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04.22.10

Facebook Joins Microsoft’s War on ODF

Posted in Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Oracle at 11:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: An announcement from Mark Zuckerberg reveals his true colours and long known connections with Microsoft; Oracle’s bizarre decision regarding the ODF plug-in for Office is debated further

A WEEK AGO we wrote about Microsoft dumping "to suppress OpenOffice.org adoption (and thus development)" and yesterday we wrote about Oracle's idiotic move which is likely to harm ODF. On previous occasions we also emphasised that Facebook’s Zuckerberg is in bed with Microsoft (he has been in it for years [1, 2]) and even its extortionate patent trolls . It therefore does not surprise us that Facebook is joining Microsoft’s attack on rival office suites, based on the following news:

Docs.com: Facebook and Microsoft Go After Google Docs

During today’s F8 keynote, Mark Zuckerberg announced a number of new products and features for Facebook, including a new collaboration with Microsoft. With Docs.com, Microsoft’s FUSE labs just launched an online document editor and viewer that connects directly to Facebook and uses all of the new social features for third-party sites that Facebook announced today.

Getting back to Oracle’s apparent neglect of ODF for Office users (it is not too likely that many companies will pay when they already have fake ‘support’ from Microsoft [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]), Andy Updegrove emphasises that $9,000 — not $90 — is the cost of this package (it comes in larger units).

Moreover, it’s not just $90 you’ll need to fork over – the plug-in is only available in packages of 100.

Before you ask: (a) yes, an Office 2007 service pack released some time back by Microsoft allows users of that version of Office (and also of Office 2000, 2003 and XP) to work with documents using ODF 1.0, but not the most current version of ODF, which is version 1.2; and (2) no, unlike OpenOffice, the plug-in was never made available by Sun as open source software.

For me, this raises three important questions:

1. What is Oracle trying to accomplish?

2. Is it likely to work?

3. Given that Oracle controls OpenOffice.org, developer of the most widely used desktop direct implementation of ODF, what does this indicate for the future of that software?

[...]

Conclusion: While the existence of OpenOffice was essential to ODF in the first few years after Peter Quinn’s quixotic decision to support the rebel standard, ODF is now past the point where it’s future is dependent on it. And in point of fact, Sun was always at best a flawed steward for the poster child implementation of ODF, keeping too close control over it to attract the kind of broad individual and enterprise support that flocked to contribute to Linux and Apache, for example.

Overall, though, I think that Oracle has probably made a reasonable decision insofar as its own self interest is concerned. It does leave open one tantalizing question though, that’s harder to read: does the decision to charge for the plug-in indicate that Oracle is taking its ODF-compliant office suite unit seriously as a money maker, and plans to put serious resources behind it, or that it is simply imposing a bean-counter’s discipline on the unit to make money?

If it’s the former, than that’s good news for the ODF community, because OpenOffice still has the most dedicated users, and the most credibility, of all the alternatives. And if the paid version gets traction, there will be more third party software developers, like those that create crucial software, such as document management tools, that will take the time to integrate with it. This is essential to creating a true proprietary as well as an open source competitor to Office.

One news outlet says that “Oracle Wants to Charge $9,000 for ‘Free’ Download” and Rob Weir is trying to identify the positives, but he is biased because his current career depends on ODF. He writes:

At the risk of pouring oil on the fire, let me say that I think this is an exciting development for ODF. We have three solutions for providing ODF support in MS Office:

1. Oracle’s Plugin
2. CleverAge Add-in
3. Microsoft’s native ODF support

These three solutions have always varied in terms of quality of conversion, versions of MS Office supported, versions of ODF supported, level of integration into MS Office, etc. And now they vary based on price. This is a good thing. It is called “competition”. I like it.

Here is an opinion from someone who commented in Weir’s blog:

It seems entirely likely that this will allow ORCL to say “We gave it a fair shot, but there’s just no demand for it.” With that, Oracle could abandon the ODF-translation field, leaving it to the Microsoft-sponsored Clever Age plugins project and the not-so-interoperable built-in functionality in recent updates to MS Office.

As an aside, is it likely that something like this is coming to MySQL soon?

What does this say for the OpenOffice.org project? Obviously, no one knows yet. At least, no one outside of Oracle knows.

Regardless of Oracle’s plans, there are many other companies which are involved in ODF, so the standard ought to thrive. Here are two new reports, one from Document Freedom Day in Slovenia and another from the ODF Plugfest in Granada.

The first Document Freedom Day in Slovenia has passed and it went pretty good.

I know that for the biggest impact I should have reported about it the very same day or at least the next one, but a) I was too tired b) I had to much other important tasks to do and c) I wanted to gather everything so I can submit a nicely rounded off report. Warning: longer post ahead.

 

Rob Weir of IBM summed up the status of the next version of the standard. ODF 1.2, which is almost done, will be divided in three parts: one for the core schema, one for the container and one for OpenFormula (do you remember that the first generation of ODF compliant spreadsheet suites lacked formula compatibility? This should fix that problem for good). New features will include digital signatures, support for RDF capabilities (see below) and native tables in presentation slides. An Interoperability demonstration of ODF 1.2 will take place at the OOoCon Conference in Budapest next September. Rob also mentioned that everybody can send in suggestions for the next version of the standard, that should include things like modularization, web profiles, enhanced SVG support and Xform integration. You can either answer OASIS calls for public comments, join the OASIS ODF TC or implement ODF 1.2 and send feedback.

OOXML is a one-company format that no company has implemented (Microsoft says it might implement it within several years), whereas ODF is here and it is properly supported by many companies, excluding Microsoft which is conveniently faking support.

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2 Comments

  1. Charles Oliver said,

    April 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Gravatar

    “As an aside, is it likely that something like this is coming to MySQL soon?

    What does this say for the OpenOffice.org project? Obviously, no one knows yet. At least, no one outside of Oracle knows.”

    That opinion from Weir’s blog seems to ignore the fact that the plugin was closed source but Mysql and Open Office are FLOSS. Could Oracle take the FLOSS base of MySQL, tack on extra features and close an extended version which would be sold at a price to compete with MSSQL Server? Certainly (they own the copyright) but they can’t stop a fork of the code in the state it’s in right now.

    I’m with Eben Mogwai (ok Moglen). Trust the GPL.

  2. Yuhong Bao said,

    April 24, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Gravatar

    On this, here is an TechCrunch comment from a MS employee:
    http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/04/23/privacy-issues-google-engineers-leaving-facebook-in-droves/#comment-351158

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