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How Microsoft Belittles ODF, Using the “Choice”-Themed Lies (and Why Google Should Offer ODF as a Choice)

Posted in Formats, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 4:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“If thought can corrupt language, then language can also corrupt thought.”

George Orwell

Summary: Microsoft and its proponents/minions are still pushing an old propaganda line by claiming that Windows and OOXML will bring “choice”

THE NEWS is aflood with reports that IBM comes under scrutiny in the EU. Little is being said about the fact that IBM is being attacked SCO-style by Microsoft and its “satellite proxies” (IBM's words). We care about this because IBM’s mainframes run GNU/Linux — a fact that people like Florian Müller could not care less about (and this matters because “FlorianMueller” is the one who also pushed the news into Slashdot with his own convictions and bias). See the conversation in the previous post where Müller admits using Vista 7 (he seems like a permanent Windows user) and does not care so much if his stance is helping Microsoft. He’s apathetic to it. He also spins/subverts the word "choice" in the same way Microsoft does (same with the word “openness”*). It’s done just as Microsoft Malaysia did it to ODF and other branches of the company do under all sorts of situations. It’s a language game. Standards are about limiting choice at some level of granularity in order to ensure that different implementations work well with one another. Microsoft’s hypnosis strives to confuse people about choice; it’s about office suites, not formats.

Rob Weir has just informed his peers and supporters of ODF that Microsoft is restricting choice (abolishing and harming ODF’s status) using language games.

Microsoft’s talking points go something like this:

If you adopt ODF instead of OOXML then you “restrict choice”. Why would you want to do that? You’re in favor of openness and competition, right? So naturally, you should favor choice.

You can see a hundreds of variations on this theme, in Microsoft press releases, whitepapers, in press articles and blogged by astroturfers by searching Google for “ODF restrict choice“.

This argument is quite effective, since it is plausible at first glance, and takes more than 15 seconds to refute. But the argument in the end fails by taking a very superficial view of “choice”, relying merely on the positive allure of its name, essentially using it as a talisman. But “choice” is more than just a pretty word. It means something. And if we dig a little deeper, at what the value of choice really is, the Microsoft argument falls apart.

So let’s make an attempt to show how can one be in favor of choice, but also be in favor of eliminating choice. Let’s resolve the paradox. Personally I think this argument is too long, but maybe it will prompt someone to formulate it in a briefer form.

Glyn Moody remarks on this post by calling it a “nice debunking of a sneaky Microsoft trope about choice” and he also shares this word of warning about a new Google Docs “format”.

“I’m having trouble searching for just ODF formats, Did Google remove the ability?”
I asked Weir about it and he said that he “Can’t tell much from the screenshot. Not clear that it is a format. Maybe Punch is an app? Or internal test system?”

As a reminder, Google officially opposed OOXML when Microsoft was corrupting standards bodies all over the world, but Google never showed much active support for ODF, either. Google has been mostly passive and there are recent examples where Google exlcuded ODF support and was criticised for it (although not in a major way).

One person has just mailed us to say: “I’m having trouble searching for just ODF formats, Did Google remove the ability?”

“In general I’m losing it for Google,” said this person to us, “they support OS [open source] only when it suits them. They [are] really not our friends.”

Google Docs is of course proprietary.
* When Microsoft says “openness” it never means “Open Source”. In cases where Microsoft is excluded or chooses to be excluded it advocates “choice” as means/route to depart from standards and embrace proprietary offerings instead.

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A Single Comment

  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    July 28, 2010 at 3:52 am


    Yes. If it is not there, then Google removed that capability because it was present before. Like Apple, Google does have Softers on the inside throwing glass shards on the road of progress, They also have pressure high up, externally.

    The battle for the last 7 years has not been about office suites, it has been about office suite formats. Rob Weir was one of many that did a survey of what is in Google. Rob’s 2007 Google survey showed already many tens of thousands of indexed documents in OpenDocument Format. There are more out there now, but Google appears not to be indexing them or to at least not indexing them properly. Certainly the search results for those file types are buggered.

    It looks like Google is not really indexing these file type any more. A search for filetype: of the three main ODF file types shows:

    ODT ~ 94,900
    ODP ~ 16,300
    ODS ~ 10,800

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