It sure sounds like that dreaded attempt of ISO/Microsoft to take control of ODF, at the expense of OASIS. SC34 is already stuffed with Microsoft people [1, 2], most of whom have their interests disguised. It’s worth remembering that this is an SC34 meeting near Microsoft which is responsible for everything and it’s Microsoft employees who seem most pleased. Henrion from FFII is rightly angry, arguing that one should “Scrap ISO. They have a stupid system of physical meetings around the planet. I don´t have the money to travel to such meetings.”
This SC34 meeting at Microsoft sure seems to have served as a stepping stone in the hijack of ODF, which Groklaw warned about one year ago. Simon Phipps from Sun is seemingly unhappy. He asks Brown (Microsoft mole and OOXML convenor): “What responsibility does SC34 have for ODF beyond forwarding mail to OASIS?” Later he tells a Microsoft employee: “SC34′s role in ODF maintenance probably matches the Linux Foundation’s role in Windows maintenance following your kernel code drop”
Rob: The OASIS ODF TC owns the maintenance of the OASIS ODF standard, and WG6 will own this activity for the equivalent ISO/IEC text. However, neither committee has absolute freedom of action, both being governed by applicable procedural rules of their parent organizations, as well as various joint agreements between OASIS and JTC1.
Given the corruption at ISO [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], is this a safe bet? How did it come about and whose proposal was it?
NZOSS has also just reminded the world of XML and OOXML patents from Microsoft. This is a subject that we wrote about in:
Charles from the OpenOffice.org community had this to say:
I remember that a while ago, as I was attending a heated debate on the (in)famous standardization of OOXML. As we were arguing with Microsoft on some specification details, I happened to state all aloud that when it came to this level of security (the topic at hand was security), I had my concerns about the encryption algorithms used by the specification but that in a general sense, security relied much more on the application using the format and the underlying operating system’s level of security. I went on to say that for the specific portion of the draft we were studying, it was perhaps not necessary to waste time in fruitless discussion topics including the behavior of OOXML documents in a computer undergoing a nuclear attack and being stored on a computer facing a zero-day exploit at the same time.
The response from one of the Microsoft spokesperson (I’m coining the term spokesperson, because that’s what most of them were) was a mix of surprise and sarcasm: “Everything happens, today you agreed with us!”. And indeed, I agreed that we should continue to parse the 6000 pages-long draft.
First, one has to realize that what happened with Novell was a serious attack against free and open source software, but although it was serious, it never really had any major impact on the community itself. What I mean by this is not that it did not have any real and damageable impact on IT companies or OEMs that ended up signing phony IPR deals with Microsoft. I mean by this that when you step back, you end up realizing that even the divide it caused inside the community is not that big. There is no one “Novell Community” and one “FSF Community”. That simply never existed except perhaps in the mind of some Mono architects. Even the Ximian bunch is very much on its own; influential because of monthly salaries, and time to devout to their pet projects and an historical ties to Gnome. But aside this, the impact of the Novell agreement with Microsoft did not create the “grand schism” many feared or wished at that time.
That is, I believe, the essence of the Codeplex foundation that is described here. Forget the code for a moment, and you might come to the conclusion that either Microsoft wants to impose its views on patents and copyrights, or it genuinely wants to have a fruitful conversation with the free and open source software community. The former is only surprising as it shows a different approach, but if that’s what they’re looking to achieve I am afraid that unless this foundation comes out with the most radically innovative ideas in the field of IPR, it will fail, for the first reason I outlined much above: Nobody will follow them, except people and constituencies who have an economic incentive to do that. What is left, then, if not the latter hypothesis? Interesting times are ahead of us in this case.
Microsoft’s CodePlex Foundation is still seen as undesirable by the Free software community. It’s a subject we covered in:
“[W]e should take the lead in establishing a common approach to UI and to interoperability (of which OLE is only a part). Our efforts to date are focussed too much on our own apps, and only incidentally on the rest of the industry. We want to own these standards, so we should not participate in standards groups. Rather, we should call ‘to me’ to the industry and set a standard that works now and is for everyone’s benefit. We are large enough that this can work.”
Summary: Bits of analysis of Microsoft’s mistakes on Web and document standards
IT IS no secret that Microsoft dislikes open standards; they are not good for the shareholders. The integrity of the company often comes later than short-term gain, so it is not a wise strategy, either. According to this gem, it has just become apparent that OOXML is nothing more than a reactionary move caused by the advent of ODF. It was known all along but there is new compelling evidence to support such an argument.
James D. Mason says:
I spent 22 years as the chairman of what is now ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34. SC34 is the committee that standardized SGML in the 1980s and now is responsible for both ODF, supported by many open-source products, and OOXML, the XML released by Microsoft in response to ODF. Neither ODF nor OOXML has anything to do with ODA/ODIF, which have been dormant since the turn of the current century but were still under development in the 1990s in a committee that was parallel to the one that became SC34.
Our past analysis: OOXML is a response. Thank you very much for the confirmation. Stronger language from Mason found in this article.
Thanks to Andre for finding this out. In his country, Germany, Microsoft has been using Fraunhofer essentially as a shill for OOXML. In light of the very latest deception form Fraunhofer, Jones wrote at Groklaw (News Picks):
ODF is totally open to the world. So where might the bottleneck be found, class? Did you really, really think that Microsoft intended there to be real interoperability? Some of us recall very well what happened in Germany in the OOXML approval process and the role this institute played. Remember their words, as translated from the German by a Groklaw volunteer? –
“The beginning standardization procedure of Office Open XML as an ISO standard will lead to a technological development of both standards – Office Open XML and ODF 1.0. The constructive comments that have been made alongside the DIN approval from leading experts guide the way in direction of interoperability” says the head of the department e-Government at Fraunhofer FOKUS and head of the DIN work group translation of document formats. “We at Fraunhofer FOKUS e-government-lab will support the procedure effectively and accompany our lab-partner Microsoft as a member of ECMA International with our know-how in implementing our recommendations.”
In relation to the patent assault on Free software, Jones later used the OOXML saga as an example too, remarking that it proves Microsoft never wanted to interoperate. “Like Microsoft will run right out and do that [give up on patent threats]“, she wrote, “because it just spent a fortune building up a patent portfolio, and it doesn’t plan on using them against Linux. Dream on. It’s not about hating any company, but there is enough water under the bridge to be able to predict that Microsoft probably will use those patents aggressively, as they already did in the TomTom case, and as they do in FUDly ways already. And what makes anyone think Microsoft wishes to interoperate, after watching the OOXML saga? Best to be realistic about Microsoft. The Linux Foundation may feel it has to say stuff like that, but I don’t.”
Microsoft has a long history of fighting against standards rather than accepting that they are needed. Eventually, inevitably, Microsoft joined ODF but did so poorly in a way that may only harm ODF [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. And now it may do the same to HTML5. As CNET puts it:
The World Wide Web Consortium’s HTML Working Group had been led by IBM’s Sam Ruby and Microsoft’s Chris Wilson. Wilson has stepped down and is being replaced by two others, Paul Cotton, who manages Microsoft’s Web services standards team, and Maciej Stachowiak, who manages Apple’s WebKit WebApps team, according to an e-mail announcement by W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee.
About 4 years ago. I could see that Vista was going to kill any momentum that Microsoft had picked up from XP and I was right. I even called the layoffs happening this year.
Sadly some of my friends are caught up in the whole MS layoff situation, which sucks.
My prediction for the next 5 years? Microsoft is going to do a Novell. They are going to try to keep doing what they have always done, despite losing more and more and more market, until in the end they are forced to adopt open source as their core OS.
Well, until then, Microsoft will suffer financially, quarter after quarter. █
Summary: Assemblage of microblogs showing considerable ODF progress
As we noted before, this week is the week of the ODF Workshop (not the same as the ODF Plugfest [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8910, 11]). The FFII writes: “ODF Workshop in Brasilia, today and tomorrow http://www.odfworkshop.org/“
This links to a page written in Portuguese because the event takes place in Brazil. In addition to seemingly repetitive microblogs, there is Jomar Silva claiming that the “Brazilian Army and Navy just signed the Brasilia Protocol. The Airforce signed last year. Now they’re all using ODF !!! Wow ”
Brazil has been an ODF supporter for quite some time. The additional good news comes from some Twitter users located in Brazil and passed on by Rob Weir, then Yoon Kit. Silva also writes: “Arno Webb now starting his presentation about Open Standards and ODF in South Africa.”
Later messages from Silva, who takes a key role in this event, say the following:
“Estimative from Fabiano is that they have almost a million ODF users on Paraná state. An impressive work on ODF & free software”
“twitter.com/w3cbrasil/status/3578396616 ← that’s impressive, W3C Brazil signing up to support #ODF documents”
South America is apparently more progressive than many other countries. Some Danes, for example, are OK with ignoring Microsoft’s OOXML corruption. One person writes: “The Danish Competition Authority seems to actually LIKE sitting back and watching Microsoft and ODF advocates flame each other. Popcorn?”
Watch how IDG pretends that those OOXML crimes are all behind:
It’s not exactly the thawing of the Cold War, but Microsoft’s inclusion in a new group launched by Oasis is a sign that the bitter war over open document formats has been forgotten.
Fast forward to today, and we learn that a company called i4i has won a lawsuit against Microsoft because Microsoft’s use of XML — including OOXML — infringes an i4i patent. Microsoft has to pay i4i $290 million, and stop selling Word 2003 and Word 2007. Presumably, any product supporting OOXML will need to pay royalties to i4i.
Meanwhile, ODF does not violate the i4i patent. (i4i has “looked at OpenOffice and found it doesn’t infringe on its patents.” OpenOffice uses ODF.)
If you want your documents to be widely accessible, and remain accessible, you should use Open Document Format.
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 afterBurton 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:
“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.
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.
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.”
“In one piece of mail people were suggesting that Office had to work equally well with all browsers and that we shouldn’t force Office users to use our browser. This Is wrong and I wanted to correct this.”
Summary: Heaps of news and observations regarding document formats
Standards are the key to ensuring that different applications of the same class can communicate with one another. “Interoperability” is not a solution but a mere compromise that sometimes results from independent standards being developed separately, which then makes them mutually incompatible.
ODF is the only real international standard for document exchange. Microsoft’s borderline criminal behaviour has made OOXML somewhat of a laughing stock as far as standards are concerned because everyone knows that OOXML is as proprietary as it can get.
Microsoft’s stubbornness did not pay off because ODF is alive and all, and a new Web site has just been set up for the ODF Plugfest. We wrote about this annual event in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8910] and the next one gets a date:
Date: 2 Nov 2009 – 09:30 – 3 Nov 2009 – 18:00
Also newsworthy is this new artwork gallery for ODF. It comes as an add-on to OpenOffice.org and to quote from the page, “This extension add one theme to your gallery with more than 100 signs dealing with security, not as bitmap but as vector graphic in ODF format : you may modify them or retrieve some parts to build your own signs.”
Paul Thurrott, who is known for his affinity and relationship with Microsoft, already does some spinning on the issue of “interoperability”. But based on this post, Sam Dean went on to establish a good picture of how regulators must view Microsoft’s “interoperability” posturing.
Why is it that only The European Commission seems to be taking a really tough stance against these types of file format lock-in practices? As we reported here, last year European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes took a very tough stance in calling for governments throughout Europe to use open source software and adopt open standards.
Bill Gates is against proper interoperability, whereas some of those beneath him apparently did want to open up. So it’s quite likely a leadership problem. Microsoft cannot even properly support ODF [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7], but it keeps pretending that it can. Similar OOXML-sympathetic spin finally arrives from Fraunhofer, whose relationship with Microsoft we wrote about in here (and most recently mentioned here).
The spin has proven to be effective so far. “Nice to know that Microsoft Office now support ODF format natively starting from Office 2007 Service Pack 2,” wrote someone in Twitter a short while ago. But it’s MSODF, not ODF. Another person has just written :”The biggest barrier I feel towards MS is the constant putting profits over what is good for the user. Good example is Docx vs ODF.” There is now a whole new book on the subject of format wars.
After the ODF-OOXML was, here comes another potential Format War – this time for e-Books: “Format War Clouds E-Book Horizon“, titles the Wall Street Journal.
The vibrant discussion about the Microsoft Word ban [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11] carries on. One person writes: “Microsoft is tasting their own menace … if they had, but work with ODF, they will have a more peaceful sleep and be… http://bit.ly/TMDqE”
“The suit is not about file formats, and the verdict has no implications for Open XML,” Kutz added. “It is about the way Microsoft Word handles certain kinds of code. In addition, the particular Custom XML functionality at issue is not used by most customers.”
To quote from another new article, “Microsoft knew of the patent held by i4i as early as 2001, but instead set out to make the Canadian developer’s software “obsolete” by adding a feature to Word, according to court documents.”
“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.
“My main concern with i4i is that if we do the work properly, there won’t be a need for their product,” stated another internal Microsoft e-mail submitted into evidence.
“Why did Microsoft meet with i4i,” asks one of our readers. “For what purpose? Is there a precedent for Microsoft getting a look-see at a company’s offering, under the guise of ‘partnering’ only to later on announce the self same functionality appearing in a new Microsoft innovative product?” █
Summary: ODF and OpenOffice.org unaffected by the i4i dispute with Microsoft
THERE are minor new developments in the i4i saga [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10] and also some important clarifications. As a direct result of the i4i case, the PFF expresses its objection to the Texan courts system, which is pretty major because this is where many patent trolls are thriving. More importantly, a statement is being made which confirms what we wrote about ODF and ODF-using software. Microsoft puppets like Burton and Gartner [1, 2, 3, 4] were totally wrong and they should be served crow for dinner, having created a lot of unnecessary fear among the ODF community.
ODF safe from Microsoft / i4i Lawsuit
Late last week, analysts from Gartner and the Burton Group expressed the opinion that ODF could also be in breach of a patent belonging to Canadian company i4i which, a court ruled, Microsoft had breached.
Other reporters, who have assumed that any use of XML could fall foul of the i4i patent, get short shrift from Hickins and others.
In an interview with eWEEK, i4i Chairman Loudon Owen and founder Michel Vulpe asserted that while they were determined to pursue their patent infringement case against Microsoft, many of the open-source community’s fears over the patent were unfounded.
So, we were right all along. Those Microsoft analysts had indeed been spreading fear which then propagated through less informed reporters on FOSS (whom we need not name again). It is usually best to ignore so-called analysts like Gartner and Burton, who act based on ‘faith’ and whoever pays their bills. It is known because we even have copies of virtual receipts.
Groklaw wrote about this subject too. The article goes further to explain that Microsoft hid what it knew could become patent trouble inside OOXML.
I have a question for Microsoft. Why didn’t they tell us about this i4i patent litigation during the OOXML ISO process? Didn’t we need to know?
Now what? Well, look at this, from Government Computer News:
i4i said it has looked at OpenOffice and found it doesn’t infringe on its patents.
So, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Straight from the horse’s mouth, so no need to look to any other part of the horse’s anatomy. No need for analysts’ opinions and such. OpenOffice.org is clean, according to the i4i folks, and it’s their patent. As for ODF, it doesn’t use CustomXML, and it had no plans to do so, despite what you’ve been reading in the fuddy papers.
You know what else was happening around March of 2007 and thereafter? Go to Groklaw’s ODF/OOXML chronology pages, and you’ll see. They were twisting Massachusetts’ arm to accept their competing format instead of just ODF, and their supporters were raising a stink about ODF not being easily accessible to the disabled.
Meanwhile, Microsoft was, we now know, in litigation that could make their format as submitted unusable by anyone in the entire US. And they never said a word that I ever heard. Anyone know about this patent case during the ISO ram-through of OOXML? Anyone? Maybe ISO needs to add this to their To Do List: find out if there are patents threatening a proposed standard. Or better yet, could someone take software and patents to Nevada and get them a quickie divorce? They’re not compatible.
Remember when the OOXML convenor Alex Brown said, after the OOXML approval, that he agreed ODF was cleaner than OOXML?
“I’d go with that. I think ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF 1.0) can be compared to a neat house built on good foundations which is not finished; 29500 (OOXML) is a baroque cliffside castle replete with toppling towers, secret passages and ghosts: it is all too finished.”
Well, it appears he was correct. ODF is cleaner. And now we know where one secret passage in OOXML leads. To a US courtroom, an injunction, and a $290 million judgment. Towers are toppling.
That’s the Microsoft we know and this is what people have come to expect.
In other patent news, the nuisance known as SpinVox [1, 2, 3, 4] seems to be crumbling. It is the company which claims to ‘own’ voice-to-text even though it probably was never invented there. Likewise, there is a company called VoloMedia which claims to ‘own’ audiocasing and TUAW has this new article about it.
The second round of patent wackiness occurred on Wednesday, when media analytics firm VoloMedia was granted a patent for the basic elements of podcasting. Patent number 7,568,213, “Method for providing episodic media content” was awarded Wednesday to Volomedia after almost 6 years of study by the Patent Office. Volomedia’s founder, Murgesh Navar, claims that the patent filing in 2003 was made “almost a year before the start of podcasting.”
In political terms, this move of the EU Commission might indicate that they do want to have a take of their own on the topic of patent quality: Despite the fact that the European Patent Office (EPO) is working since many years on this aspect on their business, the EU Commission has decided to spend some money in order to obtain something like a second opinion independently from EPO.
When will the United States apply a similar “sanity check” now that the PFF seemingly calls for it? █
“[Y]ou’re creating a new 20-year monopoly for no good reason.”
What happened in Denmark seems like a felony that went unpunished for, like many others. Microsoft relies on people’s short-term memory span. Now there is a push there for proprietary OOXML coexisting with open standards. Microsoft Denmark and other Microsoft employees are pushing this post at the moment, in order to advance their interests of course. And then… surprise, surprise; Novell people are jumping in out of nowhere to muddy the water. I’m being publicly insulted by a Novell employee in the same context*. Maybe it’s hard for them to cope with the truth, so they strive to drive people away from it by smearing. In the process, Novell also defends OOXML, which is only to be expected from Mono staff.
That leads me to my next point. Let’s say a miracle happens, and Microsoft does make the changes in Word and it actually works. What about all those billions of documents that are already in the old format styles? What about the hundreds of millions of users still using the older versions of Office? Every Office user in the world would end up having to fight with incompatible files and conversion woes. That would go over really well don’t you think?
I’ve also heard it suggested that the i4i patent be over-turned. Oh kid, if over-turning patents were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Microsoft says they won’t settle. So did RIM. They’ll settle. The only fast way out of a patent lawsuit that’s reached this point is surrender and that’s exactly what Microsoft will end up doing.
Ironically, if Microsoft hadn’t insisted on shoving its own proprietary Open XML standard down users’ throats and had whole-heartily supported the truly open ODF (Open Document Format), Word would have an option for its users that would have avoided the i4i patent mess. Oh well, too late now!
On Microsoft’s very own patents which cover XML we wrote in:
Now Word users can use ODF, an open XML format for saving files. I think it’s time for OpenOffice users to refuse to use the proprietary file format imposed on us by an office productivity monopoly (which, by the way, is the reason that the monopoly has continued) and the willingness of everyone else to follow along like sheep
Additionally, the program is designed on the Open Document file format which is versatile and has proven itself to be highly useful to millions of users around the world. Just remember to save your files in an alternative format if you want to read them on computers with other software installed, even though plugins exist.
Overall, if you’re looking for a non-Microsoft option and you don’t have a huge budget, you should consider trying Lotus Symphony.
Serna Free XML editor is an easy-to-use open source WYSIWYG XML editor for those who wish to smoothly adopt the XML technology. Indeed, Serna Free is the most powerful among free and open source XML editors for WYSIWYG authoring.
That last one can be used for any XML file, but it seems to have an element of Free software. Symphony, on the other hand, is non-Free software and it is better off avoided. █
______ * Webmasters of notable Linux sites are seeing that Novell employees are also doing the same thing anonymously — cursing this site and cursing me. They create an impression of resentment.
We’ve recently change the policy for distributing our file formats, at the request of BillG. We used to be fairly lax about giving it out to pretty much everyone who asked for it (Excel even published a book through MS Press).
Our new policy (for Office2000) is that there are restrictions on use (can’t build converters, can’t be a competitor to any of the apps, etc). We required a signed license agreement in hand before we’ll send them the docs. They have to tell us who they are and what their company does, as well as their intended use.
Once we get a copy of the signed agreement back, I sign for Microsoft, and we send them back a hard copy of the agreement via snail mail, and send them the docs via email
This should not be particularly surprising. See other Comes vs Microsoft exhibits that we covered in:
For the investigative, there is more in our Wiki. The full text from this latest exhibit can be found beneath. It is particularly valuable to those who study Microsoft’s reluctance to support open standards, let alone permit other office suites to inter-operate (free of charge). Based on the correspondence below, Microsoft deliberately targets possible competition and hinders access to vital data if the competition is serious. Shouldn’t the European Commission take a look? █
Appendix: Comes vs. Microsoft – exhibit PX03104, as text