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03.12.08

The Latest Hits at Microsoft’s Broken OOXML Platform/App/Format

Posted in Deception, ECMA, Formats, ISO, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument at 1:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML is bad

The Web is relentlessly criticising Microsoft’s OOXML. This whole recent debate has finally led more people to realising that documents should be capable of being viewed equally well by many different applications, devices and platforms just as the Web can be used and accessed universally. Here are some new articles of interest.

Truly Open Formats Are Key

OStatic, which is a new Web site solely focused on Open Source software, has this piece on the importance of open formats and their relationship to open source software.

Without a documented, open standard, the application becomes the only way to get data into or out of a file. If the application is a closed-source, commercial program, then the user is at the software company’s mercy, hoping that the program will continue to work, and that the format contains no serious bugs. The economics of proprietary software reward complicated and hard-to-understand file formats, because they ensure that users will continue to use the program.

With open-source sofware, the opposite is true: Programmers have an incentive to make the file format as open and readable as possible, and to encourage others to write programs that work with the same format. Format changes are documented and debated by a community of programmers and users, ensuring that the program strikes a good balance between backward compatibility and future features.

Just one word of warning about this Web site: the site is part of Om Malik’s (GigaOM) network. Om Malik accepted payments from Microsoft to advertise them in disguise, essentially by reciting their marketing slogans. There is a name for this type of thing: “viral marketing” at best and “astroturfing” at worst. There are details about this incident here. Michael Arrington (the TechCrunch network) is equally guilty.

The Microsoft-only Definition of “Open”

People are not really buying the “Open” angle in “Open XML”. It’s neither open nor XML. What’s more, it is a case of resisting what is already an international standard — properly constructed and fully-documented XML with no predatory licensing traps [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

This document incompatibility shows it’s ugly side when you can’t open files from other people using another piece of software. This is why I do not believe taking on a large task such as creating OOXML was really worth the effort. Creating a new document format in the face of another format perfected for the job at hand, reinforced the beliefs of many that Microsoft wants to control all of the standards they use. Strangely enough, if they had chosen to use ODF, it would have helped their ailing PR by showing people that they are indeed interested in making document compatibility a true focus. That decision would most certainly be more consumer-friendly than adding in the OOXML format, or a piece rather, into Office 2007, causing confusion with consumers about whether or not others can read their documents.

‘Open’ Format the Worst ‘Feature’ of Office 2007

Consider this new article from the mainstream press in Australia [via Bob Sutor]. It slams OOXML, pretty much describing it as an anti-feature that ruins Office 2007. It also explains why Microsoft should have embraced ODF (which it still can and probably will).

ODF is also much simpler. It is functionally similar to OOXML, but comprises only 850 pages of code, compared to more than 6000 pages for OOXML.

It is not hard to believe, as many in the standards community do, that Microsoft’s whole strategy is to further entrench its global dominance and freeze out competitors.

Microsoft could, after all, have adopted the ODF standard itself and not pursued OOXML. Ask yourself why it would develop a rival standard, then bully others into adopting it. We will know in a couple of weeks which way the ISO vote goes.

Who is ISO? What parts of it have not yet been hijacked by Microsoft and its business partners, then failed to function properly?

“But, Mommy, OOXML is Broken…”

The ‘political’ side of this issue aside, consider again the sad technical state of OOXML. From a KDE developer:

Oha. So, it’s another boolean flag and describes what the application should do during editing (hint: it’s a file-format and not a guide how to implement the application itself). To be able to load+save that flag and those PII thing, I would need to know now more details what PII exactly is, where it’s stored and how I am able to load it. But at none of the 7000 pages are any details about this Sad Fine, only Microsoft knows…

Microsoft really needs OOXML. The world does not need OOXML. So which way will ISO bend? The world or Microsoft?

Related articles:

OOXML is fraud

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