Cruel truth surfaces in the OOXML war

Cruel truth surfaces in the OOXML war

Summary: In the heat of conflict, propaganda gives way to proof. Microsoft may be feeling that heat over its so-called document standard


"You took my ship by surprise, captain," Von Hellmuth said slowly. "Otherwise…"

His tone hinted at treachery, unfair tactics, a course of conduct outrageous to German honour.

"And what the hell have you been doing all these months," Ericson thought, "except taking people by surprise, stalking them, giving them no chance?" But that idea would not have registered. Instead he smiled ironically and said: "It is war. I am sorry if it is too hard for you."

Von Hellmuth gave him a furious glance, but he did not answer the remark: he saw, too late, that, by complaining of his defeat, he had confessed to weakness.

(The Cruel Sea, Nicholas Monsarrat, 1951)

There is little as revealing as complaints made in anger. Such would seem to be the case with Microsoft, whose frustration with the approval process for Office Open XML (OOXML) has spilled out into accusations of underhand behaviour on the part of IBM. Speaking this week, Nicos Tsilas, senior director of interoperability and IP policy at Microsoft, said of IBM: "They have made this a religious and highly political debate. They are doing this because it is advancing their business model."

It is hard to believe that Microsoft of all people, experienced as it is in international standardisation, was hitherto unaware of such practices. But the real revelation comes with Tsilas's quote that "IBM have asked governments to have an open-source, exclusive purchasing policy. Our competitors have targeted this one product — mandating one document format over others to harm Microsoft's profit stream."

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Perhaps it is a mere slip of the tongue that has Tsalis mixing up open source with open standards. There are good arguments for and against mandating open source in government — protecting business models or profit streams should not be among them — but open standards are a very different matter. Microsoft has said all along that OOXML will be just as open as OpenDocument Format (ODF). How, then, can adopting the latter "harm Microsoft's profit stream"? And since when has an open standard been "a product"?

Tsilas is admitting, more explicitly than implicitly, that Microsoft's profit depends on it controlling standards and that OOXML is a product designed to do exactly that. The mask has slipped and the nature of this particular war is on display. As Ericson, captain of HMS Compass Rose, might say: we are sorry if it is too hard for you, Microsoft.

Topic: Apps

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  • Don't give it if you can't take it

    Microsoft have been employing dubious tactics against the competition for years so I find it quite laughable that they are wining so loudly about IBM pushing open source and open standards. Looks like the bully just got a slap in the face and has run home crying.
  • They just might like it

    I always think that Microsoft should just try open standards once. I mean really try it. Why not implement ODF natively in Office? They have the technology. Clearly, OOXML isn't working for them. True, it would lose them some business, especially over the long term. But on the other hand, it at least lets them keep government business in the short term. And, of course, they'd earn some /genuine/ karma.
  • OOXML as open as ODF?

    From what I have read, this statement is false. But, Microsoft has a history of confusing facts and reality, and will do whatever they need to do to get OOXML passed as a standard. They have a proven track record on illegal tactics.
  • Nice reporting

    Certainly more balanced than this piece of (apparently) Microsoft-funded drivel:,1000000121,39292492,00.htm

    I'm still chuckling over "single-handedly leading" from the other article. At least this piece notes that establishing new open standards can't be viewed as a "product" offering from a closed-standard software purveyor.
  • MS strongest attacks are where it is weakest

    Microsoft has a long long history of making its strongest verbal attacks on the very topic in which it is weakest.

    It is Microsoft's defensive stance to try and deflect the focus from its own biggest weakness or fault.

    The reality is that Microsoft's underhanded lobbying, bullying, and questionable tactics have been well documented on Groklaw and other sites.

    What is clear is that Microsoft despises open standards and that OOXML fails all serious tests of an open standard.
  • IBM is just a smoke screen

    It would be so much easier if those who vote on the OOXML would think it is just a question of choosing between Microsoft and IBM.
    In this way Microsoft tries to hide the real questions behind the very poor and worthless specification for a standard that OOXML is.
  • Microsoft's OXML policy positions

    Hi - I'm the Microsoft employee quoted in this article. If you want to find out more about Microsoft's OXML policy positions please go to or


    Nicos Tsilas
    Nicos Tsilas
  • Facts about OOXML

    Useful sites to get the facts about Microsoft OOXML are:
  • @nicos

    What is OXML? How come I have never heard of it?

    I would urge you, as a Microsoft employee, to read: []
    part C page 10]

    The current name is "Office Open XML" or OOXML for short - could you at least get the name of your own standard correct?

    It is called erroneously by you and Microsoft "Open XML"? (as opposed to the not-open-xml?). Microsoft(1) also call it "Open Office XML"? as opposed the XML produced by Open Office, more commonly known as "ODF"?

    In the ECMA Comments (2) it was suggested by ECMA (ie Microsoft) that "Change the name of Office Open XML to a name which is not easily confused with OpenOffice.".

    It would be nice for a start if you could stop causing unnecessary confusion, and uncertainty, with everybody by getting the current name of it right.

    kind regards,


    Could you also change your links to point to appropriate URLs. Each of your urls contains "openxml". It would be much more sensible to use "openofficexml" or "ooxml" instead.
  • Can you therefore please explain...

    Why Microsoft is not following the proposed OOXML standard with its own products?

    Clear that up and perhaps people might be prepared to give it a chance. Other than that, all you/Microsoft is doing is poisoning your own water supply by claiming a lie as truth.