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01.02.08

HOWTO: Pressure All Microsoft Office Users to Embrace OOMXL (Updated)

Posted in Formats, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, Security at 4:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Slashdot has a very eye-opening short article. To give a shortened version:

In Service Pack 3 for Office 2003, Microsoft disabled support for many older file formats. If you have old Word, Excel, 1-2-3, Quattro, or Corel Draw documents, watch out!

Mind the following fact, which was mentioned here quite recently:

It’s only been six months since Microsoft launched Office 2007 at retail. But as of July 1, 2007, Microsoft won’t be making the OEM version of Office 2003 to its PC partners, a k a “OEMs.”

As it would seem based on the fragments above, Microsoft is putting pressure on users of old versions of Microsoft Office. They could soon become victims of the network effect (forced upgrade). Microsoft decided to pull away Office 2003 so that it isn’t available. It then relies on innocent users who might use the default file formats in Office 2007 (a derivative of OOXML).

This ought to be yet another reminder of the role of digital preservation and Microsoft's lack of interest in it.

From the comments in Slashdot (one among plenty):

> Deliberately making it too cumbersome and complex for most people to ever
> work around this, i.e. leaving it technically (but not really practically
> for almost everyone) an option, for now at least gives MS an excuse, while
> still taking a big step towards getting rid of support for those old formats
> entirely, which is not all that unreasonable I suppose for formats greater
> than 10 years old.

Let’s not forget – what is being supported is *software*, ie M$ Office, not a file format.

The current iteration of Micro$oft Office should be capable of opening any and all files created by any prior release of M$ Office, and should be capable of doing so in a safe and secure manner.

If the current iteration of Micro$oft Office is incapable of safely and securely parsing any file created by any prior iteration of M$ Office then surely something is very wrong with Microsoft, and with M$ Office!!

Doesn’t ODF seem like a hugely attractive option all of a sudden?

Update: As we were going to mention yesterday, “security reasons” were merely an excuse that serves this hidden agenda. Rob Weir confirms this now and yesterday, in a different forum, I posted the following older story as an example which is similar:

Software like Parallels Desktop for the Mac or Microsoft’s own Virtual PC for Windows allow multiple operating systems to run simultaneously. When it announced licensing rules for Vista last year, Microsoft said that only Vista Business and Vista Ultimate could run as guest operating systems. The company said virtualization presents inherent security risks and that it hoped by limiting which versions of the OS could act as virtual machines, only sophisticated users and businesses would employ the tactic.

At the time, Microsoft pretended that if you get a version of Windows with more features ‘unlocked’, then suddenly it becomes more secure. This was discussed here several times before.

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4 Comments

  1. Yuhong Bao said,

    January 5, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Gravatar

    By default, only those formats older than word 6 is unsupported. I am sure there may be security vulerablities in the converters for the old formats.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 5, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    Gravatar

    No, even a Microsoft executive has pretty much confirmed that there was a ‘mistake’ . I reckon that they realise that their maneuver was bad for their image, so they pretended that someone somewhere in the company wrote an incorrect knowledgebase article. I’d have to look more carefully at the details, but it seems like Microsoft is trying to weasel out of this one with excuses (I know this because it’s a pattern I’ve observed for years).

    See Rob Weir’s article about no known security issues. Or maybe we should give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt it. I guess it’s up for you to decide.

  3. Yuhong Bao said,

    January 6, 2008 at 2:22 am

    Gravatar

    I figured out the problem now. the problem is not in the old file formats themselves, but in the converters for the old file formats.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 6, 2008 at 2:43 am

    Gravatar

    They really ought to ‘patch’ (they claimed security was the issue) all those converters rather than render them deprecated. That’s no way to preserve people’s valuable information. If expiry comes after 12 years, how might one expect to access data 20, 50, or hundreds of years from now? The formats were never formally documented either (except for in the source code, which we know contains bugs like that leap year insanity).

    The accuracy of these recent reports is probably less relevant than implications related to intent. I urge you to read this article from Forbes:

    Alexander Rose, the executive director of the futurist Long Now Foundation, worries about the impermanence of digital information. “If you save that computer for 100 years, will the electrical plugs look the same?” he asks. “The Mac or the PC–will they be around? If they are, what about the software? ” So far there’s no business case for digital preservation–in fact, for software makers like Microsoft, planned obsolescence is the plan.

    “The reality is that it’s in companies’ interest that software should become obsolete and that you should have to buy every upgrade,” Rose says. We could be on the cusp of a turning point, though, in the way businesses and their customers think about digital preservation. “Things will start to change when people start losing all of their personal photos,” Rose said.

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