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Site Reader Explains Why Microsoft Released Its Office Binary Formats Specifications

An anonymous reader has contributed his insights for us to publish in the spirit of helping the fight against FUD.

So, what do we have here? A new maneouver of the monopoly: Now they publish the specifications of legacy (97,2000) Microsoft Office documents (they arrive 10 years late). Now that thanks to ODF we are on the verge of not needing them anymore. Ever.

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” Fear the Greeks even if they bear gifts. This is absolutely a “Trojan horse” (poison pill) for Free/Libre Software. Let me explain:

There is an absolutely critical question for Free/Libre Software (and, by the way, if you must pay/negotiate patent racket eer... royalties as Novell has agreed to do, it cannot be deemed Free/Libre anymore)

Are these formats freely implementable in projects licensed under the GPLv3 (and notice that version 3 here acquires a crucial importance)? Are they available absolutely royalty-free and absolutely software patents-free? If that is not the case this is plain yet-another-trap-from-Microsoft(tm).

Moreover the specs are published at a critical moment when Microsoft desperately needs to see endorsed by ISO its Frankenstein-Format MSOOXML (which includes undocumented binary blobs, at least undocumented until now, -and it remains to be seen if the documentation just published is useful with them at all-) after they have corrupted the whole standarization process by playing every little dirty trick in the book to rig the Technical Committees in order to see their format approved.

***Why NOW?, I am sure things would have been a lot EASIER for them should they have published the specs from the beginning... ah, but then the very format's “Raison d'etre”, i.e. LEGACY COMPATIBILITY MOTIVATION THEY JUSTIFIED FOR THE EXISTENCE A SECOND UNNECESSARY ISO STANDARD FOR DOCUMENT FORMATS, AN “ISOED”-MSOOXML CONFLICTING WITH THE EXISTING ODF-IETF/ISO26300 WOULD NOT BE VALID ANYMORE: IN FACT NOW THAT THEY HAVE PUBLISHED THE LEGACY SPECS IT IS NOT VALID ANYMORE***

“They desperately need to stop the adoption of ISO26300-ODF by governments and public institutions..."They desperately need to stop the adoption of ISO26300-ODF by governments and public institutions, which, by the way, are probably the biggest captive customers and Cash-Cows of Microsoft (there are already some precedents that should have made them scared to death, like in Massachusetts)

They have said that they “cannot guarantee” legal safety if you use their OSP-published products in a GPL Free/Libre project [ODF], and that they leave the question to be asked “to your lawyers”, what a superb exercise of cynicism! (OSP=”Open Specification Promise”, notice this is a “promise” -and, as such, coming from Microsoft, bound to be broken-, OSP is not a licence nor a contract, and it is not legally binding whatsoever)

GNU logoWhat they have made clear is that, even if ISO endorses their MSOOXML format, they are not committed with it in future versions (we will see EEE at play again). The documentation of this attempt-at-a-standard already comprises 6000+ pages of specifications plus more that 2000 extra pages of errors and suggested amendments.

Be very aware, that when talking about Microsoft you always have to look for “side effects” and “collateral damages”.

In this case I can see a two-pronged attack to Open Standards and Free/Libre Software. For the first, as I have explained, they are trying to discourage ODF adoption as much as they can. For the second, think about the consequences of injecting their OSP'ed products -not-quite-GPL-compatible-and-of-course-GPLv3-incompatible- (since you cannot pass the rights to the recipients of the software -and that's why they love the BSD-like licenses while they shun the GPL-like licences), I say, injecting them in some Gnu/Linux distro: Novell (Xandros, Linspire, Turbolinux) is a first candidate, whereas for Red Hat, Ubuntu, Mandriva, Debian, Slackware and others... have you paid our patent protection racket yet? No? Well, see you in court.

There is a premise with this company (Microsoft) and it is that any of their products -even those provided cost-free- are devised to try to tie you to some other of their products.

To finish with, the published specs don't include either Access, Visio or Outlook. And ironically, they are published in .PDF and .XPS (“metro”) formats (so beware, Adobe!)

Also see: http://fsfeurope.org/documents/msooxml-idiosyncrasies

This illustrates the impossibility of obtaining interoperability with real implementations of MSOOXML by Microsoft even after (and if) endorsed by ISO.

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