MS-Office schema not as open source friendly as Microsoft says it is

MS-Office schema not as open source friendly as Microsoft says it is

Summary: When Alan Yates, Microsoft Information Worker Product Management Group business strategy general manager, first came to me to say that his company had been railroaded when Massachusetts voted the OpenDocument office file format (ODF) in, and Microsoft's Office XML Reference Schema (OXRS) out, one of his original arguments was that OXRS was getting a bad rap for not being implementable in open source software.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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When Alan Yates, Microsoft Information Worker Product Management Group business strategy general manager, first came to me to say that his company had been railroaded when Massachusetts voted the OpenDocument office file format (ODF) in, and Microsoft's Office XML Reference Schema (OXRS) out, one of his original arguments was that OXRS was getting a bad rap for not being implementable in open source software. As Yates originally explained it to me, "Our license may not be compatible with the GPL, but it is compatible with many other open source licenses, and certainly can be used with the OpenDocument license."  However, as it turns out, "many" is in the eyes of the beholder.  When I went back to Yates and explained how I found that claim to be untrue, he clarified his original claim by saying "While it is beyond my capacity to analyze [all of the open source licenses listed on the Open Source Initiative's Web site], we think that there is no problem with the two most used, key alternatives to the GPL; the LGPL and the BSD licenses."  

I never fully investigated that claim and it's been nagging at me ever since so I finally decided to circle back to it for some better vetting than what I originally did.   How is it that Microsoft's patent license could actually be compatible with open source?  Particularly when open source advocates are saying it is not.

The reason Microsoft's claim regarding the compatibility of OSRX's patent license with open source software development is so critical is because the company believes that Massachusetts' test for openness -- a test that document formats must pass before the state's Information Technology Department (ITD) will standardize on them -- is  too strict.  In coming up with its test, Massachusetts' ITD officials wanted to be assured that could get software that complied with its selected standards from any solution provider (proprietary, open source, etc.) and that all developers would have the maximum latitude to develop that software without any patent-enforced restrictions.  In applying its test to OSRX, the ITD ultimately determined Microsoft's patent license to be too restrictive in that it prevented open source developers from developing OSRX-compliant software.  Meanwhile, Microsoft was arguing the opposite -- that its patent license was compatible with open source.

So which is it?

One of the key tenants of open source software is that I can write some code, publish it under an open source license, and then you can take that code, modify it, and republish your new derivative using either the same open source license that I used when I published the original code or a different one that's compatible with the one I used.  In order for the source code to be open in this way (as in "open source"), I must be able to publish the code in a way that my copyrights as well as any of my patents that I may have implemented in the software are transferable to you.  For example, the following text in the Open Source Initiative-approved GNU General Public License makes its position on patents quite clear:

Finally, any free program is threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that re-distributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all. 

The quid pro quo, if you take that code and modify it, is that your copyrights and patents are also transferable back to me or to anyone else that wants to modify the code.  If the code is an implementation of someone else's patents and we're openly passing that implementation around without the patent holder's approval, the copyrights are irrelevant.  It could be grounds for patent infringement.  But, for now, let's assume that's not the case.  This mutually required transferability basically enforces the spirit of communal software development and that is what open source is all about. 

But, as it turns out, there are certain open source licenses -- the LGPL and the BSD cited by Yates for example -- that are silent on the matter of sublicensability of copyrights and patents.  At least one interpretation of that silence, according to open source attorney Larry Rosen, paves the way for Microsoft to claim the compatibility its claiming.  Said Rosen via a phone interview:

 

One suggestion is that a license which does not expressly permit sub-licensing is not sublicensable. The question is, "If you have a license that's not expressly sublicensable, is it sublicensable?" Some people say yes. Others say no.  To solve that problem, most open source licences that have been issued since those earlier license that are silent on sublicensability  have added provisions to make themselves expressly sublicensable. 


 

Rosen told me that he doesn't necessarily agree that a license's silence on sublicensabilty means that it's not sublincensable.  He prefers the interpretation that swings in the direction of allowing it but readily admits it's not known what a court's intepretation might be since there have been no test cases. 

But just supposing the that silence means that it's not sublicensable; then that means that an open source license like the BSD would not conflict with Microsoft's patent license, which expressly forbids sublicensing, thereby technically making the two compatible under one interpretation.  Another interpretation -- this time my slight variation on Rosen's -- is that by not expressly requiring sub-licensing, an open source license may not necessarily forbid it or require it, but instead leaves the door open for the licensee to forbid it through a patent license .  Recall that patents supersede copyrights.  It doesn't matter whether my implementation of someone else's patent is in my own source code, or if I used three pieces of fruit and and a vegetable to implement the patent.  Either way, it is patent infringement.

So, is Microsoft's patent license -- which prevents sub-licensing of its patents -- compatible with open source, or not? It's apparently a matter of interpretation.  While you decide, it's clear that Massachusetts' test for openness wasn't simply a pass/fail test on compatibility with just any open source license.  What Massachusetts was concerned about -- and rightfully so -- is that just like with Adobe's license for the Portable Document Format, any open source developer could develop OXRS-compliant software without being restricted to using a specific open source license -- particularly one of the ones with ambiguous language that the open source community has since addressed with newer, more unambiguous licenses.  Compared to OXRS, ODF gives open source developers the latitude to pick whatever open source license they want, which is one reason why it passed Massachusetts/ test for openness and why ODF was ultimately selected as a standard format for storing the state's documents.


 

Topic: Open Source

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  • So you're saying it came to a choice...

    ... between Microsoft and open source, and a few MA officials decided to include open source and exclude Microsoft formats.

    There's a question about whether the choice had to be exclusive, either/or, based on the sublicense policy. I think you're saying the choice did have to be made by this committee.

    So let's say that the committee would not have completed its charge without looking at the sublicensing issue.

    Then, since the issue involves more than just those few individuals on this committee, wouldn't the most appropriate course of action be to enlarge the committee by adding those to be affected by the decision?

    Is there anything about these MA officials which would make them uniquely qualified to make a decision with such substantial implications?

    I'm still amazed at how naive these individuals were to think that they could make a decision directly affecting how thousands of employees do their jobs, as well as the work of suppliers to the State and recipients of State materials, and spend such a brief period on a major issue.

    The rigged hearing held frankly doesn't sound much more acceptable than Judge Jackson's inadequate efforts to consider the breakup of Microsoft.

    I'm adding the MA officials' decision to the list of actions attacking Microsoft without sufficient justification or preparation.

    What is it about that company...?
    [Rhetorical question. I think I know. But doesn't affect what's required for fairness.]
    Anton Philidor
    • Amazing

      You amaze me, Anton. You persist in blaming the MA IT officials when you should be blaming Microsoft.

      MA wanted the format to be OPEN TO EVERYONE, yet you feel that was a bad, hasty decision because they didn't just simply accept Microsoft's proposal. Microsoft's license is not open to everyone which is, of course, Microsoft's right. MA asked Microsoft to change that, and they REFUSED.

      ODF supports Microsoft (if they so choose to implement it), open source, and anybody else who cares to play. No one is excluded. All are free to compete equally. MA should be commended for making such a decision, not vilified.

      You argument seems to be MA should accept Microsoft's way of doing things simply because otherwise MA users will be impacted. Doesn't that show the level of lock-in to Microsoft that is already present? Isn't that exactly what MA was trying eliminate?
      mosborne
      • Its not MA job to interfere with market

        "Doesn't that show the level of lock-in to Microsoft that is already present? Isn't that exactly what MA was trying eliminate?"

        Trying to eliminate that is not MA job.

        Their job as they claim is to have documents read by all. PDF has a free reader that anyone can download to read documents.

        Excluding Microsoft from the list of vendors just because they do not support ODF is ridiculous (it shows their real motives).

        Selecting ODF as the document format clearly shows that the IDT was playing politics (this should be red flag, as actions of IBM, SUN and a few others need to be investigated).
        zzz1234567890
        • Read only?

          ---Their job as they claim is to have documents read by all. PDF
          has a free reader that anyone can download to read documents.---

          Since pdf, and the free reader, are read-only, the question arises, is
          it the job of MA to ensure that all citizens can read and write on
          government documents (filling out a form, for example)?
          tic swayback
        • If you call not restricting the market

          to Microsoft only, interfering, then I guess they did. And rightly they should have. It is the job of the Gov. to ensure that markets are open.

          Microsoft excluded itself, MA did not exclude them. In fact they said they would be happy to have Microsoft as a vendor, but Microsoft would have to meet the requirements. Do you think that MA should tailer their requirements to Microsoft's wishes simply becuase Microsoft wants them too? That truly is absurd. MA is the *client*, Microsoft is the *vendor*. The vendor is supposed to serve the client, not the other way around. Isn't that taught in business 101?
          mosborne
        • Please explain

          [i]Their job as they claim is to have documents read by all. PDF has a free reader that anyone can download to read documents.[/i]

          They also need to have documents that can be handled by a [u]large[/u] collection of enterprise systems, from purchasing to personnel.

          Those systems have to all be created to Massachusetts' specifications. "Do the data any way you like" means they can't communicate.

          [i]Excluding Microsoft from the list of vendors just because they do not support ODF is ridiculous (it shows their real motives).[/i]

          So which alternative should Massachusetts have chosen?

          1) Mandate, [i]de jure[/i], Microsoft to have the authority to dictate formats and judge compliance?
          2) Mandate, as they have, a public standard that anyone (including Microsoft) can support?
          3) Tell vendor to use whatever they like and then pay for converters at every step?

          Please elucidate.

          For extra credit, please explain how the ETRM could be edited to choose (1).
          Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Look at the issue organizationally first.

        A few officials in MA decided to create a definition of open which excluded Microsoft, and told the company with some hauteur that they would have to give up their patents and submit their formats to a committee of their competitors in order to qualify.

        This was a response to feelings of discomfort on the part of some Microsoft antagonists and competitors because the Microsoft formats were allowed.

        The officials could also have told the potential vendors to MA to change the license under which their software is issued when their preferred license would prevent using Microsoft formats as Microsoft permits.

        If the other vendors had refused, would you be saying that they had an opportunity to participate and chose not to accept that opportunity?

        What a few MA officials did is bad policy because it's blatant favoritism. But just as significantly, they had no consideration for other branches of government and other agencies in MA.

        If you were in the place of one of the officials making the decision, wouldn't you realize that what you were doing was disruptive?
        Wouldn't you expect objections from a significant number of people?

        Even the people in authority elsewhere in State government who agreed that excluding Microsoft was a good thing to do would likely be concerned that they had not been consulted.

        The reality of the way organizations work can be more important than the rightness of a decision. Call it a very obvious need to cya if you like.

        I said I was amazed that the officials hadn't realized what seems the most incontestible fact about the situation: other officials, employed and elected, would care about their decision.
        I remain amazed.
        Anton Philidor
        • It's all getting too boring

          Once and again...

          "A few officials in MA decided to create a definition of open which excluded Microsoft (...)"

          MA didn't exclude anyone. It just specified under what terms should its documents' format be licensed (*). It said: "my documents should be read by software developed by any vendor, regardless of which license they choose for their software, without having to even ask permission to anybody, and, even further, any vendor should find it easy to write it (that's why the format should be published), and not fear artificial legalese such as software patents".

          That's not excluding. That's INCLUDING (everyone).

          * The mere fact that someone could claim to have exclusive rights over a file format / network protocol / whatever is, at the very least, worrying.

          "(...)This was a response to feelings of discomfort on the part of some Microsoft antagonists and competitors because the Microsoft formats were allowed. (...)"

          Nobody has any problem with MS's formats being allowed. Given they are "licensed" (see (*) above) to whoever, with absolutely no limitation, so no potential competitor has to ask permission to a convicted monopolist, it's just OK. But, you see, if you want to implement OXRS (which, of course, would be to... COMPETE!!), you have to ask for permission to Microsoft. Well, that's what unacceptable for most of us. And, once again, just to make it clear:

          It's OPEN if, and only if, ANYONE without ANY
          kind of limitation can write software which
          would read the format.

          "(...)The officials could also have told the potential vendors to MA to change the license under which their software is issued when their preferred license would prevent using Microsoft formats as Microsoft permits.(...)"

          MA never dictated what license should the vendor's software be distributed under. Right from the start, your analogy is flawed. And then, following your claim, let's say MA adopted OXRS, so GPL software cannot interoperate: do you realize THAT's excluding? Telling every vendor to abide to what "Microsoft permits"...

          Even more saddening is the fact that you are ultimately convinced that MA has taken their decision from scratch thinking who they would accept and who they would lock out. But the thing is: they locked nobody out. Microsoft can (and probably, at some point, it will) support ODF (read: they don't even need the give up their "IP" to OXRS, and neither is it difficult, they just resist it because of politics). And neither are they dictating that now MS Office be distributed under GPL...

          "(...)What a few MA officials did is bad policy because it's blatant favoritism(...)"

          Choosing the standard which includes anyone, instead of the one which excludes everyone, save one is the exact opposite of "blatant favoritism".

          "(...)But just as significantly, they had no consideration for other branches of government and other agencies in MA.(...)"

          In that you may have a point. I don't know (care?). Did the law say they needed to consult other branches? The main officials behind the decision claim no. Now there's a project law to say it is needed. Actually, it seems to have some internal shit around that. But anyway, that claim, together with the accesiblity assessment issue are the only ones which the anti-ODF camp may be right on. And they are not so important, you see? (regarding the internal thing, I think they decided lawfully, and the accessiblity thing -- this deserves a chapter of its own, I know -- is more than addressable).

          "(...)Wouldn't you expect objections from a significant number of people?(...)"

          The whole process has taken more than a year. There was plenty of time for debating.

          "(...)Even the people in authority elsewhere in State government who agreed that excluding Microsoft was a good thing to do would likely be concerned that they had not been consulted.(...)"

          I, and I think the MA officials too, don't care about the "people (...) who agreed that excluding Microsoft was a good thing". They are not excluding Microsoft.

          "(...)The reality of the way organizations work can be more important than the rightness of a decision.(...)"

          Still their behaviour hasn't been proven unlawful, nor favoritist. They were crafting a mandate about something. Everybody knew about it. If they had any objection, they could have handed it before, not after someone from Redmond misinstructed them and gave them something to axe against them (and, sadly, not doing it all that well, to the point of not even distinguishing ODF - OpenOffice).

          It could go for years like this. I'm not from MA, but I simply can't stand when someone is doing something right and gets under fire because some big corp wants everybody under their absolute rule.

          As a sidenote: they could have just set the criteria for which a format be considered "open" (still, OXRS is not "open", not enough, not AT ALL) and not name any single format. That would have been slightly nicer. That would have allowed, for example, that when (eventually) MS removes the contested clauses on their OXRS license, OXRS would be considered open, too. But they are some form of IT managers, and wanted to standardize on a single format (actually one for editing / internal and one for publication). I'm OK with that.

          Sorry, I just can't help but post huge comments.

          NachoKB
          nachokb
        • It's all getting too boring

          Once and again...

          "A few officials in MA decided to create a definition of open which excluded Microsoft (...)"

          MA didn't exclude anyone. It just specified under what terms should its documents' format be licensed (*). It said: "my documents should be read by software developed by any vendor, regardless of which license they choose for their software, without having to even ask permission to anybody, and, even further, any vendor should find it easy to write it (that's why the format should be published), and not fear artificial legalese such as software patents".

          That's not excluding. That's INCLUDING (everyone).

          * The mere fact that someone could claim to have exclusive rights over a file format / network protocol / whatever is, at the very least, worrying.

          "(...)This was a response to feelings of discomfort on the part of some Microsoft antagonists and competitors because the Microsoft formats were allowed. (...)"

          Nobody has any problem with MS's formats being allowed. Given they are "licensed" (see (*) above) to whoever, with absolutely no limitation, so no potential competitor has to ask permission to a convicted monopolist, it's just OK. But, you see, if you want to implement OXRS (which, of course, would be to... COMPETE!!), you have to ask for permission to Microsoft. Well, that's what unacceptable for most of us. And, once again, just to make it clear:

          It's OPEN if, and only if, ANYONE without ANY
          kind of limitation can write software which
          would read the format.

          "(...)The officials could also have told the potential vendors to MA to change the license under which their software is issued when their preferred license would prevent using Microsoft formats as Microsoft permits.(...)"

          MA never dictated what license should the vendor's software be distributed under. Right from the start, your analogy is flawed. And then, following your claim, let's say MA adopted OXRS, so GPL software cannot interoperate: do you realize THAT's excluding? Telling every vendor to abide to what "Microsoft permits"...

          Even more saddening is the fact that you are ultimately convinced that MA has taken their decision from scratch thinking who they would accept and who they would lock out. But the thing is: they locked nobody out. Microsoft can (and probably, at some point, it will) support ODF (read: they don't even need the give up their "IP" to OXRS, and neither is it difficult, they just resist it because of politics). And neither are they dictating that now MS Office be distributed under GPL...

          "(...)What a few MA officials did is bad policy because it's blatant favoritism(...)"

          Choosing the standard which includes anyone, instead of the one which excludes everyone, save one is the exact opposite of "blatant favoritism".

          "(...)But just as significantly, they had no consideration for other branches of government and other agencies in MA.(...)"

          In that you may have a point. I don't know (care?). Did the law say they needed to consult other branches? The main officials behind the decision claim no. Now there's a project law to say it is needed. Actually, it seems to have some internal shit around that. But anyway, that claim, together with the accesiblity assessment issue are the only ones which the anti-ODF camp may be right on. And they are not so important, you see? (regarding the internal thing, I think they decided lawfully, and the accessiblity thing -- this deserves a chapter of its own, I know -- is more than addressable).

          "(...)Wouldn't you expect objections from a significant number of people?(...)"

          The whole process has taken more than a year. There was plenty of time for debating.

          "(...)Even the people in authority elsewhere in State government who agreed that excluding Microsoft was a good thing to do would likely be concerned that they had not been consulted.(...)"

          I, and I think the MA officials too, don't care about the "people (...) who agreed that excluding Microsoft was a good thing". They are not excluding Microsoft.

          "(...)The reality of the way organizations work can be more important than the rightness of a decision.(...)"

          Still their behaviour hasn't been proven unlawful, nor favoritist. They were crafting a mandate about something. Everybody knew about it. If they had any objection, they could have handed it before, not after someone from Redmond misinstructed them and gave them something to axe against them (and, sadly, not doing it all that well, to the point of not even distinguishing ODF - OpenOffice).

          It could go for years like this. I'm not from MA, but I simply can't stand when someone is doing something right and gets under fire because some big corp wants everybody under their absolute rule.

          As a sidenote: they could have just set the criteria for which a format be considered "open" (still, OXRS is not "open", not enough, not AT ALL) and not name any single format. That would have been slightly nicer. That would have allowed, for example, that when (eventually) MS removes the contested clauses on their OXRS license, OXRS would be considered open, too. But they are some form of IT managers, and wanted to standardize on a single format (actually one for editing / internal and one for publication). I'm OK with that.

          Sorry, I just can't help but post huge comments.

          NachoKB
          nachokb
          • Sorry

            Didn't want to submit twice ;)
            nachokb
        • Microsoft is not excluded in any way

          Heaven forbid that they should have to do some work to win a big government contract.

          Heaven forbid that Mass. should be concerned about the availability of documents in the future - especially in the face of MS's (the market leader) very poor record along those lines.

          Heaven forbid that the State should have the power to change the format it's workers save documents in - in order to ensure service in the future. Only Microsoft should have that power, eh?

          Heaven forbid that a government ever issues requirements that ensure a choice in vendors now and in the future.

          Microsoft is NOT excluded from any part of this decision as you well know. There is no need for them to open their source to do it; no need for them to compromise the document viewing <i>capabilities</i> of their software.

          'I remain amazed' at your pose.
          imric_z
        • Maybe complain to Microsoft, as they don't think there is demand for ODF

          At the end of the day, you and MS supporters in this argument will lose your case if you can't argue with specifics. Then it will be quite out in the open the sort of license that ODF allows and doesn't allow vs. those that MS's format allows and don't allow.

          On one side you have a very inclusive document format license (ODF) that is incompatible only with the most unreasonable and stringent (in my opinion) of licenses: eg, perhaps with a favorite license of MS that says that no one else can compete with them.

          On the other hand you have an MS document license that is incompatible with something as popular and reasonable ("reasonable" is another of my opinions) as the GPL.

          I doubt the group setting the standard acted out of place, but perhaps you are correct that the decision should have been made with the input of a lot of people, so let's take a look at the decision for a second.

          1 - There is a transition period and
          2 - there are exceptions for keeping some MS legacy behind for use.
          3 - Costs are kept in check because there will only be conversions to ODF on a needs basis.
          4 - Additionally, studies have shown that MSO is not that disimilar with existing free alternatives such as OOo in the ways most of the people use it; hence the other potential cost pit, training, is in check.
          5 - I also hear that there was a solicitation for public comments and that most of the comments were in favor of something close to the ODF decision.
          6 - Companies that want to do business with MA ... this is the trickier and probably why you are complaining ... any *particular* such company may find it very difficult to switch over easily and may even be in a life or death situation if they lose MA as a client... ok, so this is sad for that company. Perhaps there will be some exceptions for short periods of time. In fact, perhaps these people can speak up now and request that MA provided a limited number of Exception Contracts on some sort of needs basis or for certain key semi-irreplaceable partners (though MA should try to replace these in time, in general). The fact still remains though that MA is the client and is just one client. They are also making a requirement that is able to fulfilled by many vendors in general. ODF can be implemented by MS if they so chose (sure it may not allow there absolute favorite type of contract but sometimes you just have to give up a bit.. perhaps they should take a small one in the chin and allow themselves to compete on a more equal basis with others, for the sake of all their loyal customers who now find themselves in a bind as just described. .. I think even before petitioning to MA for exceptions, some of these companies should petition Microsoft to make a small sacrifice being as how their revenues are certainly HUGE and are in no immediate danger of dying. But I guess it is too much to expect that these customers 100% loyal to MS actually consider petitioning MS who doesn't seem to want to compete on merit at all and instead just wants licenses that rely on leveraging of their size and product tie-ins in order to handicap or eliminate the competitor. Yes, I can see why MS would want the easy route, but I certainly don't fault MA or think MA was dumn or arogant -- except maybe by having stayed with MS for so long. Loyalty is a business risk. Sometimes risks don't pan out. Maybe these companies should have bought more insurance or considered that MS would not be around forever. I am sure they would be complaining if it had been MS that pulled the carpet on them, but they'd move on. Even now, these companies can start to court vendors that produce OOo in an effort to get OOo to support them better.

          It really does seem this "small" rogue group did their homework and consulted with others. What is the prob? Everyone isn't going to be happy with the ultimate decision.

          Personally, I think there are great reasons for MA to chuck MS's formats on several counts, which include MS's standing with the law and their current stranglehold on their format. Why wouldn't you sanction or put Microsoft on probation as a completely separate decision from the ODF thing? MS broke the law and used its power (of which the Office formats were shown to be a significant component) to gouge its customers (MA for example).

          Whatever is chosen in the end, I don't think MS can keep both, its investments in its Office formats, as well as the elements of its license (patent treatment) that make it incompatible with the GPL and other much more open licenses. Since I think MA is acting properly and is making a reasonable choice that even gives MS, the convicted price gouger, a way out (they could just bar MS), I think MS will/should get neither its format nor a license with the state if that license at all makes it difficult for the state to dump MS tomorrow to go to a different vendor, in particular one that works using the GPL.


          "I said I was amazed that the officials hadn't realized what seems the most incontestible fact about the situation: other officials, employed and elected, would care about their decision.
          I remain amazed."

          Well then, continue to be amazed. There are always people that are going to be too busy or care too little about a situation to put their 2 cents in. You can't wait for them forever. When public comment was solicited, most that cared spoke out and what they said overwhelmingly was that MS's format was not acceptable to them. When meetings were set up (not just public ones but even more exclusive ones), it was MS that did not care enough to send people that cared about the issue. Either MS's representatives sunk their company or those at the top that picked these reps sunk the company. In either case MS sunk itself by putting its best resources into other activities for strategic reasons. Why should we fault this group of decision makers at MA for not giving the convicted monopolist chance after chance after chance? When someone continues to throw stones at you strategically and fails each time, you don't continue to give them more opportunities or ignore the rest of the crowd asking for a piece of the pie. To do so would be to show favoritism to Microsoft.

          MS are big boys and girls. When they screw up, they should recognize they just have to move on to the next battle and stop asking for hand outs ad infinitum.

          Although I am not trying to tell Gates how to run his company, may I suggest that if he wants to avoid continued difficulties in the future that he sacrifice some of his money to pay his employees a little better so they try to represent MS a little better. Or maybe Gates has just spoiled them rotten. Either way, Microsoft didn't want it bad enough (without breaking the rules, of course).
          netnerdo@...
        • Anton, read above post if you are a former MA partner bound to MS

          See point 6 in particular, but keep in mind that such a bind is more likely than not something that has remedy (by appealing to ODF vendors or even directly to OOo developers ..or even by complaining to MS, saying that in fact there is a demand for ODF). Even hypothesizing there is little remedy for these forsaken MA partners, business risks don't always pan out (perhaps they foolishly bet the farm on .Net). It is the "risk" half of any business "risk/reward."

          There may be exceptional cases, but otherwise, think how many companies that invested in technology more advanced and better than MS's offering felt going out of business after MS applied its full-nelson onto these more innovative and advanced competitors. I feel sorry for the companies that standardized on these other vendors more so than for companies that would wed themselves to the kind of company that is MS.

          Isn't there a saying about survival of the fittest? Foolishness is not fit, especially to the extent to make yourself uninsurable. But then, if things pan out, the company soars. I guess it is an understandable risk. I can understand the complaining, too, but it doesn't convince me these few should be held on a more favorable basis than other companies that bet the farm on an MS competitor long ago and were allowed to die because they couldn't afford the transition onto MS when MA went MSO.

          A closing reminder: As I stated in the earlier post above this one, besides petitioning MS to support ODF like everyone else, as I think you should do first, also try petitioning MA for some sort of exceptional circumstance easement that would allow your company to work with MA and transition to ODF at a slower rate. MA may even provide ideas or help.. or there may even be an added or a different mutually beneficial win/win contract in helping yourself and MA move off MSO. Think creatively. Think life after death.. if in fact you are one of these people.
          netnerdo@...
    • Funny, I get the feeling that...

      ... if the other company was Apple, or IBM, or some obscure software company:
      -There would be no huge backlash against not choosing Microsofts format.
      -There would be no talk of rigged, or ridgid decision making, by those who are making it now.
      -There would be no inquiry by politicians.

      Hey, I liked the decision, not because it was against MS, but rather because it was (IMHO) a decently thought out decision, that was a break from the current norm.
      el1jones
    • Important point

      Remember: "excluding" Microsoft isn't really excluding them: they still can join in quite easily.

      Excluding open source on the other hand, excludes a large number of competitors.

      Anton: would you rather have them decide based on which one is recognized by an international standards group? (like ISO)
      Steve Z
      • Excluding Microsoft's formats...

        ... almost certainly means that MA would not be able to use Office 12 as Microsoft intends. Much of the work on improvements would become moot.

        So, the few officials gave Microsoft a choice:
        - surrender your patents and give control of your formats to your competitors or
        - use a format which prevents use of Office as intended.

        Neither one of those choices could be accepted happily by Microsoft.
        And the entire rest of MA's government would be deprived of the benefits gained from using Office as intended.

        (This assumes such benefits exist. At this point, the MA officials cannot rebut let alone refute that assumption.)

        And of course if the Microsoft formats were available and selected by various components of the MA State government, the open source companies still aren't excluded.

        All they have to do is change the license under which they submit their software in order to use the Microsoft formats.
        That's a lot less costly and damaging than the requirements the MA officials put on Microsoft.
        Anton Philidor
        • Bad argument

          You said:

          "So, the few officials gave Microsoft a choice:
          - surrender your patents and give control of your formats to your competitors or
          - use a format which prevents use of Office as intended."

          Neither of these arguments are valid. MA did not ask Microsoft to surrender their patents. They asked Microsoft to make the licensing more open. Where is the harm to Microsoft in that? As it stands now, Microsoft derives no revenue from the patents wrt MSXML. The existing license is royalty free.

          The second assertion, even if true, does not provide a rationale for not supporting ODF. Microsoft supports other formats (e.g., WordPerfect) which will certainly not allow Office 12 to be used as intended and yet those formats is supported.

          Your last argument is comical. You assert that is is easier and less expensive for every developer in existence to submit to Microsoft's license than for Microsoft to support ODF which requires NO licensing concessions from them at all? Surely you jest.

          All of your arguments boil down to this:

          Microsoft should be allowed to do whatever they want because they've got all this new stuff they've created. Everyone else should should just accept it because, well, they aren't Microsoft.
          mosborne
        • Oops... I did it again!

          :)

          Even though mosborne posted an excellent reply, I had to say something.

          "surrender your patents", "your formats"...

          Well, that's all it is about. You'll see, patenting file formats, (therefore becoming "their" formats) excludes competition. Why? Because if someone wants to write any software which would read/write them, they would have to ask permission from Microsoft. And believe, a big monopolist corporation has vested interest in not allowing competitors to enter the market. Don't you at least agree with that?

          "(...)And of course if the Microsoft formats were available and selected by various components of the MA State government, the open source companies still aren't excluded.(...)"

          What? "Open Source companies" (I assume that's what you call a company which releases products under an OSI license) are not excluded? How come that? Let's see... MA chose OXRS (theoretically), so they will only get software supporting it. Now, for a product to read/write it, they have to ask permission from Microsoft. Please note that Microsoft, as the owner of the patent (*) has the right to deny a petition. And I didn't even mention that to comply with the license, then the whole software cannot be licensed under the GPL.

          Now, please tell me, how is it that they wouldn't be excluded? PLEASE, I'm interested...

          NachoKB
          nachokb
        • An exception clause for the minority.. but do std-ize on the wiser ODF

          [First a reply to the majority (top portion) of your post]

          What you are seeking is an exception clause that would allow some parts of MA to continue with Microsoft Advanced.

          The groups that would need Microsoft Advanced are in the very minority. The exception clause is the smarter way to go because if you don't put some sort of standard on the majority, there will be greater costs as everyone uses mixed incompatible formats. And to standardize, the better standardization is with the product that works for the majority and which is the cheapest to implement and can have the greatest amount of vendor participation/competition.

          It is not in MA's interest to tie themselves to a single expensive vendor when they can standardize on a competitive format that meets the needs of 95% of their employees. You should think about tax payers, too.

          [So what is your contradiction to this? [Similarly to how you put it:] Can you or MS deny this?]
          netnerdo@...
        • I know why MS is the most successful.

          "All [GPL and alike programmers] have to do is change the license under which they submit their software in order to use the Microsoft formats. That's a lot less costly and damaging than the requirements the MA officials put on Microsoft."

          1 - To whom this is more costly is a matter of opinion so you would have to bolster that argument with specifics. Certainly, in either case there would be many man years of wasted work.

          1a - Just to name a single competitor, IBM, they have more people and heavier costs than MS. I suppose we could petition them to see how much of it is in GPL or other work incompatible with MSO12. Also, if anyone has gotten their money's worth for their investments in office software, it has certainly been MS and not MS's competitors.
          1b - Add all the many GPL developers and the code they have grown over the years which would immediately become unrecyclable and I can't really see your point about MS being worse off. Naturally though, if I were of the mindset to work for MS, I too would probably feel MY situation was the worst of all possible one: "I can't hear you; I can't hear you. La la la la la la la la...."

          2 - MS already broke the law and is arguably continuing to break it depending on how they use/abuse their formats. The competition is not in that situation, so if anyone were to be penalized it should be MS and not the others.

          3 - MS is not being asked to trash everything. In fact, all they have to do, if they had an ounce of creativity (at least publicly they don't show it) would be to have a stripped down Office (eg, Office 97) that fits nicely within the ODF format they claim is so deficient. This is what MA needs if not what MS wants. This is perfect recourse for MS to salvage business. That they don't want to and want to cry about it so so loudly... see the subject line and keep reading.

          4 - Microsoft can still find other ways to sell their top of the line product to various more demanding segments of MA (they should petition for an exception in cases where they are irreplaceable). It's funny how Microsoft wants to sell a premium product and they demand that their customers become premium wanting/paying customers.. that's just not how it works out in the world outside monopoly abuse.


          I think the problem you are having is that you can't see how the real world works where clients really shouldn't be forced to buy what their vendors want. MS can try, but I can't imagine them winning the argument
          against any customer except one that is blinded or one that likes to overspend.

          "Wah wah, the market is wrong because they don't want to overspend on my premium products. They owe us their money. Wah wah."

          I know why MS is the most successful. They whine the hardest. They whine so hard, many customers eventually have pity on them.


          [Seriously though, MS needs to have a self-to-self discussion and see how unfair many of their past actions have been on the market (where MS behaved worse with them than MA is behaving now with MS)... Actually, that is lame, but if they so insist on crying....]
          netnerdo@...