Microsoft playing three card monte with XML conversion

Microsoft playing three card monte with XML conversion

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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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.

 

Topic: Microsoft

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  • MS intentionally hinders ODF, say it sin't so!

    How about all the pundits who state that OOXML should be an adopted standard? You mean MS unilaterally changed it? That's quite a standard you have there. It also provides fuel for those opposed to OOXML as a standard in it's current incarnation.

    It is a farce. Open Standards are here to stay (real open standards), and no matter what MS does, it can't stick the genie back in the bottle. They will be brought kicking and screaming into the realm of interoperability, whether they like it or not, Vista or not. They don't have enough clout to shutdown

    Texas
    California
    Mass
    Minnesota
    Denmark
    Germany
    Phillipines
    Argentina
    US Libraries
    United Nations
    ...

    Anyone have a comprehensive list? At this point, all MS can do is delay the inevitable, create headaches and cause even more badwill out there. It simply goes to show you how customer control is more important than customer needs. Instead of working on the solution at the source, MS is willing to force everyone else to re-do the same overhead work over and over and over again. That kind of thinking will backfire.

    TripleII

    Anyone have any uptake numbers on Office 2007?
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • Add the EU to your list....

      ... apparently they informed Microsoft some time ago that they wanted open standards for documents and that ISO compliance was needed.

      So, that's one for ODF and zilch for OOooops (sorry) OOXML!

      Let's go and get John Carroll to defend this one since he's so keen on OOXML .....
      bportlock
  • Microsoft has changed their office file format six

    times out of the last eight releases of Microsoft Office. The [b]only[/b] way Microsoft keeps people paying for Office is to lock customers into their format, and make it as difficult as possible to translate, convert, and/or switch. ODF is vendor neutral and application neutral. Microsoft's OXML is neither.
    zaine_ridling
    • The smoking gun

      The smoking gun here is that the new, proprietary XML schema was tossed in at the public release, that it worked with all the other Microsoft stuff, and it broke all the open source stuff.

      That's black letter anti-trust violations. Ballmer just doesn't expect to get caught. The lesson he learned from the company's earlier problems is to never back down.

      Wrong lesson.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Tell that to John Carroll...

        .. whose attitude seems to be "Problem? What problem? It's not Microsoft's problem". I've challenged him on this and his response was basically along the lines of 'what did you expect from the open source brigade?'

        http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-11048-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=30864&messageID=572677&start=-14
        bportlock
      • what smoking gun

        "is to never back down."

        And you expect Microsft to give IBM a red carpet welcome. How about IBM playing by the rules and competing on merit. You can look at the last 20 years and see that their track record on competing on merit has been dismal.

        How about open source playing by the rules. They violate Intellectual Property that doesnt belong to them and thats considered perfectly fair.

        THE SMOKING GUN-
        You being a journalist ought to represnt facts. However I havent seen a single article/blog in all cases where open source has constantly being violating rules/IP.



        And what the EU does with respect to forcing MS to give out its R&D, thats considered fair.
        IBM playing politics rather than competing on merit, thats considered fair.
        You call yourself a journalist, which is to represent the facts





        "is to never back down."
        your idea of competition in a game is to give up the moment the opposition scores a goal/basket/home run.





        "it broke all the open source stuff."
        So basically you are saying that all open source software is backward compatible to version 1.0.
        Hell, things are so bad in the open source world, lets consider linux, 2.6 breaks a lot and is not compatible with ver2.4.

        Microsoft products on the other hand do provide backward compatibility to version 1.0 of the software.
        zzz1234567890
        • You really do spout total cr*p!

          [i]"And what the EU does with respect to forcing MS to give out its R&D, thats considered fair."[/i]

          Microsoft had its day in court with its highly paid lawyers and was found guilty of anti-trust practices, one of the cores of which was [i]deliberately obfuscating known protocols[/i]. They were ordered to disclose their obsfucations and they didn't. They are now appealing it.

          It is a LEGAL process started because [b]they broke the law[/b]. There's nothing special about this or are you suggesting that convicted crooks shouldn't be punished as long as "defconvegas says so 'cause he knows best".


          [i]"Microsoft products on the other hand do provide backward compatibility to version 1.0 of the software."[/i]

          Try accessing a Word 2.0 with Word 2000 never mind Word 2007. You can't. Word 2000 even had problems accessing Word 95. So much for your assertion....


          Obviously you know better than state legislatures and governments who are finding their legal document archives becoming inaccessible as Microsoft twats about with document formats.

          Begone shill - back to your master's knee in Seattle and don't return until your arguments are something better than saying Microsoft is above the law.
          bportlock
          • If I'm spouting crap then why is it coming out through your mouth

            "deliberately obfuscating known protocols"

            Why dont you read up John Carrolls blogs
            http://blogs.zdnet.com/carroll/?p=1651


            "Try accessing a Word 2.0 with Word 2000 never mind Word 2007. You can't. Word 2000 even had problems accessing Word 95. So much for your assertion...."

            Come up with lies and fake statements. There are no problems with accesssing a older version of documents.
            Why dont you read up a little on how this feature is implemented and you'll realize how MS solution wont have problems like you mention. Pretty evident that the lies spew out from your mouth.


            "Obviously you know better than state legislatures and governments who are finding their legal document archives becoming inaccessible as Microsoft ***** about with document formats."

            The markets have decided and the government bureaucrats have no right to interfere.
            I've the lazy cats work in the government. Want to talk about bureaucracy, look at the government. They do nothing but sit around looking busy most of the time.

            Using the ODF is going back 20 years. The current ODF format doesnt have the features and capabilities that are available in MS-OOXML. Not only that even if the government uses ODF, the industry will wont accept going back 20 years in time to use ODF and now you'll end up having a fractured user base.
            MS-OOXML is a standard that can be implemented by third parties.
            MS-OOXML has every single feature/capability documented. Infact its time IBM & SUN stepped up their game and do a better job of Open Office.






            "Begone shill - back to your master's knee in Seattle and don't return until your arguments are something better than saying Microsoft is above the law"

            As usual, cant come up with any arguments and so call someone a shill. Same behavior from all the *nix fanboys, nothing new.
            zzz1234567890
          • Some more FACTS for you

            [i]"Why dont you read up John Carrolls blogs"[/i]

            I have done - you'll find many of my comments there. John is Microsoft employee. I don't expect to get a balanced viewpoint from him. Microsoft employees have been fired for critising Microsoft on their blogs.


            [i]"The markets have decided and the government bureaucrats have no right to interfere."[/i]

            Can you read? This is about breaking the law. Enforecement is a legislative function and nothing to do with markets.



            [i]"MS-OOXML is a standard that can be implemented by third parties."[/i]

            You do understand what Dana's blog entry is about? Third parties have tried to implement OOXML and failed.



            [i]"There are no problems with accesssing a older version of documents."[/i]

            Well then Mr Backwards-Compatible, explain this

            http://support.microsoft.com/kb/157666

            a) You need an extra to read back to Word6
            b) Anything earlier than that.... well too bad!


            I've had it happen to me and my customers. Don't tell me it doesn't happen when I've experienced it myself.

            Even Office 2000 was partly incompatible with Office 2003. One small example that comes to mind is that mailmerges that worked in Office 2000 stopped working in Office 2003 and I wasted time getting a previously working feature to work again.

            That is a *simple* example of your famous "backwards compatibility" at work.
            bportlock
          • There is a lot of mis-information out there.This post should clarify doubts

            "I have done (meaning read John Carrols blog) - you'll find many of my comments there. John is Microsoft employee. I don't expect to get a balanced viewpoint from him. Microsoft employees have been fired for critising Microsoft on their blogs."


            You have read the blogs. But reading and comprehending are not the same thing. Eithe you've read but not understood what John Carroll is saying but you just choose to ignore it by running in circles, repeating the same thing over (any sensible counter arguments is the equivanet of puring water over a ducks back.)
            ------------------------

            Backwards compatibility - the link provided by you.
            "http://support.microsoft.com/kb/157666"

            Why dont you read it properly.
            Word 97 was a newer version when compared to Word 6.0 and 7.0.
            When opening a Word 97 format document in Word 6.0 or Word 7.0 the formatting that it could not understand it would display them as garbled text.
            To open the newer document format using a older version of software, you would need to download the newer file filters which are provided for free to download and they intergrate with older office application.

            Does this make sense. Here is the line that states so specifically.
            The best way to open a Word 97 for Windows document in an earlier version of Word is to use the Word 97-98-2000 Import Converter.


            It also states that using a newer version of software you can save documents in older formats
            1. Open the document in Word 97.
            2. On the File menu, click Save As.
            3. In the Save As dialog box, change Save as type to Word 6.0/95 (*.doc).



            If you think this is Microsoft changing format just for some devious reason, that is not the case.
            Try opening an HTML 4.0 complaint web page in Netscape 1.0 or IE 3.0 It wont. It will report errors.
            HTML went through various iterations. Older browers could not parse the newer additions to HTML specification.
            Today most web pages use Flash which is not even an HTML specification. I hope this explains that as new and new features are added, the format is enhanced to incorporate these new features. As a user one needs to download newer filters or latest software. New software have the ability to automatically update themselves, relieving the user of this activity.
            -----------------------


            "You do understand what Dana's blog entry is about? Third parties have tried to implement OOXML and failed"

            Not true.
            IBM, SUN and some ODF supporters have complained that 6K pages is too long. However the 6K pages is a complete specification for every single feature.
            a) ODF leaves a lot of things unspecified which would lead to each implementor having a differnt implementation. Much easier when you can do you own thing but would lead to incompatabilities.
            b) ODF doesnt have the features and capabilities of MS-Office. IBM & SUN have to do a better job. Reminds me of the Geico advertisment "Its so easy even a caveman can do it". The important thing is the caveman (if present) needs to learn the ways of the modern world and not the modern man go back to suit the caveman.
            With ODF, we would be going back 20 years in features and capabilities of our Office applications. There is NO NEED TO REINVENT THE WHEEL. It serves no benefit. Instead the third party companies need to do a better job at implmenting the specification.

            Novell is implementing MS-OOXML in its version of Open Office. This just disproves your comment about third party no being able to implement MS-OOXML.
            Corell and a few others are also implmenting MS-OOXML.

            ----------------------

            "Can you read? This is about breaking the law. Enforecement is a legislative function and nothing to do with markets."

            Enforcing the law, requires to be done in a justifiable manner. Currently IBM finds itself unable to compete on equal terms and hence they playing politics.
            I am not a MS employee but have been in the software field for a long time and have worked on *nix, Windows. Microsoft made a choice very early on which is 'we are not the best chip company, we are not the best manufacturing company, but we will focus on software and be the best software company in the world". When IBM, SUN, Symantec and other lodge complaints its their frusteration at not being able to match Microsoft in software. Its hard to be number 1, but its even harder to stay number 1. Microsoft has stayed number 1 for a long time and as long as they have a laser sharp focus on software, they will continue to do very well.
            THE COMPETITORS NEEDS TO RAISE THEIR GAME. FORCING MICROSOFT TO COMPETE WITH THEIR HANDS TIED IS NOT THE SOLUTION.
            zzz1234567890
          • defconvegas: stop spewing gargage. It is rather obvious that we do NOT

            need two standards for document formats. The basic document format is NOT rocket science. Also, the MS proposal (OOXML) is really garbage. It redefines things that have already been standardized and has a lot of legacy garbage that is not needed for backward compatibility.

            Microsoft is only in this to create confusion and make sure that there will be compatibility problems, extra overhead for everybody else, and that they can continue to disadvantage competitors.

            Let us hear all of the things that are needed in ODF for backward compatibility with MS documents. MS is afraid to just tell us what is needed. They understand very well that there is nothing significant that can not be represented in ODF, and that the ODF group would bend over backwards to add anything that was needed for backward compatibility. Microsoft understands very well that it is not in their best interest to solve the compatibility problems. This would be very good for customers, but very bad for Microsoft.
            DonnieBoy
  • You expected something different?

    MS has a long history of this crap. And our governments and legal system do
    nothing. By the time this could be battled in court there would be no recovery.

    Makes me ill that MS was not split into OS and Software companies. They lost 3
    times, changed judges 3 times and won. The States gave in for money. How is this
    possible.
    LittleGuy
  • going back 20 years

    and you are advocating that ODF ought to be selected and all of humanity go back 20 years.

    For every valid point that you can make with ODF, I could make a case for OO-XML. Infact OO-XML goes beyond the basic features ODF provides. Maybe IBM and SUN should do a better job at coming up with a better standard than ODF and not complain when Microsoft provides a standard and an implementation of that standard that would take SUN and IBM 20 years to catch up.

    So basically there is no valid argument for ODF. MS Office being the de-facto standard becomes the accepted standard and other companies are free to make an implementation of that standard.
    zzz1234567890
    • OOXML is dead unless

      [B]So basically there is no valid argument for ODF.[/B]

      Yes, there is. It is an open standard, fully ratified, owned by no-one and everyone. No company can add or change their own "stuff" without re-ratifying the changes through ISO.

      [B]There are many more, however, there is no functional way you can spin the above as true for OOXML.[/B]

      OOXML is dead unless 2 things happen.
      1) MS drops the requirement that they are the custodian of the standard. It MUST be made, ratified and implemented WITHOUT MS in control. Sorry to pee on your cornflakes, but without this, it isn't a "standard" it is an openly licenseable entity.
      2) After 1 above, all the elements that have no business being in a standard (all the proprietary elements) must be removed, and it must be made into a logical entity.

      My job, literally, involves standards, every day, all day, From GSM to CAMEL to IS41 to ANSI SS7 to ITU to, well, literally, everything is standards compliant. MANY MANY standards have died the death of uselessness and irrelevance when brought out unilaterally and under the control of one company.

      It truly doesn't matter whether OOXML is the best thing ever invented, if MS needs all 6K pages of functionality and they want a shot at getting it adopted as a standard, they must let the apron strings go.

      TripleII

      P.S. MS Office is only the de-facto standard for as long as it took/takes MS to break the current compatibility with it's new wizbang "standard"
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
      • dont build castles in the air

        Yes, there is. It is an open standard, fully ratified,

        So is the MS-OOXML.
        If it isnt yet ratified by ISO then its because of politics by IBM. Not because of technical deficiency.
        And frankly, IBM doesnt want to do a better job of making a better Office application and hence their support for a format that doesnt have the features/capabilities of OOXML.
        The market had decided that MS-Office is a better product and thats what they would like to use.


        " No company can add or change their own "stuff" without re-ratifying the changes through ISO."

        OOXML is a standard that follows the same procedure.





        Frankly ODF doesnt specify all the necessary details about. Adding these missing specifications would add another couple of thousand pages to ODF.
        Not having these specs is a major dis-advantage for ODF.
        zzz1234567890
        • Thanks to Defconvegas

          I want to thank Defconvegas for his contributions to this thread. I disagree with his conclusions, but I think we can disagree here without name-calling and rancor.

          Accepting differences of opinion is the only route to progress.
          DanaBlankenhorn
  • Governments must stand-up to Microsoft

    It is time that Governments at all levels said <b>enough</b>.

    We are not going to be brow-beaten by Microsoft that is pursing its own self-interest, to the detriment of over 6 billion people.
    interoperate
  • It might be too late for microsoft

    In work we have too many versions of Microsoft office. Fonts aren't consistent, tables, embedded fields sometimes update, sometimes don't, sections and chapter numbering is broken still in the latest versions of Word....

    I think Microsoft should have standardised their format a long time ago. OpenOffice is looking better and better. (or another package that supports ODF).

    OpenOffice has some plusses and some minuses over Microsoft Office. eg: Hexadecimal functions built into OpenOffice. These days for Excel (despite a massive install) you have to do a custom install to add that through an add-in. (If someone hasn't 'borrowed' the CD).
    stevey_d
  • The timing is troubling

    Regardless of the merits (and I thank Defconvegas for following up on this) the timing of Microsoft's addition of OOXML to its software is very troubling.

    There is a process that Microsoft goes through for upgrading its software, based on the idea that changes should be vetted to make certain they don't cause problems, including security problems.

    Did OOXML go through that process? Either it did go through it in secret, which is troubling, or it did not go through it, which is more troubling.
    DanaBlankenhorn
    • Never ascribe to malice....

      ... that which can be put down to simple incompetence.

      It could just be that the process is very sloppy. Microsoft has a long history of releasing shoddy software with a nice user interface. Upgrades that break other software, functions which work differently from previous versions, software that is insufficient to the task (Windows ME and DOS4 spring to mind), patches to software that wipe out previous patches and so on.

      The shoddiness of Microsoft's software is so accepted that it is an old, old joke that the correct name for a Microsoft user is "beta tester".

      The OOXML thing might be just more of the same.
      bportlock