In a new interview with Steve Ballmer, it seems rather obvious that he escapes the question about OpenDocument support in Microsoft Office. Clearly enough, Microsoft chooses to snub an ISO standard. Why? Because it’s not good for their business. Apparently, it does not matter what their clients require, either. Microsoft wants to be the only company to control the standard and let it evolve in accordance with their own agenda, whatever it may be. Have a look:
[Author:] Is there any chance you’ll support the Open Document Format for Office Applications, which the Massachusetts government’s IT division is adopting as its standard?
[Steve Ballmer:] We’ve announced support today for the PDF format, which is one of the interoperability formats the state of Massachusetts has indicated. We have our own formats for doing kind of bridge documents of our own styles. So I think that’s where our energies are focused right now.
[Author:] Never say never?
[Steve Ballmer:] That’s where our energies are focused.
Remember that many years ago, Steve Ballmer stated that because Microsoft has large market share, they are the standard. This type of attitude is quite telling, isn’t it? How about this old antitrust exhibit?
[Microsoft:] “…we should take the lead in establishing a common approach to UI and to interoperability (of which OLE is only a part). Our efforts to date are focussed too much on our own apps, and only incidentally on the rest of the industry. We want to own these standards, so we should not participate in standards groups. Rather, we should call ‘to me’ to the industry and set a standard that works now and is for everyone’s benefit. We are large enough that this can work.”
Jeremy Allison expresses his concerns about digital preservation. It’s an issue that returned to light after an article from the BBC had been published. This led to a controversy and people’s understanding of these issues was put to doubt. Who are those people that National Archives appoints to make decisions? In the article, National Archives talked about the dangers of proprietary formats. Ironically, they called Microsoft to help them resolve the very same issues that Microsoft introduced in the first place, namely making formats an enigma and making different version of the same software incompatible with one another, in order to encourage/force upgrades (thereby elevating profits). Here is what Jeremy had to say:
Joking aside, proprietary record formats will increase the difficulty of preserving our culture, on top of the problems with obsolete hardware interfaces and the decay of storage media we think of as permanent. File data formats that are not published standards are just asking for trouble for long term data storage. Much though I prefer the OpenOffice “Open Document Format” (ODF) data format for documents, the Microsoft “OfficeOpen XML” (OO-XML) format is also a documented format (although without any other implementations as yet) so it shouldn’t cause problems for long term storage. However, most of the world’s documents in both governments and corporations are still in undocumented proprietary formats, and it sometimes ends up that the documents that people don’t think are worth preserving are the ones historians are most excited to find.
South Africa is still fighting against acceptance of OOXML. Given the enormous scale of manipulation we have been seeing recently, we can only wish them luck.
As a side offering, Bailey will also speak briefly on the issue of open standards and his involvement in the upcoming meeting with the South African standards body to prevent attempts by Microsoft to have its OOXML format ratified as an international standard ahead of the existing open document format.