Recently we had a mind-boggling discussion about Novell’s special release of OpenOffice for Windows, with a bunch of extra forbidden fruit. Of particular interest was the following little nugget of information from Novell’s CEO:
What about things [OpenOffice features] that were discussed that didn’t make the cut?
[Hovsepian:] One that we were very interested in would be running some of their toolsets on our Linux platform — Visual Studio and other toolsets. That one didn’t make the cut.
Was the perennial question of a version of Microsoft Office for Linux discussed?
[Hovsepian:] Yes, that was one of the ‘toolsets’ I referred to. That one didn’t make the cut, either. As an executive, I understand that they’re protecting their franchise, and I’m respectful of that.
Now, picture the following scenario: John uses Windows and OpenOffice 2.1.x. He produces a nice presentation using Presenter and also uses a collection of nice and fancy macros for slide transition. He then sends his work over to Anna, who favours the use of GNU/Linux. She uses OpenOffice 2.1.x.
But here comes the fun part. It does not matter which distribution she uses, the software is for some reason unable to reproduce the integrity of John’s presentation, let alone view it without losing some crucial elements. It later turns out that John has unknowingly made use Novell’s special ‘features’.
Has Novell broken the round-trip rule at an intra-application level, rather than inter-application or inter-platform level? Has it led to fragmentation? Is it truly a case of an application not being backward-compatible with self, but also self-incompatible? Can you see GNU/Linux discriminated against here? Was our early questioning justified? Was Pamela right after all?
Novell claims to be working on improved interoperability. Unless the judgment and assumption we make are flawed, Novell has just made Windows less interoperable with Linux.