their products and business model – their actions regarding Open XML are in their best interests…not that of their customers.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Proprietizing Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 12:36 PM EDT
The standards body I serve in require two indepentent vendors to implement an
addition to the standard before it's approved. Boy would would that ever
deflate OOXML if that were a requirement.

[ Reply to This | # ]

ODF V OOXML shootout
Authored by: LaurenceTux on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 12:49 PM EDT
What i would like to see is somebody making a nontrival document in both ODF and
OOXML format and see exactly how they compare
1 fonts used are to be embedded (or linked for download)
2 3 media items are to be used one of which should be audio or video
3 a selected random percent of bytes is to be mangeled (to simulate file damage)
ie the bytes at 23.999% and 45.753% for about 12 values
4 paper size and printer type are to be the same (lets say US letter and some
common color laser)

scoring will be on
1 file size
2 readability of code
3 screen to print fidelity
4 survivability of damage

i wonder how the scores will fall??

[ Reply to This | # ]

One niggle PJ
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 12:53 PM EDT
'I want to control my own documents. I wrote them, and I
wish to control them. This is the part I hope
Massachusetts thinks about carefully.'

Sorry, I don't want, I DEMAND. So should any public body
and any organisation regardless of its form; including
Massachusetts. Period.

They are not MS's, IBM's, anybody elses. They are mine.
Anything and everything that obstructs proper access to
the content now and in the future that is plain wrong.
We've put up with a lot in the past and I've got a lot of
documents to unlock. There is now a real alternative in
ODF and PDF depending on the nature of the document. OXML
is not an answer and pretending it is won't work forever.
People may be slow but they aren't clueless.

PS just installed latest Kubuntu plus Beryl over an old
Ubuntu 6 install upgraded a version in its lifetime on a
Duron 800/1Gb/new 30 pounds sterling FX5500 graphics card
and after a few minor trials and tribulations it works
great. Eat your heart out Vista :) (except the keyboard
mapping obviously isn't right yet) First time spell check
in a browser has worked by default too. Nice.


[ Reply to This | # ]

How OOXML works
Authored by: Jude on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 01:21 PM EDT
Microsoft takes something that is proprietary, nonstandard, and not publicly
specified. The put it inside wrapper that is publicly specified and call the
result "open", but all that's specified is the wrapper.

They might was will do something like this:

<Microsoft Word-95 Document>
(hex string representation of Word-95 .DOC file)
</Microsoft Word-95 Document>

We ought to be calling this what it really is: Fraud

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open XML == Misnomer
Authored by: eggplant37 on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 03:04 PM EDT
Why call it Open XML? It's certainly not open to everyone. I prefer Office XML,
which more accurately describes it as Microsoft's Office XML format. Any use of
the word "open" with relationship to any Microsoft product is, in my
opinion, an outright lie.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Proprietizing Standards
Authored by: Stevieboy on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 04:50 PM EDT
Maybe I'm not the brightest in the world and maybe I'm getting the wrong end of
the stick but........

How can a world standard be a standard if it only applies to one vendor's

If that company had no ulterior motives, why would it be trying to
force/bribe/blackmail all of these representative bodies to accept it as a
standard - and an 'open' one at that - when the most disinterested person would
have to conclude logically that it isn't any such thing?

Who are the individuals, if any, who aren't in Microsoft's pocket - sorry... who
aren't being unduly influenced by Microsoft - who are in favour of this thing
being a standard?

[ Reply to This | # ]

open to interpretation
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 05:10 PM EDT
"Because the General Public License (GPL) is not universally interpreted
the same way by everyone, we can’t give anyone a legal opinion about how our
language relates to the GPL or other OSS licenses,"
Does this also apply to their EULA, which is forced on users?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Fair Comparison???
Authored by: sproggit on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 06:21 PM EDT
Where I work the ODF/OOXML debate has been an on/off topic of conversation for a
while now. Interestingly, there are a small number of pro-Microsoft folk, a
similar number of FOSS supporters, plus a large number of people who,
unfortunately, don't seem to care one way or the other.

Earlier this week 7 or 8 of us enjoyed a good debate on the topic over lunch.
One of the most interesting (and to be fair, provocative) observations came from
a pro-FOSS friend of mine, when he observed that Microsoft's tactics with
respect to these "standards" bodies was no different from ballot-box
stuffing in an election.

Both are illegal, unjust, improper.

Both are insidious in that the immediate results of the abuse are not obvious.
Just as a crooked politician who defrauds their way into office might take their
time to start gaming the system, so a company who achieves monopoly status by
coopting standards will first seek to ensnare as many unsuspecting by-standers
as they can.

But there's another parallel.

Unless or until the impact of ballot-box stuffing makes a direct and
uncomfortable impact on the life of Joe or Jane Average, it's very unlikely that
they will speak up or act. So it is with the monopolist. Unless Microsoft does
something *so* outrageous that it causes significant disruption to governments
and customers, they are likely to "get away" with these tactics.

But the parallel does break down, in a way that really helps to illustrate just
how serious this situation is.

If you don't like an elected politician, then every few years (in most countries
the maximum is 5) you get the chance to vote them out of office. With OOXML and
other products or standards that Microsoft is pushing, if they become the
de-facto standard, then there is much less chance of them giving you a free
chance to change your mind 5 years down the line.

It was amazing, when this point was raised, illustrated in this way, how the
"I'm not really bothered" majority around the table suddenly sat up
and paid attention.

None of them liked the idea of living in a one-party state.

None of them had thought about software choice in quite the same way.

In fairness, this is a rather provocative way of illustrating the situation now
facing ODF, but the comparison is not entirely void. One only has to look at the
incredible success that Microsoft have had with flattening the competition
(Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect, Netscape, Apple, etc) to realise this.

Was this a fair comparison?


It was certainly a sobering one.

I can't help but laugh at the irony of Darl McBride being reported as referring
to FOSS developers as "Communists". Take it from me, Darl, I've had a
look around the software world, and if you want to see diversity-is-our-strength
then you'd choose FOSS every day. If you want one-party-state then your choice
is entirely different.

[ Reply to This | # ]

LETTER to Mass re: ETRM Draft 4.0
Authored by: tce on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 08:18 PM EDT
I requested and received an automated mail received reply.

July 20, 2007

Information Technology Devision
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Attention Beth Ann Pepoli

Re: Public comment on ETRM Draft 4.0

Dear Ms. Pepoli,

I have reviewed a number of detailed letters sent you your office and also
published on line (e.g. Andy Updegrove's letter of July 8) that speak to all of
the explicit reasons not to adopt the draft ETRM 4.0 changes allowing ECMA
standards and Microsoft's Office File Format (OFF) (AKA OOXML AKA ECMA-376).

Besides the shortfalls of OFF as a “standard” (Dates are wrong, references to
unpublished formats, 6000 pages when 600 should do, not well formed XML) it
fails all explicit standards-adoption criteria developed by your organization
via industry best practices and internal consensus.

In this note, I will try to address implicit reasons for stepping back from this
now very public draft “proposal”.

The sweeping aside of your organization's principled decision to define, on
behalf of Massachusetts citizens now and for years to come, the specification
for public records is the clearest example of unjustified response to some
external force or short term interest as can be found.

The rewrite of ETRM 4.0, allowing ECMA “standards” and Microsoft's Office File
Formats (OFF) does not just add an “option”. It undoes all of the rest of the
work and value of the last many years of industry leading Enterprise

Dueling “standards” are no standard. ETRM 4.0 delivers No consistency, No
predictability, No ability to select enterprise technologies designed to
inter-operate with All documents. As your architecture shows, the information
model is a Service Architecture enabler – if a common language is present.

As a software architect with 12 years of life critical medical software
experience and another 15 years of Fortune 100 enterprise architecture
experience, I have been taught to look for risks to projects, their customers,
and to the business at large.

Transitioning to open standards is just work. The technical issues are not
life-critical to your business, they are just tasks to be accomplished. However,
publicly committing to truly open, multi-vendor standards and then stepping back
into the arms of Microsoft's lock-in business model appears to raise questions
of risk to the overall goals of your enterprise architecture and questions of
business and legal risks to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Lydia, my business mentor said: When you don't understand the behavior, check
the compensation plan. The lesson was about sales people canceling and
restarting a service rather then issuing change orders... “New” service orders
earned an extra $50. No real harm once the the light of day fixed the behavior.

*Public Commitment*

The current public ETRM defines a road map for your overall enterprise
architecture that invites open “level playing field” collaboration by all of
your information technology suppliers, all citizens, and all businesses that
interact with the effected areas of the government of Massachusetts. That road
map defines Open Document Formant (ODF) as the common language for business to
business, business to Citizen, and Desktop to Systems, and Systems to Systems
interaction. I expect that this very public invitation, including multiple years
of public internal consensus building and public explanation has had a real
business impact on your own departments, their suppliers, and the business and
citizen customers that interact with these areas of Massachusetts.

*Tools for Lock-in: OOXML is not a Standard*

I hold the position that Microsoft's Office File Format (OFF), given the
marketing label of Open Office XML is not “truth in advertising”.

OFF formants are not open, not by your own definition and requirements. The are
part text/“XML” (maybe the “open” part?) and part references to non-disclosed
proprietary formats and binary “blobs”. It is patent encumbered, even
considering the patent pledge which others have challenged in detail.

They are not exact XML – not all content is XML, and the XML has been found to
not be well formed or “sane” (Again, you have other letters that address this in
detail, if not from internal evaluations).

To call the OFF a “Standard” because ECMA stamps it name on it is to ignore the
whole point of standards making as a process that arrives at a common good. ECMA
is clear about its goals of turning a vendor document into a “standard” -
unchanged. And, for Microsoft to engage in packing the government ISO approval
committees with Microsoft business partners is to assert that Microsoft, as a
company, somehow has the right to wage control over the representatives of
citizens and nations. Check the compensation plan.

OFF also creates a barrier to non Microsoft suppliers and collaboration due to
the nature of partially documenting contradictory behavior. (and
Kenya, as part of registering contradictions in the ISO process) have published
extensive detail on aspects of OFF that fail simple tests of correctness. For
example, what kind of year is 1900? How is Word 95 formatting defined? Paper
sizes? Identifiers for Nations? When is the weekend?

At over 6000 pages, the “documented” office file format appears to be
intentionally obscure, the exact opposite of the goals of a state government
information architecture specification. Assuming you want a healthy competitive
eco-system of suppliers for desktop and enterprise tools for the long haul, you
want, as you have stated, single open standards designed for interoperability.
Check the compensation plan.

*Lock-in, Lock-out*

For citizen / consumers, we fight the forced upgrade due to artificial file
incompatibility. I use the very same features in Visio and Word that I used in
2000. However, I have to “upgrade” to programs that are intentionally and
artificially not backwards compatible because my customers were forced to
upgrade. I HAVE CHECKED THE COMPENSATION PLAN, and this document was prepared
with and ODF compliant tool.

The lock-in businesses model is one where, when any one technology or product of
a vendor can become entrenched, and due to interlocking features with other
products of the same vendor, create dependencies that lead one department after
another to adopt single vendor solutions as a way of dealing with immediate
local pain/needs. This is at the expense of greater good for the organization
and its customers. Your Enterprise Architecture effort (along with most big
business and the federal government) is there to design long term benefits into
your infrastructure, avoiding self serving (vendor driven) and cost and risk
creating local decisions.

This then creates lock-in for Microsoft and lock-out for other vendors. Even if
the OFF/OOXML never changed, the Microsoft first, Microsoft only (in practice,
converters don't count) nature of using OFF in your enterprise would lock out
those other vendors you have already publicly invited in. This is the business
model that is well practiced and has earned Microsoft the status of a convicted
predatory monopoly. Check the compensation plan.

Should Microsoft choose (and it is their choice to make) to offer ODF conforming
tools I suspect you might just buy some. If not, a other Massachusetts,
Minnesota, and world wide suppliers will beat a path to your door to meet your
current well defined specifications.

I am a citizen of the state of Minnesota. I am exactly like any of your
citizens, with the same needs and expectations from my government.

However, you have already promised, in writing, to your citizens and local
businesses that enough is enough.

Thank you for accepting public comments.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Mapping of proprietary formats to OXML
Authored by: Khym Chanur on Friday, July 20 2007 @ 11:56 PM EDT

I'm not getting what's being argued about here. Microsoft would have an advantage in making mappings between it's proprietary formats and OXML, but it would also have the same advantage if it adopted ODF.

Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life. (Paraphrased from Terry Pratchett)

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS Admits no need for MSOOXML?
Authored by: jjs on Saturday, July 21 2007 @ 03:44 AM EDT
Mr V. Kapur: Implementing backward compatibility is an application function not a file format specification requirement.

So, based on this, anything that is needed for backward compatibility should be thrown out. Of course, the main reason I've seen MS give for needing this vs ODF is "backward compatibility with existing documents" - which there rep just said was an APPLICATION FUNCTION NOT A FILE FORMAT SPECIFICATION REQUIREMENT. So, there's no need for MSOOXML - ODF would do. So the proposal should be rejected.



(Note IANAL, I don't play one on TV, etc, consult a practicing attorney, etc, etc)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Obsession with IBM
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, July 21 2007 @ 05:07 AM EDT
This constant sniping at IBM from Microsoft is kind of reminiscent of Robert
Mugabe's bizarre fixation with how the UK is still (40 years later) responsible
for all Zimbabwe's ills.

IBM was the old enemy of MS in the 80's, when they were still young and dynamic
'rebels' fighting the IT establishment. Now they return to their past struggles
to explain the predicament they find themselves in, despite the obvious
disconnect with reality. And I have to say, Ballmer's eccentric pronouncements
are also beginning to resemble Mugabe's unique style of propaganda. Where next?

[ Reply to This | # ]

MSOOXML astroturfing "msmsooxml community"
Authored by: kosmonaut on Saturday, July 21 2007 @ 07:53 AM EDT
As seen at Jason's Matusow blog:

Let's do a little investigation

And what do we get?

Domain ID:D144023586-LROR


Created On:20-Apr-2007 21:52:01 UTC

Last Updated On:20-Jun-2007 03:54:52 UTC

Expiration Date:20-Apr-2009 21:52:01 UTC

Sponsoring Inc. (R71-LROR)


Registrant ID:6122690fae69e953

Registrant Name:Domain Administrator

Registrant Organization:Microsoft Corporation

Registrant Street1:One Microsoft Way

Registrant Street2:

Registrant Street3:

Registrant City:Redmond

Registrant State/Province:WA

Registrant Postal Code:98052

Registrant Country:US

Registrant Phone:+1.4258828080

Registrant Phone Ext.:

Registrant FAX:+1.4259367329

Registrant FAX Ext.:


Admin ID:5531913fae606961

Admin Name:Domain Administrator

Admin Organization:Microsoft Corporation

Admin Street1:One Microsoft Way

Admin Street2:

Admin Street3:

Admin City:Redmond

Admin State/Province:WA

Admin Postal Code:98052

Admin Country:US

Admin Phone:+1.4258828080

Admin Phone Ext.:

Admin FAX:+1.4259367329

Admin FAX Ext.:


Tech ID:5569489faeb97789

Tech Name:MSN Hostmaster

Tech Organization:Microsoft Corporation

Tech Street1:One Microsoft Way

Tech Street2:

Tech Street3:

Tech City:Redmond

Tech State/Province:WA

Tech Postal Code:98052

Tech Country:US

Tech Phone:+1.4258828080

Tech Phone Ext.:

Tech FAX:+1.4259367329

Tech FAX Ext.:


Name Server:NS1.MSFT.NET

Name Server:NS5.MSFT.NET

Name Server:NS2.MSFT.NET

Name Server:NS3.MSFT.NET

Name Server:NS4.MSFT.NET

Name Server:

Name Server:

Name Server:

Name Server:

Name Server:

Name Server:

Name Server:

Name Server:

HAHAHA. Surprise! Good old Microsoft! Community my arse!

It realy is true, isn't it?! The only thing that MSFT is capable off is deceipt!
It damnit is actually true. Every little thing it utters is the exact opposite
of what it looks to be at first glance! It is true!

Jason! Joseph Stalin wants to hire you! He wants you to take charge of the
Ministry Of Truth!

And what remarks do we read there? Well, subsitute ODF for OpenXML and these
remarks hold as well!

Take for instance

"ODF will be a key standard to allow companies to share electonic
documents. Approving this standard is key to move to true globalisation and
provide services to anyone, anywhere, at any time in the world. Therefore I
provide my full support and req"


"As a consultant and developer, I believe that standardization of the ODF
format will allow many IT players to use and create production tools, and handle
and manage information without the need for official instruments, reducing costs
for customizin"


"As a leading provider of report mining solutions, Datawatch benefits from
the ability to easily integrate ODF functionality in our products. Our customers
gain greatly from being able to extract data from a variety of different systems
and formats and"

Or, better said, in some cases, start to hold.

Take this poor soul:

Arvatech, Inc. — United States

"Open XML benefits such as portability, integration, accessibility and
interoperability are essential to our business as software solution providers.
Arvatech supports the adoption of Open XML as a standard."

* - Raquel Vega, President

Well, poor Raquel is going to be bitterly disapointed in the portability and
interoperability department as OOXML is a "standard" that can only run
on MS-Windows and can only be implemented by Microsoft! Unless, of course, one
uses Microsoft's defenition of these concepts. "Portable" meaning
"runs on any Microsoft OS" and interoptable meaning "works with
any Microsoft product"

The same goes for Paul Schmitt of Quark, Inc. or Patrik Döös from 4screen AG:

"4screen AG is one of the founding members of as we
are a strong believer in open document formats. Ecma OpenXML is a key enabler
for us to build interoperable solutions which our customers demand. We also
support efforts to get OpenXM"

The list goes on, and on!

Finally take:

University of Bologna — Italy

"Among its activities, the Department of IT Science of Bologna University
is very active in the area of standard document formats; the direction to go
towards more and more format openness is the proper move to provide (especially
to Public Administration"

* - Fabio Vitali, Professor

Well, I agree with the professor! A key issue is though, that you take a
standard that is an Open Standard in the first place! A standard that can only
be implemented by a monopolist and only run on that monoplist's platform is
quite not an Open Standard!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open XML is closed. There is no contradiction.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, July 21 2007 @ 08:05 AM EDT
If you don't know how to implement a feature, just leave it out. Formatting
is optional anyhow. In fact, just convert everything to plain text. It's
easier to read that way.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • And be patented to death - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 23 2007 @ 06:47 AM EDT
    • Who cares? - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 23 2007 @ 09:30 AM EDT
      • DeCSS and MP3 playback - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 23 2007 @ 12:18 PM EDT
        • Huh? - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 23 2007 @ 03:55 PM EDT
X25 revisited
Authored by: stomfi on Saturday, July 21 2007 @ 10:12 AM EDT
This is Microsofts X25 event. Despite none of the IBM users or even IT managers
having a clue what X25 was all about, IBM stacking the committees, and so forth,
the technical experts eventually won the day and IBM lost, mainly because their
Link Control method wasn't as open as the alternative.

Just as it was for IBM's X25 efforts, If Microsoft wins this battle, it is the
end of ISO as an Internationally renowned trustworthy organization. I hope the
current members realize that, otherwise they'll be living off their MS
retirement packages.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Promissary Estoppel?
Authored by: DannyB on Saturday, July 21 2007 @ 10:47 AM EDT
The OOXML fiasco was on Digg. In the comments someone pointed out this link to
me and I do not have an answer.

Does this mean that I can implement an OOXML reader, writer, translator as open
source or commercial software without any permission from Microsoft, and without
fear of patents?

(I'm not asking for legal advice.)

The price of freedom is eternal litigation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Proprietizing Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, July 21 2007 @ 04:59 PM EDT
any business partner gold,purple,yellow, or whatever level that backs microsoft
on this closed xml non-standard deserves to go out of business.

how can any one of them support this and look at people with a straight face.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Please get it right!!
Authored by: mrcreosote on Saturday, July 21 2007 @ 08:35 PM EDT
People, it is vital that we do not fall into the trap of perpetuating the
confusion that Microsoft is creating.

OOXML stands for 'Office Open EXtensible Markup Language' - Note 'OFFICE OPEN'
- not 'Open Office'

Please do not get them confused. This is doubly so in communications to other
parties such as MA ITD.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Proprietizing Standards
Authored by: Tolerance on Sunday, July 22 2007 @ 04:46 AM EDT
I've been waiting for someone to point this out but nothing so far so here goes.
    Some time back Groklaw noted a link to commentary at Reed Construction data; "A New Law Affects Standards Writing" http://www.reed
    I've just checked and that link is still valid. It dealt with a then-new law, "Standards Development Organization Advancement Act of 2004 (H.R. 1086)".
    This was seen as limiting the impact of a 1990 legal decision on standards bodies "Allied Tube v. Indian Head [108 S.Ct. 1931 (1988)]", which subjected standards organisations to antitrust penalties.
    Without the new law, antitrust statutes would have allowed IBM to sue (for restraint of trade) the Portuguese standards body which excluded them had the organisation been subject to US Antitrust law.
    In part the text read:
    " ... a discussion of Allied Tube v. Indian Head [108 S.Ct. 1931 (1988)]. In that case, a group of people banded together to subvert an organization's procedures for adopting codes and standards. ... The new NFPA members from the steel tubing industry voted down the amendment at NFPA's annual meeting. The PVC conduit manufacturers sued the steel tube manufacturers and won a $3.8 million verdict for restraint of trade. The case established the principle that the writing of codes and standards is subject to antitrust laws—even though it is similar to governmental activities."

    The Reed Construction commentator went on to point out that if the standards body (such as ECMA) indulged in
    "any anti-competitive activity for a for-profit entity that stands to financially benefit from participating in any standards development activity",
    that standards body would be liable not just for economic damages but also for punitive damages - such as those which hit ASME in Hydrolevel back in 1980, perhaps.

    Grumpy old man

    [ Reply to This | # ]

"that's how the game is played"
Authored by: chrism on Wednesday, July 25 2007 @ 12:15 PM EDT
I don't know why I am bothering to answer an anonymous post well after anyone is paying attention, but your post is so gloriously wrong I can't stop myself.

"Unless you are earning money with a technology, nobody will come after you. Are you earning money with your invention?"

What if you have no intention making money with your invention, but your invention threatens the revenue stream of someone already making money?

Suppose you write some software useful in VOIP applications because you are annoyed with the exiting VOIP solutions and want to improve the situation. So you write some software to fix the problem and the next thing you know Verizon is suing anyone who tries to use your software / technique because it threatens their revenue stream.

It is interesting that you put "making money" up on such a high pedestal. The most important things we do in life are not done to make money. Having and raising children, for example. People don't generally do that to make money. Quite the reverse. They make money so they can do support their children and provide for them.

A lot of inventive activity has nothing to do with being able to charge other people for use of your invention. It has to do with solving problems you encounter in your life to help yourself, your family and friends, and people in general.

It is not OK that the patent system is being used to stop that activity. I can't understand what motivates your cries of "hey that is how the game is played, learn how to play it or suffer the consequences" except that you consider "making money" the highest calling in life.

You are just begging the question of what people want to use their money for. If you bothered to answer that question, which most people would answer "To support their families and have fun living a creative life", your "that's how the game is played" crack wouldn't stand up to scrunity.

So I see why you stop asking questions where you do.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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