02.19.08

Site Reader Explains Why Microsoft Released Its Office Binary Formats Specifications

Posted in Deception, Formats, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Patents, Red Hat, Turbolinux, Ubuntu, Xandros at 8:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

An anonymous reader has contributed his insights for us to publish in the spirit of helping the fight against FUD.

So, what do we have here? A new maneouver of the monopoly: Now they publish the specifications of legacy (97,2000) Microsoft Office documents (they arrive 10 years late). Now that thanks to ODF we are on the verge of not needing them anymore. Ever.

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” Fear the Greeks even if they bear gifts. This is absolutely a “Trojan horse” (poison pill) for Free/Libre Software. Let me explain:

There is an absolutely critical question for Free/Libre Software (and, by the way, if you must pay/negotiate patent racket eer… royalties as Novell has agreed to do, it cannot be deemed Free/Libre anymore)

Are these formats freely implementable in projects licensed under the GPLv3 (and notice that version 3 here acquires a crucial importance)? Are they available absolutely royalty-free and absolutely software patents-free? If that is not the case this is plain yet-another-trap-from-Microsoft(tm).

Moreover the specs are published at a critical moment when Microsoft desperately needs to see endorsed by ISO its Frankenstein-Format MSOOXML (which includes undocumented binary blobs, at least undocumented until now, -and it remains to be seen if the documentation just published is useful with them at all-) after they have corrupted the whole standarization process by playing every little dirty trick in the book to rig the Technical Committees in order to see their format approved.

***Why NOW?, I am sure things would have been a lot EASIER for them should they have published the specs from the beginning… ah, but then the very format’s “Raison d’etre”, i.e. LEGACY COMPATIBILITY MOTIVATION THEY JUSTIFIED FOR THE EXISTENCE A SECOND UNNECESSARY ISO STANDARD FOR DOCUMENT FORMATS, AN “ISOED”-MSOOXML CONFLICTING WITH THE EXISTING ODF-IETF/ISO26300 WOULD NOT BE VALID ANYMORE: IN FACT NOW THAT THEY HAVE PUBLISHED THE LEGACY SPECS IT IS NOT VALID ANYMORE***

“They desperately need to stop the adoption of ISO26300-ODF by governments and public institutions…”They desperately need to stop the adoption of ISO26300-ODF by governments and public institutions, which, by the way, are probably the biggest captive customers and Cash-Cows of Microsoft (there are already some precedents that should have made them scared to death, like in Massachusetts)

They have said that they “cannot guarantee” legal safety if you use their OSP-published products in a GPL Free/Libre project [ODF], and that they leave the question to be asked “to your lawyers”, what a superb exercise of cynicism! (OSP=”Open Specification Promise”, notice this is a “promise” -and, as such, coming from Microsoft, bound to be broken-, OSP is not a licence nor a contract, and it is not legally binding whatsoever)

GNU logoWhat they have made clear is that, even if ISO endorses their MSOOXML format, they are not committed with it in future versions (we will see EEE at play again). The documentation of this attempt-at-a-standard already comprises 6000+ pages of specifications plus more that 2000 extra pages of errors and suggested amendments.

Be very aware, that when talking about Microsoft you always have to look for “side effects” and “collateral damages”.

In this case I can see a two-pronged attack to Open Standards and Free/Libre Software. For the first, as I have explained, they are trying to discourage ODF adoption as much as they can. For the second, think about the consequences of injecting their OSP’ed products -not-quite-GPL-compatible-and-of-course-GPLv3-incompatible- (since you cannot pass the rights to the recipients of the software -and that’s why they love the BSD-like licenses while they shun the GPL-like licences), I say, injecting them in some Gnu/Linux distro: Novell (Xandros, Linspire, Turbolinux) is a first candidate, whereas for Red Hat, Ubuntu, Mandriva, Debian, Slackware and others… have you paid our patent protection racket yet? No? Well, see you in court.

There is a premise with this company (Microsoft) and it is that any of their products -even those provided cost-free- are devised to try to tie you to some other of their products.

To finish with, the published specs don’t include either Access, Visio or Outlook. And ironically, they are published in .PDF and .XPS (“metro”) formats (so beware, Adobe!)

Also see: http://fsfeurope.org/documents/msooxml-idiosyncrasies

This illustrates the impossibility of obtaining interoperability with real implementations of MSOOXML by Microsoft even after (and if) endorsed by ISO.

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4 Comments

  1. Sam Hiser said,

    February 19, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Gravatar

    Roy -

    Looks like Microsoft took my June 2007 advice …

    Microsoft’s Legacy Binary Formats
    http://fussnotes.typepad.com/plexnex/2007/06/microsofts-lega.html

    And the world has picked up on my Jan 2007 analysis …

    Analyzing the Microsoft Office Open XML License
    http://fussnotes.typepad.com/plexnex/2007/01/analyzing_the_m.html

    If I’m right on this, how can you doubt the veracity & validity of my interest in CDF?

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 19, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Gravatar

    Looks like Microsoft took my June 2007 advice …

    Yes, I think I pointed this out before (here or elsewhere).

    If I’m right on this, how can you doubt the veracity & validity of my interest in CDF?

    We have been through this before.

  3. Stephane Rodriguez said,

    February 19, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Gravatar

    Roy,

    The problem is that there is material for a post, but not with the content you have posted. There is a number of innacuracies.

    The documents that Microsoft has made available through direct download were available FOREVER by sending an email at officeff@microsoft.com

    The timing is certainly suspect, and you can certainly view it as a way to provoke a strong positive reaction from national bodies later this month (many of which may not be up-to-date on the subject, thus easily subverted) . But, as a matter of fact, experts in national bodies know what is new, and what isn’t.

    I have posted elsewhere that those documents are incomplete. So from a strict point of view of interoperability, Microsoft is not giving access to a finished work. In fact, I believe these are the documents that they use internally, which is handy when you are taking a look at the source code.

    The problem is, of course, that only they have the source code.

    And that’s what brings me to the only solution to the interoperability issue. You know Microsoft is starting a bogus “translator” open source project that will never get finished. This and the documents are in fact a way to avoid giving access to the source code of the Office compatibility pack, a component they ship to convert formats back and forth.

    It’s key to understand that this compatibility pack includes everything we need, including the undocumented details. It remains purely document-centric, Microsoft keeps a hold on the application-level (the compatibility pack has no UI).

    Microsoft should give access to the source code of the compatibility pack.

    Anything else is just noise.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 19, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Gravatar

    At the end of the day, they need to control the ‘standard’. That’s just what they say and they are unlikely to give it away to ensure 100% fidelity in translation (impossibility given dependence on a platform). As long as you know fidelity is poor, there’s that FUD you get whenever you move away from Microsoft Office (“OMG. I lost something. Silently!”).

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