08.21.09

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New Victories for ODF and i4i-imposed Word Ban as an Opportunity for ODF

Posted in Formats, ISO, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 6:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Paper burnt

Summary: New ODF Alliance member, more vendor support, and another, more positive way to view the i4i ruling

EARLIER in the week we wrote about a Fraunhofer study which seemed rather biased. As Glyn Moody put it, there “seems there’s some kind of Microsoft involvement.”

This study addressed and even defended the existence of multiple standards that achieve more or less the same things; one is based on the proprietary format (and platform) of a company that bribed people and corrupted an international standards body in order to call it a “standard”, whereas the other is created and backed by many organisations, universities, and governments. Needless to say, the former is Microsoft’s OOXML and the latter is ODF.

There is news right now about the ODF Alliance growing even larger thanks to the addition of Spotlight Cameroun. In its formal announcement, Spotlight Cameroun states:

OpenDocument Format (ODF) is the only open standard for office applications, and it is completely vendor neutral.

Malaysia and Brazil are among the prominent supporters of ODF (at a national level) and over in Brazil we now find more evidence of this. In addition, IDG News Service reveals that TextEdit has ODF support, which is wonderful news. It has been the case for quite some time, but we’ve just learned that TextEdit will soon support saving as ODF, which is important progress.

The most recent version of TextEdit, included with OS X Leopard, can open and edit files in rich text format (.rtf), Microsoft’s old and new Word formats (.doc and .docx), and the OpenDocument format (.odt) used by OpenOffice.

TextEdit is quite widely used, so it’s another notable win for ODF.

In previous posts about i4i [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] we mentioned the fact that ODF FUD had arrived from the Burton and Gartner groups, both of which work with Microsoft. Sadly enough, even after Burton and Gartner were proven wrong, a few people are adding harmful noise via Twitter by linking to Asay’s misinformed post and adding remarks like this: “Of course i4i says ODF doesn’t infringe, they have no money..”

No, it’s because it’s technically not infringing. Such remarks are worth correcting as they only encourage uncertainty and doubt. The real patent danger to ODF is Microsoft, not i4i. See for example:

Regarding the i4i case itself, here is another smoking gun:

Microsoft embarrassed by new XML patent email

[...]

“We saw [i4i's products] some time ago, and met its creators,” said Sawicki in the Jan. 23, 2003, e-mail. “Word 11 will make it obsolete. It looks great for XP though.” Word 11 was the in-development code name for what was eventually dubbed Word 2003.

The infringing part is custom XML, as the following article quotes:

Specifically, Microsoft must refrain from “selling, offering to sell, and/or importing in or into the United States any Infringing and Future Word Products that have the capability of opening a .XML, .DOCX or .DOCM file (containing custom XML),” the injunction states.

Contrary to Microsoft’s sensationalist defense, the world will be fine without Word. From FCW:

Imagine a world without Word

[...]

Microsoft Word, though popular, is not the exclusive word-processing software of the federal government. For example, the Joint Forces Command is using OpenOffice for a small experimental project, said Kathleen Jabs, a spokeswoman at the command.

The i4i case is another massive opportunity for ODF (and ODF-compliant software) to gain dominance. It is good news to open standards, not just to Free software, to which ODF is a prerequisite but not the other way around.

“Microsoft sees what’s coming. Things like Word and Excel sort of like a drug now getting ready to go generic.”

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