Posts tagged ‘OOXML’

Not Dancing Yet

I agree with CyberTech Rambler and Ditesh of the OpenMalaysia Blog: there was and is a standards conflict, if not a war. Ditesh gives some examples.

Those who cannot see this [PDF] have their eyes closed. This wasn’t some anti-Microsoft frenzy. It was Microsoft realizing that they hadn’t planned for the market coalescing around a non-Microsoft controlled, vendor-neutral standardized file format, ODF. They then unleashed their attack dogs to try to chew up anyone and anything that supported ODF while they crammed OOXML through Ecma and ISO.

As PJ pointed out, Massachusetts forces it to rethink this strategy, and Microsoft came out fighting. OOXML passage through ECMA and ISO is a war. May be not the big crash of superpowers, but at least a guerilla war fought between a superpower and local, disorganized fractions such as this fly-by blog. Interestingly, most anti OOXML/proODF people do not see Microsoft supports for ODF in Microsoft Office’s next service pack, and its decision to rejoin the ODF committee at OASIS as them winning the war. Do I believe this is a turning point in the war? Not yet. It will depends on what is delivered in the service pack, and Microsoft behavour in the committee. However, it can potentially be a turning point. — CTRambler

I also agree with CTRambler that the result (whether Microsoft support for ODF brings it to a happy end) depends very much on the implementation of ODF that Microsoft uses in Office 2007 SP2.

It is only those in Redmond who feared that ODF would so damage their office suite market share that they’d all be joining MLM plans. The rest of us already know that Microsoft will do quite well in a fair competition, gradually losing share (the way that AT&T did the first few years after telecom deregulation). This would actually help the company, as it would force them to jetison money-losers like Zune and MSN/Live and to change the way the company is managed.

In fact, those of us who deal with end-users want Microsoft to be one of several popular options for office software, because this is best for end-users, even if it is uncomfortable for some vendors. Those who use software benefit from single format-multiple vendor standards (SFMV). We want Microsoft to be a part of our SFMV universe.

Let me repeat it in case anyone might have their eyes closed: We want a strong, profitable Microsoft to be part of a competitive market for office software, because this is best for end-users, assuming SFMV. The second we throw in multiple vendor-specific formats (MVSF), of which OOXML is an example, it becomes possible for a single vendor or a small number of vendors to abuse end-users over and over with impunity. (Remember, OOXML is a proprietary format in drag.) To claim that opposing OOXML’s attempt to monopolize the market and revealing its crucial design flaws is being “anti-Microsoft” requires either self-deception or dishonesty.

So, I am looking at Microsoft’s announcement with cautious hope. I am hoping that they are really going to integrate ODF into their product, and not make it a half-baked “me-too” addition. I am hoping that they will participate in the OASIS TC without any intention of sinking or polluting the format, but of making it better. Better for their needs (including accurately representing content imported from previous editions of their software), better for the needs of StarOffice/OpenOffice.org, better for the needs of KOffice, better for the needs of AbiWord/Gnumeric, better for both commercial entities that wish to utilize the format AND for free software projects using GPL and other FSF/OSI approved licenses. And I hope that the results are so good (including the financial results) for Microsoft that they never need to continue with OOXML, and instead quietly make ODF the main default format for their office products.

If / when that happens, I’ll be dancing …

Sunday, 2008-June-01 at 21:14 1 comment

Is This What It Takes To Push OOXML Into The Market?

It is really pretty funny.  The Microsoft-Rules-Forever crowd co-opted the voices of freedom lovers like Rick Jelliffe1 in order to push its next user-enslaving document format, OOXML, over the top.  And with all of the additional attention and the possibility of new doors opening for OOXML, they still feel that they cannot compete with ODF unless they use arm-twisting tactics.

If you disagree, you should take a look at the comments on this ThinkFree blog posting.  Here, let me help you:

We are also considering the ODF support in ThinkFree.
By the way, There is one obstacle for solving the problem…
That is MS Policy for ODF, Because of interoperability with MS Office in ThinkFree,
We still need the MS cooperation that support OOXML,,,
I think you can understand this situation & MS policy strategy…
But we plan to solve this political problems, and also We will make the detour.

How many of the known implementers of the OOXML formats could tell of similar arm-twisting?  Why is it that Microsoft feels that it cannot compete without misusing its huge market share to stifle the growth of more-open alternatives?

I mean, come on now.  With over 90% of the (paid) market for office suites, they have to use untoward arm-twisting to pass OOXML through ISO?  And then, after it passes, they still must use these techniques in order to keep companies like ThinkFree from implementing OOXML's more popular competitor, ODF?  How does Microsoft's vaunted "openness pledge" hold up, given these facts?

How about it, Altova?  Could this be the reason why your products do not support ODF?  I know there is demand, since up to 600 people a day come to this blog looking for the answer to one question: How can I open this ODF file someone sent me?  Are you really willing to give up that many potential opportunities to sell your XML software?  Is implementing OOXML so difficult that you must have MSFT's good will and thus cannot risk satisfying potential customers?


1 One of the bad things about the way Microsoft and its minions misused Rick Jelliffe's influence is that even his good suggestions might be ignored.  And, no David, despite disagreeing with Rick on OOXML, I have not mistreated him.  In fact, I respect him for his expertise in XML-related fields.  I am looking forward to seeing his Schematron in action some day.

Tuesday, 2008-April-08 at 12:23 5 comments

SQLManager Brings ODF Import/Export To Leading Databases

SQLManager Brings ODF Import/Export To Leading Databases

If you have been looking for a way to utilize your ODF documents as
input to your DBMS server, or a way to use the output from the DBMS with
your other ODF-capable software, take a look at SQLManager.

Their SQL Studio product is available for MySQL, SQL Server, PostgreSQL,
Interbase/Firebird, and Oracle databases. For example, the data export
tool for MySQL is described as "Exporting data to 19 most popular
formats: MS Excel, MS Access, MS Word, RTF, HTML, PDF, XML, TXT, DBF,
CSV, ODF, SYLK, DIF, LaTeX, SQL, Clipboard, and others".

The data import tool says it can "Import from 10 most popular formats:
MS Excel 97-2007, MS Access, XML, DBF, TXT, CSV, MS Word 2007,
OpenDocument Format and HTML" and that it can use SSH and HTTP tunneling
for added security .

The product does require a Windows operating system, but can use a local
or remote DBMS server. Pricing information is on
the site
. The product also supports MS Office 2007/OOXML formats.

It is always encouraging to see more enterprise-oriented applications supporting ODF. It means that they really are seeing customer interest. It would be a good idea to forward a link to this information to your company CIO. They are frequently in the dark because it suits their contacts at existing software vendors to keep them that way. Hundreds of people come here each day, looking for applications that can open ODF files. If your company does not yet have the capacity to work with ODF files, you are behind the curve. (Thanks to Legal Software Downloads for pointing this one out.)

Sunday, 2008-March-16 at 13:21

DIS29500: Just Say No

There are many, many reasons why OOXML as it currently exists should not be accepted as an international standard, but I just wanted to reach back into the past to recall one of the most important.

From Stephen Walli [emphasis mine]:

The reality is probably closer to an arrogance towards standards in general from the perspective of setting them and of their customers’ desires to see them in the industry. Rather than implementing the standard that exists, (and we’ll discuss in the next post why the PR value of this would have been high, while giving them maximum implementation freedom), they have chosen to try to confuse the market by offering up their own standard.

They are trying to maintain the aura of standardization, while maintaining maximum control of what they perceive to be their property. After promising to publish the patent license in the early part of the announcement, it has since turned into a statement that the covenant not to sue implementers on top of the original patent license is all they will be doing. So the legal ambiguity begins.

Some recent restatements of their Open Specifications Pledge might alter things a little, but the Software Freedom Law Center does not think so:

There has been much discussion in the free software community and in the press about the inadequacy of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) as a standard, including good analysis of some of the shortcomings of Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise (OSP), a promise that is supposed to protect projects from patent risk. Nonetheless, following the close of the ISO-BRM meeting in Geneva, SFLC’s clients and colleagues have continued to express uncertainty as to whether the OSP would adequately apply to implementations licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). In response to these requests for clarification, we publicly conclude that the OSP provides no assurance to GPL developers and that it is unsafe to rely upon the OSP for any free software implementation, whether under the GPL or another free software license.

What value does a standard have for customers? There are a few, primarily around predictability and multiple implementations. As Stephen Walli said: “Let’s go back to first principles on this one. The economic purpose of a standard is to enable multiple implementations. Standards enable product substitutions to be made.”

In other words, standardization is for the time when customers want to have a choice of multiple vendors, while still being assured that the products will work in a predictable fashion, which is especially important in a mix-and-match environment. In a single-vendor environment, having a standard is of no consequence, because everything is focused around that single vendor's products anyway.

Let's ask the relevant question, then. If Ecma 376 / OOXML is approved as an ISO standard, will companies and consumers be able to substitute Brand X for the name brand office suite, assuming that Brand X conforms to the standard? If not, then the whole process is a sham and DIS29500 should be rejected out of hand.

Further, I suggest that if OOXML is rejected as an ISO standard, Microsoft and Ecma will fix many of the biggest flaws and resubmit it under a more normal evaluation process. They may even release the standard under a FLOSS-safe IP pledge. Contrary to what some may think, this is not anti-Microsoft or even necessarily anti-OOXML. It is anti-rubber-stamped standards and anti-obfuscated-formats-and-mappings standards, while being pro-safe-to-implement standards.

Sunday, 2008-March-16 at 12:00

BRM Reports Trickle In

Andy Updegrove

Tim Bray

UPDATES: Yoon Kit at OpenMalaysia

Hasan at OpenMalaysia

Bruce Badger

Groklaw

<NO> OOMXL

Brian Jones of Microsoft

Jason Matusow of Microsoft

Rob Weir of IBM

UPDATE 2008-03-09: Andy Updegrove has a BRM resource page up with more information and links.

Friday, 2008-February-29 at 22:43

Hey BRM! Don’t Give In!

I join Google in urging the delegates at the ISO to support truly open standards.

Currently, the technology industry is evaluating a proposed ISO standard for document formats. Given the importance of a workable standard, Microsoft’s submission of Office Open XML (OOXML ) as an additional international standard has caught the attention of many. In September 2007, the original request to ISO was defeated. After further technical analysis of the specification along with all the additional data available on OOXML, Google believes OOXML would be an insufficient and unnecessary standard, designed purely around the needs of Microsoft Office.

This isn't the old days when it was acceptable to use file formats that were vendor-specific, and often unreadable by similar applications made by other vendors.  These days, there is no rational reason for creating documents in file formats that are not vendor-neutral open standards.  Truly, office applications have improved little since 1997, so there is no burning reason to choose a particular vendor's product over another—except for the current case, where the most widely-used vendor uses closed and secret formats as a tool for maintaining their dominance.  (Yes, I know that they have opened the formats up a little in recent days.  But it is still not open enough.)

So, until OOXML is cleaned of its most glaring flaws, made vendor-neutral and freed of "IP" impediments for implementers, ISO and other reputable standards groups need to reject it.  For office software, choose something that reads and writes OpenDocument Format in addition to legacy formats (such as .doc, .xls, .ppt).  If your company's software does not read and write ODF, take a look at the list of software that does use ODF.  You can continue to use your legacy Microsoft office suite until upgrade time by utilizing Sun's ODF plugin.

Thanks to Bob Sutor for the tip.

Thursday, 2008-February-28 at 20:16

Trinidad and Tobago OOXML BRM Resource

While the rest of us have nothing to do but wait, we can take a look at some of the resources that show just what data is available about the Not-so-open XML format and the attempted ISO-ification of it.  Here's the TTCS wiki page on DIS29500 (proposed ISO standard for OOXML).  Thanks to the TTCS Blog for the pointer.  TTCS appears to be promoting Windows FLOSS via their OSSWIN CD.  More free and open source software in the hands of end-users is always good.

I did look to see whether TTCS has any posts about the OpenDocument Format (ODF), but it appears not to have any yet.

Saturday, 2008-February-23 at 19:22

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