Ray Ozzie: Support for ODF is a 'support issue,' not a matter of principle

Ray Ozzie: Support for ODF is a 'support issue,' not a matter of principle

Summary: I talked with Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie prior to his interview on the stage at Vortex 2005 this morning about Microsoft supporting the Open Document Format (ODF) and addressing concerns of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Ozzie told me that supporting ODF in Office isn't a matter of principle.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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I talked with Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie prior to his interview on the stage at Vortex 2005 this morning about Microsoft supporting the Open Document Format (ODF) and addressing concerns of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Ozzie told me that supporting ODF in Office isn't a matter of principle. Microsoft isn't opposed to supporting other formats. The company just announced support for PDF, and he added that the Open Office XML format has an "extremely liberal" license.  Ozzie attributed the tentativeness on ODF support in Office to resource allocation issues, mainly based on the user support demands that would crop up given that exporting to ODF won't have full fidelity with the Microsoft's own formats without some tweaking. Microsoft is working with a French company on translators to determine the scope of the problem in exporting Office documents to ODF. It sounds to me that support for "Save As" ODF in Office is a "when," not and "if." Ozzie also mentioned that Microsoft Office has long supported HTML as a document format, which should fit with the criteria set by Massachusetts in its Enterprise Technical Reference Model.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • Why this didn't come up with other formats?

    This issue didn't seem to come up when they decided to support Word Perfect and other such formats. Why now?
    Adam_Moore
    • WordPerfect format

      WordPerfect was the market leader when MS wrote the converter, there was a greater need for it at that time. Aside from all of the media hype, there is no burning need for ODF, it is only a 'would be nice' item.
      balsover
    • Why, it's simple

      It's probably because of the technically inferior XML of ODF :P
      Zalok
  • HTML?

    [i]Ozzie also mentioned that Microsoft Office has long supported HTML as a document format, which should fit with the criteria set by Massachusetts in its Enterprise Technical Reference Model.[/i]

    I wasn't aware that Excel saved formulas etc. when exporting to HTML.

    Learn something new every day.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • HTML as a document format

    I am glad Ozzie didn't say .txt
    PaulWallen
  • Not a matter of principle?

    Microsoft's primary principle is selling product. For Office 12, part of the reason for purchase is the uses of XML. To the extent that ODF does not match Microsoft's formats' functionality, any use of ODF is a diminishment in the value of Office.

    No wonder they're having trouble moving from Microsoft formats to ODF. From their point of view, the more trouble they have, the better their product is and the more ODF is a disservice to customers.

    People always have difficulty working with something that looks bad or smells bad. If watching Linux work hurt Steve Ballmer's eyes, watching a document diminished to ODF would probably upset his stomach.
    Anton Philidor
    • What happens to him

      When he save as text?
      :)
      Seriously, what is claimed to be lost when saving in odf?
      IT_User
      • A long, agonized silence.

        Like a Victorian contemplating the fall of the idea of progress, he'd feel that all the long advance of civilization can fall away in a moment, leaving only the howling barbarism of primitive humanity.

        Enough to put him off his feed.
        Anton Philidor
    • ObQuirk!

      [i]To the extent that ODF does not match Microsoft's formats' functionality, any use of ODF is a diminishment in the value of Office.[/i]

      Objection, Your Honor!
      Presumes differences in functionality not in evidence.

      Put another way, Anton, what can MS .doc/.xls/.ppt files do that .od* files can't?
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • What can Office formats do that ODx files can't?

        Sell copies of Office.

        We know that Office 12 is still being developed. That means the functionality is not entirely defined.

        But then, my concern has been control of the Microsoft formats and how that control is exercized.

        The only assumption about the formats required is that they are essential to functionality not available elsewhere, making them valuable.
        Anton Philidor
        • Essential functionality

          [i]Sell copies of Office.[/i]

          Well, I can understand Microsoft's position on this. However, you may imagine that end users may place a different priority on this feature.

          [i]The only assumption about the formats required is that they are essential to functionality not available elsewhere, making them valuable.[/i]

          However, as you have so eloquently asserted, previous Microsoft file formats are quite acceptable to 400 million users worldwide. Unless there's something that ODF can't do that those formats can, it stands to reason that ODF is also acceptable to 400 million users worldwide.

          Less, of course, something like 50,000 Microsoft employees.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Implicit assumption.

            You wrote:
            ... as you have so eloquently asserted [thank you], previous Microsoft file formats are quite acceptable to 400 million users worldwide. Unless there's something that ODF can't do that those formats can, it stands to reason that ODF is also acceptable to 400 million users worldwide.

            If you refer to the same 400 million (less 50,000) users content with Microsoft's older formats and also finding ODF acceptable, you must be assuming that ODF can do everything Microsoft's older formats can do, and nothing significantly different.

            To Microsoft, then, there is no difference as competition between its older formats and ODF. Even from your statement, if Microsoft can exceed the functionality of its older software enough to make the new product desireable, the company has made ODF a non-issue.

            Including ODF as an available Save as..., then, becomes an available avoidance of the sales points Microsoft will use for the new Office software. If they use ODF, buyers could reasonably conclude the improvements were not worth the investment.

            Therefore, to reassure people that the money used to purchase the new Office was well spent, Microsoft must discourage the use of ODF. The format is a cuckoo in the nest.

            It is possible to argue that those who purchase new software but use ODF anyway have already spent money on the new version of Office. But, given communication among users, Microsoft would benefit from acknowledgement of the superiority of their improvements when the early buyers are creating an impression of the new software.

            Including ODF is thus taking a risk. Being forced to take this risk is undesireable for Microsoft.
            Anton Philidor
          • agree

            "Therefore, to reassure people that the money used to purchase the new Office was well spent, Microsoft must discourage the use of ODF. The format is a cuckoo in the nest."

            I think you have it exactly right. However, I am pretty sure that Microsoft will be forced to support ODF, anyway.
            Eduardo_z
        • Asymptote?

          Or punctuated equilibrium? This notion that Office 12 functionality is not entirely defined implies, perhaps, that office suites are about to take off in a new round of innovation and causes me to realize that there are alternate views of office suites.

          I simply assumed that the decade-long absence of advance in Office suites was a natural consequence of having essentially accomplished it all. We're approaching the limit of useful stuff to include and so, through nobody's fault, office suites are the epitome of commoditization. Move a few buttons around, change some colors and - viola - a new version.

          But your post implies a different model, one fashioned after Stephen Jay Gould's punctuated equilibrium. Office suites have passed through a period of stasis and are now poised to take off in a new burst of change.

          Who knows, you may be right. Life forms tend to remain unchanged in a stable environment, changing in response to a changing environment. Could be the environment is changing, leading users to expect new and different things from their office software, which will then change in response to the new expectations.

          Just curious - is that your internal model?
          IT_User
          • Yes, all the verbiage about XML...

            ... and changing Office to be the center of many activities that were not part of office productivity before is probably meaningful. At least, so Microsoft hopes.

            And it's striking to me, as far as commoditization is concerned, that in Microsoft's study more than 80% of the features requested were already in Office.

            That means a new interface making those features more apparent gives Microsoft credit for innovations when the work has already been completed. It also means part of the reason office suites did not appear to be changing is because not many people knew they had.

            But the main point is that Microsoft is doing again what it has done in the past, extending its products beyond their expected functions and into territory that had been considered the domain of separate (and elaborate) applications.

            You were probably right in past posts that making such elaboration work as well as it does is laborious and more vulnerable than simple modularity, but it does sell a lot of software.
            Anton Philidor
  • Free Plugins Already being Developed

    An Asutralia Foss group already developed one that can Import ODF into MS Office called OpenOpenOffice. Give it a few months and it will be writing it also.

    Actually this whole support issue is tripe. Unless Microsft is admitting that the FOSS Developement model works better than their own.

    Anton said it best- The missing functionality is the ability to force you to purchase MS Office 12 hence make Microsft large piles of cash.
    Ed_Meyers
  • Yes, he did say this (but what does it mean?)

    Contrary to what Greg Wood said, as reported by David Berlind, I agree that Ray Ozzie has taken Microsoft's position another step down-field from what I originally reported at: http://www.consortiuminfo.org/newsblog/blog.php?ID=1642 Another few transitional statements like this and they'll actually be able to support OpenDocument without losing the kind of face they would in comparison to their position in August.

    Wood, on the other hand, sounds like he's moved his position, but hasn't. He's just making nice sounds, hoping no one notices he still hasn't said Corel will actually support ODF, or when.

    I go into this in greater detail at: http://www.consortiuminfo.org/newsblog/blog.php?ID=1679
    Andy Updegrove
  • RE: Ray Ozzie: Support for ODF is a 'support issue,' not a matter of principle

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  • RE: Ray Ozzie: Support for ODF is a 'support issue,' not a matter of principle

    That's an interesting argument because I believe that it should be a matter of principle.




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  • RE: Ray Ozzie: Support for ODF is a 'support issue,' not a matter of principle

    Well, he does have a point there.


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