Bonum Certa Men Certa

Even Microsoft Rejects or Neglects OOXML, 'Opens' What's Already Reverse-Engineered Instead

Kipper or red herring



Summary: The latest publicity stunt around Microsoft Outlook and how Microsoft dodges its promises of OOXML compliance

MICROSOFT is a funny company. It's not so good at hiding its intention and the result is quite embarrassing sometimes.



Last week Google announced that it had produced an Outlook migration tool (and more than that [1, 2]), which isn't too surprising because Free software has been able to achieve this for a long, long time (Microsoft's file formats were reverse-engineered).

“Adobe did the same thing with Flash after gnash had already reverse-engineered much of Flash with ActionScript.”Watch Microsoft as it emits spin in its press release about an Apache-licensed tool for Outlook data access (which was already possible anyway). Might this be Microsoft's attempt to spin a defeat as generous gifting? Now that Microsoft's lock-in is cracked Microsoft would love to pretend that it was all just planned and the result of Microsoft's goodwill. That's quite probable. The de facto PR agents of Microsoft sure make it seem that way. After it had already been reverse-engineered, Microsoft pretends to have given it away, eh?

Microsoft did exactly the same thing with .DOC and its relatives. After years of these formats being interpretable by other office suites (thanks to hard work on reverse engineering) Microsoft just dumped documentation which explained how to reproduce the results of hacking. Too late, no? Adobe did the same thing with Flash after gnash had already reverse-engineered much of Flash with ActionScript. Adobe gets the upper hand (PR) while offering nothing of value. They all pretend to be opening up for PR purposes and it's fooling even Free-software friendly Web sites. Why not explain what Microsoft is really doing here and why? In response to some of this spin, Pamela Jones wrote in Groklaw: "Hey, I have a great idea. Why doesn't Microsoft do this for OOXML, so ODF can be fully and seamlessly compatible, being standards and all, supposedly? Oh, and Google Docs, too? What? You say Microsoft only gives access to things that benefit their business? Oh. OK."

If Microsoft's weird variant of OOXML was ever replicated, Microsoft would then claim credit for it, right? But let's not hold our breath. The goalposts have already moved; Microsoft is still not complying (in the compatibility sense) with its very own OOXML, and it's already moving away from OOXML into a new lock-in: Fog Computing. "Microsoft prefers cloud over OpenXML," says the headline of this new article which starts as follows:

Microsoft will base support for the final OpenXML standard on customer demand. The market leader at this point prefers to move its clients to cloud computing, said Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division. He considers cloud offerings a good extension of the desktop software that Microsoft currently sells.

"OpenXML can be implemented for a range of applications," Elop told Webwereld in an interview. "Some are characterized as strict and some are more broad in scope. We do our best to expand the standard in collaboration with the standards bodies and implement it ourselves. We have taken major steps, but in some areas more work needs to be done."

Microsoft recently faced criticism because the new Office 2010 productivity suite didn't implement the strict ISO-approved version of OpenXML but a version that had been rejected.


Forget about implementing OOXML (which is not possible anyway). Microsoft's implementations of it are mutually incompatible and Microsoft itself is ignoring OOXML. The plan remains to just make Microsoft Office compatible with Microsoft Office (which it isn't, unless it's the same version at all ends), which makes OOXML just a red herring.

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