OpenDocument versus Microsoft's Open XML: War of words intensifies

OpenDocument versus Microsoft's Open XML: War of words intensifies

Summary: Yesterday, the fecal matter started to hit the fan when Sun's director of Web technologies Tim Bray responded to comments made by Microsoft standards and open source general manager Jason Matusow regarding the OpenDocument Format (ODF).  Today, Andy Updegrove (lawyer for OASIS, the consoritium that published the ODF specification) ratcheted things up a notch by referring to Microsoft's statements as disinformation and "The Big Lie.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Yesterday, the fecal matter started to hit the fan when Sun's director of Web technologies Tim Bray responded to comments made by Microsoft standards and open source general manager Jason Matusow regarding the OpenDocument Format (ODF).  Today, Andy Updegrove (lawyer for OASIS, the consoritium that published the ODF specification) ratcheted things up a notch by referring to Microsoft's statements as disinformation and "The Big Lie."  Wrote Updegrove (excerpts):

This blog entry is a rarity for me: an exegesis on the deliberate disinformation spread by a single vendor.  I generally avoid a piece like this for two reasons: first, every vendor has its own PR agenda, with the differences being a matter of degree between the egregious and the merely disingenuous.  More importantly, there is a risk iwhen focusing on a single vendor of decreasing one's reputation for objectivity, despite the fact that one may certainly focus on the statements of a single source and fairly find them to be both inaccurate and cynical....All of [Microsoft's] statements share a common characteristic:  each is a blatant misstatement of fact, and it is that which I find to be so offensive.  True, there isn't a vendor alive that isn't guilty of spin, and spin has a heritage that goes back to time immemorial.  But we generally recognize spin for what it is when we read it, and can discount the exaggerations accordingly.  The Big Lie (which is what each of these statement is) has a more shameful geneology, however, and a more insidious and cynical intent....The offense of the Big Lie on the personal level is its assumption that, "I can lie to you and you won't catch me." Taken to the marketplace, and included in letters to government agencies, the effect is pernicious. As a result, exposing the Big Lies is both important and necessary - and hence the reason for blog entries such as this.

Never a dull moment and enough $10 words to make William Safire or Dennis Miller proud. 

Of course, the more work technology buyers have to do to get to the truth (which Microsoft is indeed obfuscating), the less time supporters of ODF have to curry favor with them.  That's because the same organization that just ratified ODF as an international standard (the ISO) is probably within a year of giving the same, very dubious honor, to Microsoft's Open XML. 

The ISO and its policies/procedures continue to be the elephant in the room that everyone seems to be sidestepping as though it were not there.  On the one hand, with the clock ticking, proponents of ODF clearly know about the hypocrisy of ISO standard setting.  The window of opportunity between now and when the ISO ratifies Open XML is so short that even the European Commission is balking on treating the ISO's ratification of ODF with any reverance.  On the other, those same proponents are flaunting the ISO imprimatur as though it's a legitimate badge of honor.  It's not.  Not in my eyes.  It's a joke.

Not only does the ISO ratify standards with blatant disregard for exisiting standards that it itself has set, the ISO (as well as Ecma, the consortium that is fast tracking Microsoft's Open XML onto the ISO's docket) does not limit its standard setting process to unencumbered submissions.  While that's not necessarily a condemnation of Open XML's "openness" (a subject for other debates), it gets to the point of why I say the ISO's imprimatur is dubious at best.  At some point, the elephant must be acknowledged and we have to ask the cold hard question: What is it about an ISO standard that makes it special, unique, and worthy of an IT buyer's special attention when compared to any other specification (ratified by some body or not) in the marketplace? 

Topic: Open Source

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  • Survival is not compulsory

    The question possed: What is it about an ISO standard that makes it special, unique, and worthy of an IT buyer's special attention when compared to any other specification (ratified by some body or not) in the marketplace?

    The Short Answer: "You don't have to do this. Survival is not compulsory". says Dr. W. Edwards Deming on the importance of ISO 9000

    I tend to look at it this way. Geneva, which set the rules for handling prizoners of war, also has set the rules for handling customers of Microsoft, who in many ways are also prisoners.

    Microsoft battles other vendors on our shop floors and the casualties are more than just ruined carriers. An entire culture of corruption that deprives society of honest decision makers both in government and in the private sector is the result.

    Microsoft will not get by the first screening of a procurment without the ISO blessing.

    Frank L. Mighetto CDP
    mighetto
    • OK, so if both have ISO approval, then???

      [eom]
      dberlind
      • Life goes on!

        Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Life goes on. Go to MSDN and look at article on MS's openXml. Any xml savy programming will be able to manipulate a Word doc without having a copy of Word. And if it continues to be that easy, going from openXml to ODF should be a piece of cake. In the meantime, Massachusetts has requested information on a plug-in designed to save MS Office files to ODF. It all points to ODF and OpenXml co-existing.

        I'm sure this will disappoint Upgrove and Bray. But it really couldn't turn out any other way, it had to end up in the center.
        bob2cam
        • Ending up in the center is not an option for Microsoft.

          If that happens, they will no longer get a lock on customers with their file format, and will no longer be able to charge the premium they do over WordPerfect for instance. Half of Microsoft's revenue will be cut 1o 1/5 of what it is now.
          DonnieBoy
        • Context

          [i]Go to MSDN and look at article on MS's openXml. Any xml savy programming will be able to manipulate a Word doc without having a copy of Word.[/i]

          Well, no. The container format is a Microsoft exclusive, so although the XML may be in there you can't get at it. Also, Microsoft has only defined the syntax of the XML, not the semantics. Since it's still a memory dump, you're left to reverse-engineer what MSOffice does with each construct.

          Finally, the format has completely open-ended utilization of undocumented binary blobs. Do a word count for "ActiveX" and you'll start to get the idea.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Well, Yes

            Here's a quote from the author of the article that gets to the point..
            "In the past, each of the Microsoft Office products maintained data in its own proprietary format. I remember clearly, back in the late eighties, the pain involved in writing a file format converter to convert files from the word-processing product I was working on as a developer into a very early version of Microsoft Word...."

            He then goes on to say..

            "But this is a problem of the past now that Microsoft has opened up the Office file formats in Office 2007. Word 2007, Excel? 2007, and PowerPoint? 2007 lead this initiative, and other Office applications may follow suit in future versions. Each of these products saves its data natively in an XML-based format, making it reasonably easy for your applications to interact with these files, using tools provided by just about any programming language. Microsoft is even submitting the new file formats as a European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) standard."

            To reiterate, if you want to write something to go from openXml to ODF, it should be relatively easy.
            bob2cam
      • ISO ratified standards are formed by the active

        participation of people (usually experts, academicians, etc) in a particular field of interest. It is not that ISO just approves something as soon as you go and ask them to do so. ISO standards are usually global in scope, such as, the International Telecommunications standards.

        An information storage and exchange standard would be right up their alley, since it does matter to have a common language to express form and function in documents.

        MS could had been particiapting in the ODF procedures as a stake holder and an organization which has related technologies. They could had asked for modifications, additions, corrections, etc. to be included in this standard, so that its final form would be something that also expresses their point of views. UYsually the final stantard goes through several iterations and then after all parties are satisfied it goes for ballot.

        OR, MS could had started their OWN document standard proedures. What did they do? NOTHING.

        And believe me if it was that simple to declare something as "standard" they would had already done that with ALL of their proprietary formats.

        Open standard means that its formation process is open to interested parties and that its specification is at least PUBLISHED. I doubt that this matches with any of MSs attitudes, habbits, inclinations, etc. ;-)
        michael_t
      • A little conjecture, here.....

        Let's say you are cruising down the
        highway in your brand new
        Micromobile. Your microspeedometer
        says you're doing 65mph. The
        (standard) speed limit is 70mph. A
        cop pulls you over and says "I just
        clocked you at 95mph. I'm writing you
        a speeding ticket". You protest. "But
        my Microsoft certified (standard)
        microspeedometer said I was doing
        65mph". Cop replies, "sorry, they
        musta forgot to synchronize your
        microspeedometer with my legal
        (standard) radar gun".

        See the difference in two
        different "standards"?
        Ole Man
  • As you point out, OSI should not be worth much, but it is.

    Companies and Governments often require it. And, as you state, Micosofot will probably get the ISO stamp next year, even though they can make it incompatible with OpenSource and steer it to their benifit against competitors.

    I guess we better get used to life not being fair!

    But, that said, a lot of governments and companies are looking at ODF as at least a way to tame the Microsoft beast and force them to give discounts, and of course also to have files in formats not subject to being used as a tool against Microsoft competitors.
    DonnieBoy
    • OSI vs. ISO

      the two are different, fyi:

      OSI=Open Source Initiative
      ISO=International Organisation of Standardization

      db
      dberlind
      • Showing our age

        [i]OSI=Open Source Initiative[/i]

        Or, for those of us who were around at the time: Open System Interconnection
        Yagotta B. Kidding
        • What?

          What? You think noone under 35 has heard of OSI and the 7-layer model? Count me as one such who has. No assumptions based on age, please. :)
          Techboy_z
        • OSI=Open Source Initiative

          for those that would like to know more...

          http://www.cisco.com/univercd/cc/td/doc/cisintwk/ito_doc/introint.htm

          as for age, it's mind over matter, if you don't mind it doesn't matter.

          gnu/linux...giving choice to the neX(11)t generation.
          Arm A. Geddon