03.24.07

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Has Novell Made OpenOffice Incompatible with Itself?

Posted in GNU/Linux, Interoperability, Office Suites, OpenOffice, Windows at 6:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recently we had a mind-boggling discussion about Novell’s special release of OpenOffice for Windows, with a bunch of extra forbidden fruit. Of particular interest was the following little nugget of information from Novell’s CEO:

What about things [OpenOffice features] that were discussed that didn’t make the cut?

[Hovsepian:] One that we were very interested in would be running some of their toolsets on our Linux platform — Visual Studio and other toolsets. That one didn’t make the cut.

Was the perennial question of a version of Microsoft Office for Linux discussed?

[Hovsepian:] Yes, that was one of the ‘toolsets’ I referred to. That one didn’t make the cut, either. As an executive, I understand that they’re protecting their franchise, and I’m respectful of that.

Now, picture the following scenario: John uses Windows and OpenOffice 2.1.x. He produces a nice presentation using Presenter and also uses a collection of nice and fancy macros for slide transition. He then sends his work over to Anna, who favours the use of GNU/Linux. She uses OpenOffice 2.1.x.

But here comes the fun part. It does not matter which distribution she uses, the software is for some reason unable to reproduce the integrity of John’s presentation, let alone view it without losing some crucial elements. It later turns out that John has unknowingly made use Novell’s special ‘features’.

Has Novell broken the round-trip rule at an intra-application level, rather than inter-application or inter-platform level? Has it led to fragmentation? Is it truly a case of an application not being backward-compatible with self, but also self-incompatible? Can you see GNU/Linux discriminated against here? Was our early questioning justified? Was Pamela right after all?

Novell claims to be working on improved interoperability. Unless the judgment and assumption we make are flawed, Novell has just made Windows less interoperable with Linux.

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7 Comments

  1. Stephane Rodriguez said,

    March 24, 2007 at 8:58 am

    Gravatar

    What I find interesting is that Novell is trying an exclusive support for VBA macros (again, whatever that means in practice), Microsoft themselves are moving away from VBA macros :

    - With Office 2007 documents, file names must end with “M” instead of “X” otherwise macros are disabled.

    - When run on Windows Vista, unsigned VBA macros won’t run. Getting VBA macros signed costs 500$/year.

    - Licensing Microsoft VBA run-time costs 150,000$/year.

    - Microsoft wants to decouple macros and sell licenses of VSTO (Visual Studio for Office) and server licenses (Excel services for instance). Of course, that’s not without an agenda. Licenses of VSTO create further lock-in (not just to Windows, but also .NET at the same time). And server licenses are orders of magnitude more expensive than client apps.

    Long story short, Novell appears to be the “idiots utiles” of the Microsoft agenda. One would think people like Miguel were a bit smarter.

  2. Chris said,

    March 25, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Gravatar

    I never really understood why Novell released their own edition of openoffice. If they were truly committed to helping the project, they would add their features to the main project instead of making their own version.

    Not to mention that the newest openXML plugin for Office 2007 only works on the Novell edition of openoffice.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 25, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Gravatar

    Chris, the implications are actually worse than that. See the following discussion:

    http://boycottnovell.com/2007/03/06/novell-helps-ooxml/

    “Promoting a Competitor to Openness, on Behalf of Your New Partner”

  4. Stephane Rodriguez said,

    March 26, 2007 at 1:50 am

    Gravatar

    “If they were truly committed to helping the project, they would add their features to the main project instead of making their own version.”

    One has to wonder why they are doing that while Microsoft IS moving away from VBA macros (read my post above, the agenda is to get customers to run arbitrary .NET code on the server). But VBA in general is just a wrapper on top of Windows. VBA imports WIN32, OLE, COM, ActiveX basically all Windows stuff. It is a mistake for Novell to go down that path because they’ll end up shipping a Windows-only build of OpenOffice.

    “Not to mention that the newest openXML plugin for Office 2007 only works on the Novell edition of openoffice”

    It’s a bit worse. The quality leaves much to desire (a number of features were left out since day one, and a number of feature “translations” are actually destructive). Oh, by the way, it only supports Word documents at this point. It does not stop Micro-vell to make announcements at least a year before it makes sense.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 26, 2007 at 6:37 am

    Gravatar

    I never thought that the timing of Novell’s announcement was a coincience. It almost coincided with Lisa Rajchel’s bizarre decision to fast-track OOXML, despite overwhelming opposition. Strings are being pulled here.

  6. Stephane Rodriguez said,

    March 26, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Gravatar

    Roy,

    Here is the reason why Lisa Rajchel allowed the 5-month ballot to proceed : http://lnxwalt.wordpress.com/2007/03/23/packing-the-court-at-the-iso/

    In addition, there are many more Microsoft employees in ISO national bodies : there are 3 Microsoft employees in France national body alone.

    The whole ISO fast-track ballot and voting is a farce.

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 26, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Gravatar

    Excellent. That’s all we needed to know. Lobbying yet again.

    Q&A: Former Mass. CIO feels ‘bittersweet pride’ after battles with Microsoft, legislature

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | As CIO of Massachusetts from February to November last year, Louis
    | Gutierrez had to endure most of the brunt of Microsoft Corp.’s political
    | wrath over a state policy calling for the adoption of the Open Document
    | Format for Office Applications, or ODF — a rival to the software vendor’s
    | Office Open XML file format.
    |
    | [...]
    |
    | Do you see any reason for there to be two standards? If you were
    | starting blank-slate, there certainly would not be value to creating
    | two separate standards. Over time, it has sometimes been useful to
    | have the competition of two standards to keep both sides honest.
    | But I don’t see particular value in the long-term co-existence of
    | two separate standards.
    `—-

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9012760&source=rss_news50

    From the previous CIO….

    ,—-[ Quote ]
    | Quinn: Almost to a person, to anybody involved or who knows about
    | the ODF issue, they attributed the story to Microsoft, right, wrong
    | or otherwise. Senator Pacheco may be a bully but I do not believe he
    | is disingenious and would stoop to such a tactic. Senator Pacheco and
    | Secretary Galvin’s office remain very heavily influenced by the
    | Microsoft money and its lobbyist machine, as witnessed by their
    | playbook and words, in my opinion.
    |
    | Quinn: I believe that the ODF decision will stand. I believe MS
    | will continue to do anything and everything it can to stop it. And I
    | know my seat wasn’t even empty and they (MS) took another shot at
    | the title, to no avail. This horse is out of the barn and I see no
    | way for it to go back in. Remember, all we are asking for was and is
    | for Microsoft to commit to open and the standards process; so
    | everyone looks really bad if the plug gets pulled at this juncture.
    `—-

    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20060119232859729

    MA Governor-Elect Names MS Anti-ODF Lobbyist to Technology Advisory Group

    http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20061128161343183

    The Sorry State of Massachusetts

    http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=2006111603531029

    Microsoft offers schools in Mass. free software [to stop ODF adoption]

    http://news.com.com/2100-7344_3-6090196.html?part=rss&tag=6090196&subj=news

    Microsoft plays Massachusetts Senate card

    http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=32515

    Politics and tech companies: follow the money

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20061110-8194.html

    Years of deadlock on EU patent bring some new thinking

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/11/08/business/patents.php

    Leaked letter warns of open source ‘threat to eco-system’

    http://www.techworld.com/news/index.cfm?RSS&NewsID=7109

    Study: open source needs official support; Lobbyist disagrees with “flawed” conclusions
    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20061017-8011.html

    Report Says Nonprofits Sold Influence to Abramoff

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/12/AR2006101200889.html

    Open Source Foes In Bed With Abramoff

    http://politics.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/10/12/2036223&from=rss

    EU official joins consultancy serving Microsoft

    http://today.reuters.com/news/articleinvesting.aspx?view=CN&storyID=2006-10-03T134311Z_01_L03693228_RTRIDST_0_TECH-MICROSOFT-OFFICIAL.XML&rpc=66&type=qcna

    US ambassador to the EU was former Microsoft lobbyist

    http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=34706

    US politicians go to bat for Microsoft

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/26/microsoft_eu_political_lobbying/

    Changing the Report, After the Vote

    http://insidehighered.com/news/2006/09/01/commission

    Microsoft playing three card monte with XML conversion

    http://blogs.zdnet.com/open-source/?p=959

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