12.28.08

How ODF is Like JDK: Why Microsoft Supports ODF 1.1 and Not ODF 1.2 (Corrected)

Posted in Antitrust, Formats, Java, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard, SUN at 2:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Blast from the past, regarding JDK

When Microsoft announced “support” for ODF, people were baffled to find that Microsoft rejected the newer version (1.2) of the standard and chose an older one instead (1.1). Microsoft does not mean well, but it sure pretends and fools a lot of reporters along the way. For a little bit of background on Microsoft’s promised “support” of ODF:

Microsoft must control the formats in order to promote its business. That’s just the way it operates and ethics can be neglected, even obedience of the law. It’s not just a corporate stigma but a well-proven pattern.

Microsoft’s long and brutal fight against Java is nothing new. It started with an embrace, but Microsoft developed its own surrogate, .NET/C#.

Bill Gates’ attitude towards JDK is telling [PDF]: “I think supporting JDK 1.1 is fine and I am hard core about NOT supporting JDK 1.2. I really needed to understand where we were going to dnaw the line because I am so afraid of the slippery slope.

“If you think we should support JDK 1.2 its ok but you will really have to explain why and where it stops.”

So Gates says OK to 1.1 but not to 1.2 of something related to Sun. Does that sound familiar? Same version numbers, similar companies at play, and a bizarre snub amid antitrust violations.

When Microsoft declared support for ODF 1.1 people were suspicious. Maybe it’s time to take this little voyage back in time and learn from history. When Microsoft says it will “support” something, it often just means it will “[E]mbrace” that something. And we all know what comes after the first “E” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

One reader said that we “could even mention the negative effect that Microsoft has had on Sun’s Java. First, they tried to “pollute” it with their own Windows-optimised version of Java APIs and then, when Sun’s lawsuit stopped that strategy, Microsoft’s responce was an embrace-and-extend ploy with C# and .NET.” Further, concludes this reader, “It still amazes me that someone who aligns himself with Sun could sneer at Microsoft as if they only fight FOSS and they don’t affect his preferred vendor.”

Caffe espresso
A nice cuppa Java that Microsoft tries spilling

Correction from a reader (02/01/2009): there is no ODF 1.2 standard. ODF 1.2 is under active development, but no one knows what it will say when adopted by OASIS. And it won’t be stable before it’s been through the JTC 1 wringer. OASIS ODF 1.1 is the latest adopted version of ODF. It’s ISO/IEC:26300 plus some accessibility extensions.

To suggest that Microsoft should implement a standard that does not yet exist is really taking things over the edge quite a bit. [...] There are far better issues to beat up Microsoft with than accusing it of malfeasance because it did not implement a standard that does not yet exist.

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13 Comments

  1. Diamond Wakizashi said,

    December 28, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Gravatar

    Microsoft is pure evil and Novell is their bitch.

  2. AlexH said,

    December 28, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Gravatar

    Encouraging Microsoft to implement their own version of an unfinished standard is tempting fate somewhat I suspect.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 28, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Gravatar

    That’s not the reaction that came from ODF people.

  4. AlexH said,

    December 28, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Gravatar

    It’s not the reaction from some Sun people, but they’re already claiming to be shipping ODF 1.2 as well.

    Either way, I think saying you implement a standard before (*well before*) it’s even feature complete is a very dangerous game indeed. I don’t think I need to explain further why; it’s pretty obvious.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 28, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Gravatar

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9089258&intsrc=hm_list

    “With its move, “if a government says ODF is our standard, then Microsoft can say, ‘It’s our standard, too,’ ” Creese said. But why isn’t Microsoft committing to ODF 1.2? It’s supposed to have better accessibility and spreadsheet features than ODF 1.1.”

  6. AlexH said,

    December 28, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Gravatar

    Well, of course ODF 1.2 will have when it’s finished more features than 1.1. That goes without saying.

    If you have a standard version of something, I’d prefer they implement the standard. 1.1 is forward compatible with 1.2 anyway, so it’s not like the rest of us lose out.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 28, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Gravatar

    Fair point, Alex. Let’s see how it develops (or does not develop) in the future.

  8. AlexH said,

    December 28, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Gravatar

    @Roy: what really worries me – and I mentioned this to Simon on his blog – is that OOo claims to be ODF 1.2 compliant, but cannot be: there are new features still being added – I pointed out one to do with numbering schemes.

    There’s nothing wrong with implementing new features that standards bodies are working on (vendor extensions in CSS spring immediately to mind), so long as they are clearly marked as such. But to claim you implement a standard which isn’t ratified: that’s a huge problem. Standards have to mean something. If you start causing interop problems because you can’t accept docs from other apps, that will cause people to doubt the standard.

    Personally, I feel if Microsoft get “complete” ODF 1.1 support, that will be a hugh triumph for the standard. It won’t be absolutely perfect by any means, and I’m sure people will poke holes in it, but I will bet significant amounts of money that by the time they ship they are the #2 ODF vendor behind OOo in terms of quality of implementation.

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 28, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Gravatar

    A triumph to standards though is not necessarily a triumph of Free software. Microsoft is just trying to block sales(services)/downloads of OOo.

  10. AlexH said,

    December 28, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Gravatar

    I said “triumph for the standard [ODF]“, not “triumph for standards”.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 28, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Gravatar

    My comment still stands. :-)

    It’s wonderful that ODF is adopted, but it’s just the first step.

  12. AlexH said,

    December 28, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Gravatar

    No, but you’re implying that I was saying that ODF equates to a success for free software, which is entirely not what I was saying.

    For free software to succeed it doesn’t need any kind of document standard whatsoever.

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 28, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Gravatar

    I agree. I wasn’t insulting your intelligence.

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