05.27.07

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How’s that MS Office Native ODF Support Coming?

Posted in Boycott Novell, Deals, Formats, FSF, FUD, GPL, Interoperability, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument at 10:23 am by Shane Coyle

Shortly after the announcement of the Microsoft-Novell deal, Stafford Masie – Novell’s Country Manager for South Africa, appeared at the Cape Initiative (CITI) conference, and then held a Question and Answer session afterward.

Some of Masie’s statements provided important insight into Novell’s motivations for entering the Linux business as well as the motivations for entering into agreement with Microsoft.

We could say that some of Masie’s statements were prophetic, and some were pathetic. Here, we will check up on one statement Masie made, and try to decide which category it belongs in…

Rob Weir has a posting regarding his experiences with Microsoft’s ODF Plugin, and suffice it to say it falls far short of "native support" and integration. Some notably disappointing aspects of the add-ins operation include the fact that all ODF files are imported to DOCX format to edit, and then must be explicitly saved as ODF (no Ctrl + S for you). Also, you cannot create an ODF file from scratch in MS Word – you must first save the file in a native MS format, then convert it to ODF.

Even more amazing are the fundamental ways in which the Microsoft-sponsored add-in fail in terms of Windows and Office integration:

First, we start by looking at the many ways in which documents are integrated into the Windows/Office platform. Any fluent user of this platform will use many of these capabilities on daily basis. These are basic features which have been around, in some cases, since Windows 3.0, maybe earlier.

Windows shell integration

1. Double-click on a document on the Desktop or in a folder and it loads into the appropriate application. Double-click on a Word document and it loads in Word.
2. Right-click in a folder and choose “New XXX” to create a new XXX document in the specified folder. So, “New…Microsoft Office Excel Worksheet” creates a new, blank Excel document.
3. Right-click on a document, choose Properties and on the Summary tab you can view metadata for that document.
4. Recently-edited documents appear in the “My Recent Documents” under the Start menu.
5. Documents referred to in web pages, via URL links will render in an inline Office session in the browser.
6. Documents are indexed by the Windows search engine.

Office integration

1. Ability to File/Open, File/Save and File/New a document via the familiar menu options.
2. Ability to set a file format as the default file format for the application.
3. Ability to use the familiar keyboard shortcuts, Control-O and Control-S to open and save documents.
4. Ability to forward a document to someone in an email and for them to be able to launch the a document by clicking on it when received via email.
5. Ability to password protect a document.
6. Ability to post a document to a web folder or to a SharePoint server

It must be noted that none of the above integration points are allowed by the ODF Add-in for Word, the much-touted translator for which Microsoft provides the, “Funding, Architectural & Technical Guidance and Project co-coordination”.

So, it appears that there will be quite a bit of work needed for Stafford’s vision of native ODF support in MS Office to be delivered by Microsoft. There was some talk of the DaVinci plugin and its providing of native support for ODF within Office, but I have yet to see the plugin available – and not too much in ways of announcements either. I would find it funny if an outside group was better able to deliver seamless ODF integration into Microsoft’s own products, but then again – does anyone believe Microsoft truly wants native ODF support in Office, even if Novell does?

Of course, it still remains to be seen if this promise by Stafford Masie will indeed be kept by Novell, one that was echoed by Bruce Lowry as well. It should be noted that Groklaw immediately seized on the following from Novell’s recent filing, which at least shows that Novell is considering all possible ramifications of their deal with Microsoft and the upcoming GPLv3:

Discussion Draft 3 includes a term intended to require Microsoft to make the same patent covenants that our customers receive to all recipients of the GPLv3 software included in our products. It also includes a license condition intended to preclude companies from entering into patent arrangements such as our agreement with Microsoft by prohibiting any company that has entered into such an arrangement from distributing GPLv3 code. This license condition does not apply to arrangements entered before March 28, 2007, so as currently proposed it would not apply to our agreement with Microsoft; however, the FSF specifically indicated that this “grandfathering” condition is tentative and may be dropped depending on feedback the FSF receives.

If the final version of GPLv3 contains terms or conditions that interfere with our agreement with Microsoft or our ability to distribute GPLv3 code, Microsoft may cease to distribute SUSE Linux coupons in order to avoid the extension of its patent covenants to a broader range of GPLv3 software recipients, we may need to modify our relationship with Microsoft under less advantageous terms than our current agreement, or we may be restricted in our ability to include GPLv3 code in our products, any of which could adversely affect our business and our operating results. In such a case, we would likely explore alternatives to remedy the conflict, but there is no assurance that we would be successful in these efforts.

Not a pretty picture, perhaps a stock buyback really is the only hope this management team has left for one last hurrah on the market. Otherwise, this may be the beginning of the end for Novell – either lose much of your contributed code base, or lose your #1 channel partner. Considering they seem to have already lost their soul, I bet they keep the channel partner.

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8 Comments

  1. Thomas Hansen said,

    May 27, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Gravatar

    This might be a bit off topic, but I think that instead of boycotting Novell we should not spend energy on fighting eachother but rather focus on what binds us…
    Read my blog about the “Real Deal” here; http://ajaxwidgets.com/Blogs/thomas/microsoft_and_novell__the_real.bb

    .t

  2. James Gosling said,

    May 27, 2007 at 11:56 am

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    Novell are taking Linux and Open Source mainstream, it strikes me that some people in the community are too attached to being ‘rebels’ to accept the progress that is happening. Novells acquisition of SUSE was a very smart move, it’s deal with Microsoft… though it made us all choke on our popcorn for a moment or two, was also smart. Novell want market share and this will allow them to take it… from Redhat. Novell is no Microsoft lap-dog, this deal offers them more good than bad at present, if that balance alters all the cards will be back on the table, in the meantime they take market share… deal with it.

  3. James Gosling said,

    May 27, 2007 at 12:00 pm

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    At a recent Novell roadshow the Novell consultants on-hand were all to happy to push using Wine to run windows apps on Linux and there were still regular digs at Microsoft. Novell are still committed to taking market share from Microsoft and Novell are agressively pushing their Novell Linux Desktop as a direct alternative to Windows. Although I have never been over-impressed with Novells marketing in the past I wish them all the best with this.

  4. Shane Coyle said,

    May 27, 2007 at 12:24 pm

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    It should be noted that, since they specifically say that MS would want out of the Linux distribution business before being bound by GPL3, they are implicitly acknowledging that they are Linux Distributors, bound by GPL2.

    This was echoed by a commenter over on Dave Rosenberg’s announcement of the 10-K release. (you can’t link to a specific comment, but it’s the 2nd one – by "GreyGeek" – right after our very own Roy Schestowitz)

    Nothing new was revealed in this article and some important information was left out.

    First, Microsoft agrees not to sue those customers that purchase Novell’s SELS because, as the original agreement states, Novell is paying Microsoft a ROYALTY for EACH SELS that it sells. Ballmer calls it “the IP bridge” in the agreement. So, Novell is paying Microsoft for the privilege of selling its OWN product to its OWN customers, all the while denying that there is any MS IP in Linux. But, while Novell agrees not to sue Microsoft customers for any Novell IP that may be in MS products, Microsoft DOES NOT pay any royalties to Novell for its own products.

    This is certainly a one-sided agreement, and I have no doubt the Hovsepian KNEW exactly what he was agreeing to, regardless of his subsequent disclaimers. This not to say that there IS any MS IP in Linux or FOSS. The USTPO & Congress has messed up the US patent scene so badly that it is more than likely ALL software violates someone’s IP patent. What is for sure is that Linux and FOSS have always developed their code IN PUBLIC and its source has always been available for inspection by anyone. No one can claim they “didn’t know” their IP was in Linux, while NO ONE can KNOW FOR SURE that their IP is NOT in Microsoft code, because it is secret. Microsoft was claiming IP violations by Linux two years ago, but has failed to bring court action. Patent law requires the holder to quickly inform the infringer exactly what is being infringed in order to mitigate damages, not run them up. It is now doubtful that Microsoft could sue for any of those claims they’ve been making for over two years.

    Secondly, Microsoft is now A DISTRIBUTOR of Linux (SELS) and as such it must abide by the GPL or reqlinquish its rights to distribute. Part of that “abiding” is that since it claims that Linux contains it’s IP but it is now distributing Linux, those part of Linux that may have violated their IP are now under the GPL. Ballmer and Microsoft has KNOWN of this requirement since they began calling the GPL a “cancer” or a “virus” SEVEN YEARS AGO. The GPL states, in part:

    “6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients’ exercise of the rights granted herein. You are not responsible for enforcing compliance by third parties to this License.

    7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program. ”

    Microsoft owns their own IP. IF some of their IP is in Linux and they are distributing it under the GPL (the coupon trick is just a dodge), then they are placing their IP under the GPL.
    Posted by: GreyGeek at May 26, 2007 11:01 AM

  5. b3timmons said,

    May 27, 2007 at 2:09 pm

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    Most people who have spoken out against Novell do not seem to be mere rebels: there seems to be a genuine sense of betrayal, not at all typical of a rebel attitude.

    I don’t understand why any success that Novell has is necessarily good. If it takes business from more legitimate free software providers such as Red Hat, Canonical, Sun, etc. then I think it’s bad; otherwise, maybe it’s good. Indeed, any success that is enabled by the patent agreement is despicable.

    The argument that we should all just get along is wanting. Corporations should never be trusted unless it’s in black and white, so at best “getting along” is a tricky thing. The wariness about Novell is only excacerbated by the patent agreement, so I see no choice but to advise a boycott. I thought I read something about Microsoft or Novell stating that more about their deal would be revealed this November, so maybe at that time, the boycott could be re-evaluated.

    Thanks to the efforts of boycottnovell.com, we have updated observations about _why_ Novell should be boycotted. boycottnovell.com bends over backward to even regularly say good things about Novell. The reason for the praise escapes me, but in any case, no one can accuse boycottnovell.com of never acknowledging good things about Novell.

  6. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 27, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Gravatar

    @ b3timmons: in the past we stressed that the domain name, which was chosen without much consideration, should have been something like giveupthepatentcovenant.com.

  7. Sebastiaan Veld said,

    May 28, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Gravatar

    @Roy: Then register (something like) giveupthepatentcovenant.com and redirect boycottnovell.com to that.

  8. Shane Coyle said,

    May 28, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Gravatar

    What’s the difference? Until they give up the patent covenant, I will boycott Novell – MS’ attempt to circumvent the GPL is through Novell’s customers and contributors – cut those off and the attack vector is removed.

    No muss, no fuss.

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