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OOXML Roundup: Complaints, Competition, Cracks and Complacency

Posted in Australia, ECMA, Europe, Formats, Interoperability, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 12:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

BECTA’s Complaint About OOXML Returned on Monday

BECTA’s complaints have not ceased yet [1, 2]. Monday saw another wave of coverage. Here are some of the latest articles, which are pretty handy because they show a long-time Microsoft ‘alliance’ and its growing pains. An obedient client of Microsoft, BECTA, mops the floor with this attempt to go too far with lock-in. Microsoft believes that if it builds it (OOXML), they will come. “They” as in customers? Or as in anti-trust regulators?

The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) said Monday that it has filed a complaint with the European Commission against Microsoft, alleging that its new Office 2007 file format will impede educational initiatives because it does not natively support open standards.

Here is another article where Marino’s comments are quoted:

In response to last week’s action by Becta, the ODF Alliance’s managing director, Marino Marcich, released the following statement today: “That a major government agency, in this case the UK Government’s lead agency for information and communications technology (ICT) in education, felt compelled to take such an action demonstrates that the wider marketplace, which includes educational and training organizations, libraries and archival institutions, will be adversely impacted by OOXML’s impediments to interoperability. We have repeatedly urged Microsoft to provide native, built-in support for the truly open ODF document standard, as [Becta] has suggested.”

You Don’t {“Get What You Paid For”}™

You get a lot more.

If you think that you always get what you pay for, the just-released beta of OpenOffice 3.0 should convince you otherwise. This free, open-source software suite provides most of what anyone could want in an office suite, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, database, drawing tools, and math equation editor.

Then again, doesn’t Microsoft try to force OpenOffice 3.0 to implement the ‘unimplementable’, essentially tossing thousands of pages of bug-ridden specifications that nobody will ever comply with, not even Microsoft itself? Rest assured, it’s a goalpost-moving routine that is nothing short of technical sabotage of competitors’ products. Microsoft wants it both way: get praised for ‘openness’ while at the same time stifling interoperability.

A Missed Opportunity

In this new article from Australia it is said that an opportunity was missed when Australia chose to stay neutral. The claim was made by by a Red Hat representative.

Australia was one of 41 countries that participated in decision to replace the previous standard, OpenDocument Format (ODF), with OOXML (Open Office XML) which is developed and promoted by Microsoft.

Denmark, Germany, Japan and Singapore were among 24 countries that voted in favour of Microsoft’s format. Eight countries, including China and New Zealand disapproved, while nine countries, including Australia, chose to abstain from voting.

“I was very disappointed that Australia did not vote,” Feldmann said. “Your New Zealand cousins did, and they said no.”

“You really missed an opportunity there,” he said.

For more information about OOXML and Australia, consider reading:

Under normal circumstances, Australia would have probably voted “No”. Every country would. In reality, however, it was more of a Puppet Show®.

Relying on Ignorance, Apathy, Specifications Scale

OOXML is still very broken, sometimes by design. We last wrote about Excel/OOXML issues a couple of days ago. Here is a technical analysis.

In theory, the OOXML (OXML) specification is supposed to define what Excel 2007 reads and writes. In practice, it’s not true at all; the latest public drafts of OOXML are unable to represent many actual Excel 2007 files.

Won’t people realise this at some stage? Will people understand that they get betrayed by the spreadsheets that they use are forced to use?

“Let’s face it – the average computer user has the brain of a Spider Monkey.”

Bill Gates

ISO Sold Out to ECMA

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  1. AlexH said,

    May 21, 2008 at 4:11 am


    I have to say, I find this whole “Excel doesn’t output OOXML!” thing really quite hypocritical. Excel was released before the standard was ratified, and is pretty close to compliance in any event.

    If problems in OOXML had been left in just because they would render it incompatible with Excel, people would complain. They fixed problems which Excel has, and people complain.

    Nobody cares when problems in ODF are fixed even when it puts OpenOffice.org out of spec.

  2. gggggg said,

    May 21, 2008 at 7:23 am


    Such a load of baloney hey Mr. AlexH.

    You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about. But by pretending that ODF suffer from same problems or dismissing the real problems about interoperability as just work as usual you create doubt. We’ve seen this a thousand times over.

    You paid shills just have to better. Go back to Jason Matusow to receive further instructions.

    Game over. You failed your mission. Restart?

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 21, 2008 at 7:51 am


    Alex is not a shill. He lives nearby, he does FOSS, but he’s sympathetic towards Microsoft approach towards FOSS, which he sees as benign rather than self-serving. Moreover, I believe he has absorbed a lot of the OOXML Kool-Aid, which I find sad (he even denies the abuse of the process, calling it something else). He’s a clever guy and it’s a shame that he does not accept the reality behind Microsoft’s ambitions.

  4. gggggg said,

    May 21, 2008 at 8:43 am


    That’s sad. But pretending that did happened and that OOXML is just a victim of disinformation is simply idiotic.

    If governments mandate this format it will cost money and time. And that will come out of ours pockets.

    If companies adapt it it will make products and services more expensive and the consumer will pay for it.

    It will cost a lot of time and money to work around all the mistakes, errors and faults of this file format.

    Every thing that can be done to call attention to these now is better that cry and whine later.

    These are technical complaints. With practical examples.

    Even if the ODF format has problems it’s better to help correct them than allow 2 handicapped formats to exists.

    Let me point a study made by CIO/OFT titled:

    “A Strategy for Openness: Enhancing E-Records Access in New York State”

    in it says:

    “Increased numbers of formats for doing the same office tasks do not increase choice in any positive manner. Use of multiple formats increases complexity and ongoing costs. The use of single, standarized formats increases inefficiencies and furthers compatibility and interoperability. Choice comes into play in two ways: (a) the choices made by vendors to directly support accepted standards; and (b) the ability of the State to choose among vendors who support accepted standards.”

    A lot of people around the world independent of each other have come to the same conclusions. Technical, economic and political. They all concur: there’s no need for OOXML; OOXML is crippleware.

    Doesn’t matter if you consider him a saint. If he is an Open Source Advocate or not. That is not subject of discussion. It’s not about Open Source vs Proprietary.

    It’s about what’s right and wrong. Things that are made to help others or things that are those who made it. It’s about pragmatism and practicality.

    That dismissive tone is an insult to every person that knows how bad this pseudo-standard file format is.

    Does he understand or will he hide behind an aura of impartiality. Did he do anything to improve any of this two file formats? Of course not…

  5. Dan O'Brian said,

    May 21, 2008 at 9:32 am


    All AlexH is saying (which is similar to what Miguel was saying afaict) is that it’s hypocritical to attack OOXML when ODF suffers from similar problems.

    He’s not saying “all hail OOXML!” and he’s not saying that people should use OOXML over ODF.

    He’s saying “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”, a lesson you guys clearly never bothered to learn.

  6. AlexH said,

    May 21, 2008 at 9:51 am


    I’m certainly not saying ODF suffers the same problems as OOXML; for the most part, ODF’s problems are entirely different: I agree with Alex Brown in that it’s unfinished in many respects, but there’s very little actually wrong with it.

    OOXML has tonnes of problems; but let’s be honest about this: are they insurmountable? Basically, no. Is anyone going to implement OOXML because it’s technically desirable? Basically, no.

    ISO standardisation has never been about technically good standards.

    What I do believe is that it’s quite possible to accept OOXML’s technical problems but still recognise the opportunity it represents. I find it a real shame that when respectable people take this position, they are shouted down and have mud slung at them.

    A very good example is Patrick Durusau. Without him, there is no way ODF would be an ISO standard right now: for those with short memories, ODF got stuck in ISO with a host of editorial problems (which was why it was significantly delayed), and it was Patrick’s extensive ISO experience which got it through. Patrick continues to contribute to the ODF spec. and edit it.

    But now there are many people trying to discredit him because he’s not anti-OOXML. People digging dirt and throwing mud.

    Are they doing ODF any good? No. If Patrick walked away right now, ODF would have lost an experienced contributor who has measurably contributed to it.

    It’s this kind of vitriolic anti-MSism which I’m against; because it damages free software. OOXML, as the default format of Microsoft Office, is basically now a fact of life.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 21, 2008 at 10:00 am


    He’s saying “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”, a lesson you guys clearly never bothered to learn.

    Did ODF proponents bribe and bully? You forgot what some of these post were about.

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