Bonum Certa Men Certa

How Microsoft Boosters Are Still Harming ODF in the News

"Microsoft implemented ODF with all the grace of a 6 year old asked to tidy up their room"

--Jeremy Allison, LCA 2010



Summary: How boosters of Microsoft have covered the insulting "support" of ODF in Microsoft Office

IN THE previous post we explained that Microsoft pretends to be a friend when it's obviously not. It's a lulling technique against critics.



Microsoft is attacking ODF -- at least indirectly if one pays attention -- in all sorts of ways while pretending to have embraced it (which would make no business sense). We have given so many examples over the past year. One vector of attack has been Microsoft's bribed [1, 2, 3] and sometimes just loyal 'reporters' (loyal to Microsoft). We are seeing examples of it even this week. Here is Microsoft's booster Gavin Clarke attacking ODF with a headline that says "ODF's doomed mission to break into Microsoft Office"

There are the following two criticisms being mentioned:

Free-Software-Foundation president Richard Stallman has told Neowin that the Office ballot screen is designed to actually deter potential users from using ODF. Stallman concludes Microsoft is simply going through a pretense - to be able to say it offers ODF support.

ODF managing director Marino Marcich pointed to a bigger issue, saying a ballot screen is meaningful only if the ODF implementation is "complete, current, and interoperable with other ODF applications."


Clarke is ending with his Microsoft party line: "Would it take fresh regulatory pressure on Microsoft this time? Possibly. Microsoft is within its rights to support ODF as much - or a little - as it wants in Office."

That's not true. Microsoft's strategy of "embrace and extend" was at times ruled illegal and had Microsoft penalised. Microsoft is still doing this to ODF [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] because it wants to get rid of ODF by making it look bad and thus discourage its use. Other Microsoft boosters did the same thing. The Microsoft-boosting site called Neowin got its hands on a screenshot that we mentioned a few days ago. It's like those fake "leaks" [1, 2] that are actually controlled -- leaks where they are setting the tone for all followup articles (breaking the news artificially). Neowin's biased coverage has fed other Microsoft boosters like Marius Oiaga who cites Neowin and Mary-Jo Foley (whom Microsoft contacted based on the statement which says "the Redmond company confirmed officially to Mary-Jo Foley, after Neowin published a story accompanied by the file format screen which is apparently being served to users of the Release Candidate version of Office 2010"). Even sites that are not in Microsoft's pocket had to rely on biased coverage from Neowin, which fortunately they took with a barrel of salt.

As for Office, Neowin has revealed Microsoft will use a similar ballot screen to prompt users about which file format they would prefer to use: Office Open XML (OOXML) or OpenDocument (ODF) document formats. OOXML is the suite's default format, but Canadian software company i4i filed a patent dispute over the way Word uses these XML files. In December Microsoft surprisingly lost an appeal against i4i's sales injunction and has had to act quickly.

So can these matters now be drawn to a close? Highly unlikely...


Should Microsoft add to the dialogue some warning about deliberate patent violations in OOXML [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]? And if not, then why not? It's actually unfortunate that the i4i case is currently being used to promote software patents:

Mark Kenrick, a partner at patent and trademark attorneys Marks & Clerk, explores the recent Microsoft injunction, prohibiting sales of its flagship Word program. How did it come to pass that David beat Goliath in this fiercely contested patent dispute, and what does this mean for the software industry at large?


Another Microsoft booster admits that competitors are not satisfied with what Microsoft did. He quotes ODF Alliance's director:

Update: Marino Marcich, managing director of the ODF Alliance, had this to say via email this morning:

The ballot screen, although it may at first look like it gives users a fair choice between OOXML and ODF, doesn't give ODF a fair shake, and it isn't likely to have much impact. Not only does the ballot offer OOXML as the first option, but more significantly, it provides what is essentially a warning -- OOXML is designated to support "all the features" of the software, while ODF is explained to enable "many features," but "some content or editability may be lost."

At the end of the day, the key issue here is the level of ODF support and functionality. A ballot is no substitute for a quality implementation of the format. In this case, a ballot that offers the user the choice of ODF in MS Office is only significant if the ODF support in MS Office is complete, current, and interoperable with other ODF applications. Previous attempts, in Office 2007 SP2 fell far short of this. We have not yet evaluated the level of ODF support in Office 2010."


Here is an update on where Google stands when it comes to document standards.

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