Bonum Certa Men Certa

Danaergeschenk

Over on Groklaw, there is an excellent piece penned by Georg C.F. Greve of FSF Europe, which introduces those of us who don’t speak German to a new term, Danaergeschenk. The term relates to the "beware greeks bearing gifts" saying in English, but interestingly in the German idiom apparently it is more the "gift" itself that should be feared rather than the "Greeks".

In this case, Greve argues, Novell’s Danaergeschenk for the world is their supporting Open XML in OpenOffice.org.

So in the case of OpenXML, Microsoft now seems to be using Novell to put a pro forma implementation of OpenXML into OpenOffice.org, which will make it easier to migrate from OpenOffice.org to Microsoft Office but can never be sufficient to read all Microsoft Word Documents.

One reason for this is the sheer size of the implementation; another reason relates to the containers used within OpenXML, which make use of Microsoft's proprietary implementations instead of industry standards such as SVG. Moreover, there is really no knowing what kind of hooks Microsoft has put into the specification that people will not detect at first reading. Indeed, it is quite possible that OpenXML will allow what Bruce Perens refers to as "Predatory Pratices" in his definition of an Open Standard.

And while there will be a migration path from OpenOffice.org to Microsoft Office, Microsoft avoids opening the inverse path to any other ODF-compliant Office program, by neglecting ODF support in Microsoft Office.

So, once again we are seeing that Open XML is a one way standard. Open XML is no more than Microsoft’s latest marketing tactic, a pseudo-standard in name only designed to keep their Office products at the center of the IT universe by limiting interoperability with competing products.

Bob Sutor, IBM’s Vice President of Standards and Open Source has written a good analysis why the specification is more akin to a denial of service attack than an Open Standard. OpenXML basically represents a change of strategy: Instead of trying to hide information by not telling anything about their products to anyone, they've apparently now switched to hiding information in noise, which is by far the more effective method.

So, as Greve points out, it would be advisable for OpenOffice.org to eschew Open XML support from the main branch, rather than naively accept Novell’s Danaergeschenk and the misfortune it may bring. I would also like to add, with apologies to Virgil: "Whatever it is, I fear Novell even when they bring gifts."

Boycott Novell.

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