01.04.08

OOXML: Forced Upgrades, Forced Obsolescence

Posted in ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML at 1:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Deprecated Microsoft

”OOXML is already (mis)used as a tool that creates the problems it purports to have solved.“The hyperlink above leads to a previous very recent writeup on this topic. Even amid heated discussions in ISO, Microsoft was not too shy to reveal just why OOXML must be shot down. OOXML is already (mis)used as a tool that creates the problems it purports to have solved.

The scoop came from Slashdot, but other articles have since then appeared, including in C|net. It is worth mentioning that Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, owns C|Net. This explains the bias and the endless flow of Microsoft lobbyists that come from C|Net. Here are just a couple of examples. It’s not just Bill Gates’ so-called 'charity' that buys media companies (and invests in predatory oil companies).

Anyway, here is Groklaw’s response to this new discovery:

First, although Microsoft claims the blocked file formats are “insecure”, I don’t believe it. Read Rob Weir’s Legacy Format FUD on that. If you read the Microsoft how to work around this, you find out it involves changing some things in your registry. But what is interesting is, among the file formats blocked are things like Word 97 for Windows and Word 2001 for the Mac. A lot of people have documents in those formats. I do myself. So here’s what I think might work: open your document in OpenOffice.org, the latest version. It can open those types of documents and many, many more. Then save your document in a format that will work with Office 2003. Then ask yourself two questions: do we need ODF to ensure that we can open documents in the future without such difficulties? I’d answer yes, we do. And the second question I’d be asking is: why am I still using Microsoft products when they are nothing but troubles? And finally, if Microsoft ever again has the nerve to tell us that we need another standard document format to ensure backward compatibility for all those old documents, I think I will laugh. That is clearly not at the top of Microsoft’s list of to do items.

Here is another response:

It makes an interesting comparison between OOXML (Microsoft’s new proposed office document standard) and the much older RTF standard. It argues that Microsoft will use OOXML to further lock in their customers, and to continually make it difficult for any competitor to produce OOXML compatibility, while officially being able to claim ‘standard compliance’, just like they have done in the past with RTF. And since Microsoft has shown its strategy with RTF in the past, why – the article asks – should we assume anything else from Microsoft today?

[...]

Why should we believe for a second that Microsoft’s intent is not exactly the same with OOXML as it was with RTF?

Here is what Sam Hiser has to say:

Trouble is these changes to the format will never make it into the Office 2007 software products — which are shipping as we speak. And Microsoft has never intended for the new XML formats (with file extensions .docx, .xlsx, .pptx) implemented in Office 2007|8 to fully reflect the OOXML specification.

Along with disabling the legacy document formats in Office 2003 through service pack 3, these measures together represent on their face Microsoft’s “Customer Pull-Up” strategy designed to coerce customers to move into the company’s next-generation lock-in tank. The Pull-Up is insidious because customers, under what appears to them to be their own free will, purchase new Microsoft software fearing that to be without access to Microsoft’s newest document formats they will not be able to do work.

Here is another serious complaint about this forced upgrade stunt, followed by some suggestions.

The solution is simple: open standards.

1. Begin thinking about how you can use open source software, which doesn’t cost any money at all, to replace closed source alternatives that will only lock you into proprietary formats. For example, use OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office. It’s just as good as Microsoft Office for most tasks, and best of all, it’s free!

2. Save your files in ODT (OpenDocument) format, a popular open-source document format that any programmer can implement for free, so that there will always be software to open your old documents. That’s what many US states and other national governments are beginning to do.

3. Always, always keep good backups and migrate those backups to new mediums promptly so that you don’t have 5.25″ floppy disks hanging around anymore. Right now, your files should be stored on CDs and hard drives, not 3.5″ floppies, 5.25 floppies, ZIP disks, LS120 disks, etc.

Remember that with Microsoft formats, your own precious information, some of which can be vital and have sentimental value, will be accessible only as long as Microsoft permits it.

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7 Comments

  1. Stephane Rodriguez said,

    January 5, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Gravatar

    Bad research Roy, Groklaw got it wrong. It is not true that Word 97 files get deprecated. If that were true, that would indeed be worth news given the amount of such files out there, but that is just not the case.

    If you re-read the MS support article, it’s very clear : “All Word files that have a version number that is less than but not equal to Word 6.0 for Windows are blocked from opening.”.

    Just for the record, Word 6.0 was the version before Word 95. So not only Word 97 files are not blocked (Word 97 files are derived from Word 6.0 files with new records), Word 95 files are not blocked and Word 6.0 files are not blocked either.

    Just in case you ask, I just did the test, and it confirms the above.

    What Microsoft tries to do is warn when you are saving to old file versions such as Word 6.0. There is a dialog box which probably Microsoft thinks is scary enough to deter users from proceeding. But that’s not blocking at all. And what I’m talking about here is saving back. Reading an old Word 6.0 file works just fine in Word 2003 SP3.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 5, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Gravatar

    I merely quoted other sources and something did raise my brow when I saw Office 97 mentioned because this did not align with the succinct Slashdot report. Thanks for giving a more accurate assessment of this. I think you should inform PJ as well if you haven’t.

  3. 5fc435 said,

    January 5, 2008 at 6:33 am

    Gravatar

    How about if you ‘pull’ your mis-informed blog-entry then?

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a known (eet), pseudonymous, nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

  4. kkgv said,

    January 5, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Gravatar

    How about pulling your mis-informed article then?

    Note: comment has been flagged for arriving from a known (eet), pseudonymous, nymshifting, abusive Internet troll that posts from open proxies and relays around the world.

  5. Yuhong Bao said,

    January 5, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Gravatar

    By default, only documents earlier than Word 6.0 is desparated for now.

  6. Yuhong Bao said,

    January 5, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Gravatar

    But you are right that this registry key can be used to obsolete any old format.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 5, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Gravatar

    By default, only documents earlier than Word 6.0 is desparated for now.

    I notice that Groklaw ‘corrected’ this mistake by citing a newer article that speaks about the problem and explores the issue in greater depth. As I said, the inaccuracy comes from the quote.

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