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Microsoft Office 2007 Fails OOXML Conformance Tests, Alex Brown Admits, Hopes For the Best
Monday, April 21 2008 @ 09:42 AM EDT

This takes the cake. Alex Brown has just admitted on his Griffin Brown blog and further to ZDNET UK's Peter Judge that Microsoft Office 2007 has failed two OOXML conformance tests he ran. First ZDNET:
In a blog posting this week, Alex Brown, leader of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) group in charge of maintaining the Office Open XML (OOXML) standard, revealed that Microsoft Office 2007 documents do not meet the latest specifications of the ISO OOXML draft standard.

"Word documents generated by today's version of Microsoft Office 2007 do not conform to ISO/IEC 29500," said Brown in a blog post recounting the process of testing a document against the "strict" and "transitional" schema defined in the standard.

Color me surprised. Say, France, you might want to slow down adding this "standard" to your list until it actually works. All you folks who voted for it need to tell us why you accepted it before it was done. Because what this means is that OOXML was just approved as an ISO standard, on the allegation that it was necessary for interoperability with Microsoft documents, and it turns out it doesn't even do that. It also means no one can interoperate successfully with Microsoft Office 2007 except Microsoft. Neato. Back to Go. Do not collect $200. Isn't the Fast Track supposed to be for already *implemented* standards?

I know. After ISO was captured by Microsoft, nobody cares about rules any more. Brown hopes Microsoft will be a good doo-bee and fix this.

What are the odds?

In a statement sent to ZDNet.co.uk on Friday, Brown said that, although he was hopeful that Microsoft will update its Office products to stay in line with the version of OOXML approved by ISO, it is not guaranteed. "The question behind the question, for a lot of the current OOXML debate, seems to be: can Microsoft really be trusted to behave? We shall see," said Brown.

Commentators, including Tim Bray, the inventor of XML, have suggested that Microsoft is unlikely to bother to keep conformant with the OOXML standard as it develops within ISO, but Brown was more optimistic: "Given Microsoft's proven ability to tinker with the Office XML file format between service packs, I am hoping that Microsoft Office will shortly be brought into line with the [ISO/IEC] 29500 specification, and will stay that way," he said. "Indeed, a strong motivation for approving 29500 as an ISO/IEC standard was to discourage Microsoft from this kind of file-format rug-pulling stunt in future."

Hilarious. We saw how well that worked already, watching the process by which Microsoft got this "standard" approved in the first place. Brown adds with the usual dose of snark that he hopes to test OpenOffice against ODF sometime. He persists in pretending that Microsoft is not a monopoly or that such a position doesn't mean anything. Here's what he concluded from the tests he ran:

Such a test is only indicative, of course, but a few tentative conclusions can be drawn:
* Word documents generated by today's version of MS Office 2007 do not conform to ISO/IEC 29500

* Making them conform to the STRICT schema is going to require some surgery to the (de)serialisation code of the application

* Making them conform to the TRANSITIONAL will require less of the same sort of surgery (since they're quite close to conformant as-is)

Given Microsoft's proven ability to tinker with the Office XML file format between service packs, I am hoping that MS Office will shortly be brought into line with the 29500 specification, and will stay that way. Indeed, a strong motivation for approving 29500 as an ISO/IEC standard was to discourage Microsoft from this kind of file format rug-pulling stunt in future.

"17MB (around 122,000) of invalidity messages" in the strict test; less in a "transitional" model, meaning one no one on the planet will be using, since the entire point of the BRM was to fix stuff and none of those fixes are yet incorporated into Microsoft Office 2007. And by the time they are, will Microsoft Office 2007 have moved on, so we can continue to play catch up with Microsoft forever and a day? Isn't that what standards are supposed to prevent? Tim Bray, the man who invented XML, told us already not to hold our breath for Microsoft to fervently fix OOXML:

I suppose they’ll probably show up to the meetings and try to act interested, but it’s going to be a sideline and nobody important will be there. What Microsoft really wanted was that ISO stamp of approval to use as a marketing tool. And just like your mother told you, when they get what they want and have their way with you, they’re probably not gonna call you in the morning.

He calls it ISO's Fantasy, and Brown, sitting by the phone, has it bad. Here's the part he's not mentioning: OOXML is headed for maintenance mode, so even more changes are going to happen. And it allows for proprietary extensions. So it's a perpetually moving target.


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