Gary Edwards of the Open Document Foundation, a leading member of its technical committee, says Microsoft is playing proprietary games aimed at controlling XML file formats and preventing the Open Document Format from gaining a foothold. (Image from Centre-Linux.Org in France.)
In a highly informative post to his Open Stack blog Wednesday, Edwards explains how three key features are necessary for organizations to convert to open formats. These are:
- Conversion Fidelity - the billions of binaries problem
- Round Trip Fidelity - the MSOffice bound business processes, line of business integrated apps, and assistive technology type add-ons
- Application Interop - the cross platform, inter application, cross information domain problem
While individuals can switch from Microsoft Office to Open Office by simply using the file translation tools built into Open Office, organizations must translate these documents on-the-fly, thousands of times per day, through XML Hubs.
Edwards charges that conversions using the ODF's daVinci and ACME 376 systems worked fine in all beta releases of Office 2007, then broke in the final public version. Microsoft did this, he writes, through changes to OOXML, a Microsoft proprietary product built into its Exchange/SharePoint Hub. He adds:
(Watch carefully now, the hand is quicker than the eye; ViSTO 2005, which was released with MSOffice 2007, dropped support for MSXML entirely in favor of the MS version of OOXML. (i mention this because there is clear evidence that MOOXML, legacy MOOXML, and now MOOXL Binary InfoSet for Excel all include eXtensions and dependencies that differ from the Ecma 376 version submitted to ISO/IEC).
The result is that "the ODf Community is not providing the means to get to ODf. There is no bridge from the legacy installations of MSOffice and the billions of binary documents, to ODf ready applications and services."
Sam Hiser writes that Denmark, which is requiring open standards, is trying to get around this problem by allowing use of both ODF and OOXML. Edwards calls that impossible, given OOXML's proprietary nature and Microsoft's track record.
Edwards adds that only ODf Hubs which intercept data as it's saved in Microsoft Office, then convert it using open standards, can end the game. Alfresco, Lotus and Zimbra are all working on such products, he writes, but they must meet what Microsoft has already accomplished with its hubs and OOXML -- interoperability by design.
So is Microsoft up to its old tricks? Will engineers untangle them so open standards can be mandated before Vista's proprietary platform takes hold? If I knew the answer to that I'd be working up a solution myself.