05.29.08

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Office and OOXML Under Pressure, So Microsoft Retaliates with ODF

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, SUN, Ubuntu at 12:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

What is ODF to Microsoft? Decoy? Retaliation? Loophole?

The worst mistake one can make is to assume that Microsoft likes ODF now that it has ‘embraced’ it (possibly to extend and extinguish it). Microsoft hates ODF like it hates GNU/Linux. The Novell deal is an example of a GNU/Linux ‘embrace’ which we already know is malicious. It’s intended to kill the platform as a free one. It’s a case of harmful intervention from the inside.

Let’s quickly review some of the latest news about OOXML and Microsoft Office, shall we?

Cash Cow Panicking

When even the MSN-associated and Microsoft-affiliated Fool.com gives up, then you know something is truly amiss.

The Fall of Microsoft Office

On the same day that the state of New York published a report supporting open formats for electronic documents, mighty Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) said that it would support the open-source ODF format in Office 2007. Redmond’s own Open Office XML specification may be heading for the great Recycle Bin in the sky, never to come back.

[...]

I can’t say that Google or Sun or anybody else just won a bigger share of the office software market, and if they did, it won’t help their revenue or profits directly anyway. But it’s clear as day that Microsoft just took a serious hit, and the impact may take a long time to make itself felt but it will come.

Other than this, all that Motley Fool ever offers is Microsoft cheerleading, praise, and blind love that’s too embarrassing to watch in public. As such, the above is significant.

What can Microsoft do now? As we’ve warned before, it’s all about vapourware [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Behold Microsoft’s new gig.

With its move, “if a government says ODF is our standard, then Microsoft can say, ‘It’s our standard, too,’ ” Creese said. But why isn’t Microsoft committing to ODF 1.2? It’s supposed to have better accessibility and spreadsheet features than ODF 1.1. It is already in the OpenOffice 3.0 beta, is expected to be finalized by OASIS this fall and is on target to be ratified by ISO next summer.

Later on, Microsoft will probably accuse of ODF of deficiencies and advise users to save and store as OOXML in order to retain full fidelity. In other words, they want to eat the cake and keep it too. It’s another marketing charade. Don’t fall for Microsoft’s ODF ‘support’ just yet. All that we have is a bunch of words. Promises from Microsoft have a poor track record — abysmal even.

If people truly require ODF support in Microsoft Office at the moment (although it’s not complete), Sun reminds us all that there’s already a plugin.

Want ODF support in Office right now? Sun says no problem

Last week, Microsoft announced plans to add support for the Open Document Format (ODF), among other formats, to Office 2007 with the upcoming release of Service Pack 2. The tech community quickly responded with mixed feelings, but Microsoft paid no notice; the update was going to allow seamless opening, editing, and saving Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents using ODF, whether people liked it or not. Microsoft told those interested in the move that they had to wait until the first half of 2009, and now Sun is telling them that next year has come early.

Europe Strikes Again

Remember that Microsoft embargo proposal in the EU? It originated from an EU MP called Heidi Rühle. She is from Germany’s Green Party. Another Green MP, Dr. Caroline Lucas, appears to have proudly joined this push for adoption of Free software, stressing access to documents as key:

European citizens have the right to freely access documents and information from the institutions which represent them, and it is about time that the use of open source software became more widespread

Open source software (1) should be more widely available in order to help reduce the ‘digital divide’, according to Dr Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for the South East.

Dr Lucas has added her signature to a written declaration in the European Parliament – like an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons – recognising the growing disparities in access to information and communication technologies throughout the European Union, and calling for increased use of open source technology.

Can you see why Microsoft is assimilating to ODF? It wants to keep those Microsoft Office contracts alive.

OOXML Still Under Fire

Microsoft’s bullying in India seems to be continuing (see previous coverage), but it’s only making the convicted monopolist look uglier and uglier. It also reveals what a vicious opponent of ODF it really is.

The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, has taken strong objection to the fact that despite a “No” to OOXML by a majority of the Bureau of Indian Standardsmembers, the software giant “continued to make representations to the top Indian leadership (read Ministry of Consumer Affairs), pressuring them to change the Indian vote”.

The BIS represented India as a participating member of the ISO. Its LITD 15 committee — of which IIT-Bombay was a part — was responsible for examining OOXML and deciding on a “No” regarding India’s position at the ISO.

Thursday is the last days for complaints (appeals) to be made, so you are encouraged to contact your national standards body. The complaint from South Africa (SABS) seems to have already left ISO speechless.

On Tuesday, an ISO representative told ZDNet UK that the organization will not comment on SABS’s objection until the appeal deadline closes at the end of May.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s complaint has been amplified by strong objections from the Shuttleworth Foundation (press release quoted below in full).


SABS leads appeal against OOXML ratification

The South African Bureau of Standards is leading an international appeal against the ratification of Microsoft Office Open XML as an ISO standard.

Document formats seem like a technical, unimportant subject until you can’t open an important document. The role that standards play in making things work is easily overlooked. But South Africa’s standards body is working to ensure that documents are usable, that software does inter-operate, and it is taking a global lead.

In April 2008 the Microsoft Office Open XML digital document format was ratified by a committee of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). The standard approval was fast-tracked through the ISO process but it has since been found that due process was not followed in this regard and that several vital ISO procedures were bypassed. For this reason the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) believes that there is cause to appeal the decision by ISO and is expected to be joined in the process of doing so by other international standards’ bodies.

OOXML was introduced as a second open document format. Open Document Format (ODF) precedes OOXML by years and has the same design objective. The Shuttleworth Foundation believes that introducing complexity into the standards market is unnecessary and threatens open access to information. This impacts negatively on education and citizen access to government services.

Andrew Rens, Intellectual Property Fellow to the Shuttleworth Foundation believes that the SABS has a strong case for appeal.

“Microsoft’s OOXML was submitted to ISO as a relatively immature standard,” he explains. “As such, several international bodies expressed concerns and lodged contradictions to the standard for consideration in the ratification process.”

“ISO’s policies state that contradictions must be dealt with in the process before any standard can be passed. ECMA, the body that Microsoft handed the standard over to in running the approval campaign, was afforded the opportunity to respond to international contradictions. However, it provided no response and it was merely ruled that these concerns would no longer be discussed. This is against ISO procedures,” continues Rens. “In total there were 1027 responses lodged with ECMA and instead of handling these individually, representatives were asked to block vote, ultimately ignoring all of the issues. This is against the ISO process which aims to resolve all issues surrounding a standard on an individual basis, allowing engineers and other developers to make the necessary changes ahead of ratification.”

Rens insists that these contraventions of ISO process stem from the fact that OOXML was submitted as an immature standard.

“The reason why block voting and other side-stepping of ISO processes took place is because OOXML was fast-tracked through the process,” he explains. “However, OOXML was not a suitable candidate for fast-tracking given the immaturity of the standard. Microsoft itself has said that it will not be able to fully integrate OOXML in the ISO form of the standard until 2011. It’s simply a broken standard at this stage. Fast-tracking through ISO is reserved for mature standards where no issues have been raised and where it is possible to hasten the process of rubber-stamping the standard. In OOXML’s case, however, the standard had not been fully developed and there were many concerns raised internationally. This would preclude certification of the standard via a fast-track process.”

“The fact that OOXML was fast-tracked, and certified, casts serious doubt on the integrity of ISO as an international standard’s authority,” adds Rens.

As such, the SABS is the first international body to seek appeal in the case and has begun a process that will lead to other international bodies joining in the appeal.

“Should the appeal be successful, OOXML will be rejected as an ISO standard and will have to be resubmitted, if there is still interest in it,” states Rens. “Hopefully if it is resubmitted ISO will follow due process in a second attempt at certification. However, from an open access perspective we would prefer not to see the standard being reintroduced at all, because that would result in two document standards instead of one with resulting loss of interoperability.”

“The Shuttleworth Foundation opposes the introduction of multiple standards for the same objective and, as such, approves of the SABS’ decision in this regard. We agree that there is a case for appeal and wish all international bodies involving themselves in the process success in this undertaking,” he concludes.

About the Shuttleworth Foundation:

The Shuttleworth Foundation is a South African organisation that invests in social, technical and policy innovation in the fields of education and technology. The Foundation works through active partnerships with local and international organisations.

The Shuttleworth Foundation is founded in an open philosophy that includes the promotion of open source, open standards and open information access with the belief that sharing stimulates change and broadens horizons. It is the further belief of the Shuttleworth Foundation that in an African context this open philosophy is key to progress and an enabler for education.

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3 Comments

  1. Gopal said,

    May 29, 2008 at 2:56 am

    Gravatar

    Alert – the old ooxml articles have disappeared from Patrick Durusau’s site.

  2. Gopal said,

    May 29, 2008 at 2:59 am

    Gravatar

    Correction – the Links to the old articles have been removed from Durusau’s home page, but if you know the url’s you can go to the articles.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 29, 2008 at 3:10 am

    Gravatar

    Yes, marbux altered me about this before. I mentioned it briefly about a fortnight ago.

    Thanks.

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