Microsoft cops standards attack

Microsoft cops standards attack

Summary: Microsoft Australia has come under fire from rival vendors and open-source advocates for keeping its Office document standards proprietary. Greg Stone, Microsoft's national technology officer for Australia and New Zealand, faced the criticism during his presentation at the Australian Unix User Group's Open Computing in Government conference in Canberra.

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Microsoft Australia has come under fire from rival vendors and open-source advocates for keeping its Office document standards proprietary.

Greg Stone, Microsoft's national technology officer for Australia and New Zealand, faced the criticism during his presentation at the Australian Unix User Group's Open Computing in Government conference in Canberra. However, he stood firm on the company's policy of making the XML schemas for its Office 2003 document standard publicly available provided interested parties sign an agreement with the software heavyweight.

"Why should I have to sign an agreement?" one audience member demanded to know.

Another participant pointed out the National Archives of Australia had chosen the competing OpenOffice.org document format as the basis for document storage, and called on Microsoft to do the same.

However, Stone said the process was not that easy. "We want to innovate," he said. "Some of the things that we do are not represented easily in XML. We had to ask the question of whether to include backwards compatibility for that [OpenOffice.org] specification. We chose not to."

He added Microsoft had some binary format licensing arrangements with governments for the company's Office document standard. This aided governments with security reviews, archiving issues and the forensic examinations of documents.

Stone argued there was nothing wrong with proprietary standards. "We often hear the words "proprietary standard" as a pejorative," he said. "However, it was the proprietary standards that grew up and allowed those open standards to develop."

He said open and proprietary standards could co-exist, arguing Microsoft promoted common development of standards by sitting on all of the representative bodies working on them.

But one Microsoft rival disagreed. Novell Asia Pacific solutions manager Paul Kangro -- who spoke after Stone -- said it was "fascinating" to be lectured by Microsoft on open standards.

Kangro quoted an unnamed Indian customer of Novell's as saying "why should I have my documents from government in a proprietary format and have to ask a third party for permission to open them?".

Topics: Open Source, Enterprise Software

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  • "...arguing Microsoft promoted common development of standards by sitting on all of the representative bodies working on them."

    MS takes part in these standard groups so they can hijack, repackage and patent an 'almost exact' version of an open standard, that if you want to open in an open standard you then have to get Permission from MS. Good greif.

    Think about that folks, you write a document and under conditions, MS thinks you should ask permission to use it?

    End users need to get away from MS office and start using the many high quality open standard alternatives that don't treat the End user and standards bodies and governments with the contempt Microsoft shows.
    anonymous
  • "...arguing Microsoft promoted common development of standards by sitting on all of the representative bodies working on them."

    An interesting claim from a company that was part of the OASIS group that developed the OpenDocument standard, but was the only company that refused to participate in the development of the format.

    And then to top if off, they complain that the OpenDocument format isn't able to do what Microsoft needs.

    Microsoft can spend all the time they want claiming to support standards and that they are actively involved in the process, but I think the IT community is smart enough to figure out that MS isn't really that serious about open standards and that the only standard that MS wants is one they control and one that forces you to use their software.
    anonymous
  • "...arguing Microsoft promoted common development of standards by sitting on all of the representative bodies working on them."

    Hmmph! "Sitting on the body" of someone long enough could literally squeeze the life out of him, as Microsoft's own history has repeatedly shown it trying to do with open standards. "Embrace and extend" [and, eventually, /eradicate/], is the mantra MS lives by to this end; MS' SOP. Furthermore, "sitting on the body" of some ISO committee, IETF standards group, or what-have-you -- or, rather, having your name listed on the group's membership roster but rarely showing up to its meetings -- is not quite the same thing as actively participating in it... now, is it?

    If MS truly believes that "open and proprietary standards could co-exist", then it would not have gone to such lengths to obfuscate their implementations of open standards like Kerberos and LDAP in their server platforms so as to work "reliably" only with their client platforms. Such half-truths are the artifice of bald-faced liars. You can bet your booty that MS "believes" this statement only so long as they have to, being until they can succeed in wholly doing away with open standards in favor of their proprietary ones!

    "Proprietary" = "closed, hidden". When left unchecked in the hands of a megalomaniacal power-monger, "proprietary" is a "perjorative", for makes it possible to usurp more "freedom": "freedom to choose", "freedom to use". Sure, MS is all smiles, asking "can't we all just get along"... for now. MS is a convicted monopolist (US, EU) and tort feaser (US), and their compliance with US DOJ's settlement thus far has amounted to little more than veiled gestures and shady offerings, all presented with cold handshakes and fanged smiles. We (the IT community) already know that MS' own software (XP, 2003) regularly perform a number of privacy intrusive operations, as their EULAs and "Software ****urances" deem the user must allow. Now, imagine what we /don't/ know... or won't if they ultimately succeed in global, data-center-to-desktop, market dominance! Synonyms for "monopolist" include "narcissist", "self-pleaser", "hog", "restrictionist", and "censor"... but let's also add "hazer" to list, for now MS not only wants everyone to just "bend over and take it", but now they want you to politely ask for more. Sheesh!

    No thank-you MS... I like my privacy, and I want to keep control of my computer. I'll stick with open standards and open systems.
    anonymous
  • The Novell Customer hit it on the nail. Why should they need to ask a third party software company to view sensitive and cl****ified documents created in a supposed open standard. Example, any company that have documented trade secrets and were dumb enough to use a proprietary document format has to ask a third party, possibility their rival, for permission to veiw their own trade secrets documents. What prevents their rival from stealing trade secrets or their rival from extorting them to be able to get their trade secrets back. Another thing to consider is government documents are using consider sensitive and if you have to rely on third parties to view your documents how does it prevent the third party from stealing information or extorting the government. If Microsoft is going to control the standard then what prevent Microsoft from becaming a stronger Monopoly or use Monopolistic practices, the temptation is there and if it is there it will be used.
    anonymous
  • Proprietary standards enabled open ones to come up? It was the open sharing of ideas, code, and standards between computer scientists that gave birth to the whole software industry and only when proprietary standards came into prominance did the problems begin. Microsoft approach to solving the problem that Microsoft (and others) created was to dominate and crush the competition thus unifying a standard. Open standards have arisen to some degree inspite of their crude solution to the problem they were largely responsible for in the first place.
    anonymous
  • It was the proprietary standards that ... allowed those open standards ?

    The standard that allow all of us to begin exchanging text documents freely between different vendors was, of course, ASCII, the American *STANDARD* Code for Information Interchange. It won out over the proprietary and funky EBCDIC, and good thing too...
    anonymous
  • its rather amazing how all over the world people
    will stand up and say the most ridiculous things
    and expect people to respect them for it.

    its amazing what money can buy now a days.
    anonymous
  • Microsoft is primarily a sales and marketing organisation, who say and do whatever the customer wants to hear, to increase their sales.
    By attending OSS meetings, they can use that to show the marks, that they are not against OSS.
    Making money is the objective. All else is just cleverly crafted words.
    To expect them to be rational about anything not connected with the primary objective, is itself irrational, and no wonder you don't understand them. Just because they sell developing technology, doesn't mean they want to develop their small part of it for the good of all. That is only what they will say to get more money.
    That's Sales and Marketing.
    stomfi
  • "The Novell Customer hit it on the nail. Why should they need to ask a third party software company to view sensitive and cl****ified documents created in a supposed open standard."

    I believe the general point, as well as several overriding ideals, are missed, or misunderstood, by the above statement.

    First of all, MS does not claim that their 'Office 2003 /document standard/' is an "open standard". In fact, they point out that their document formats are [still] 'proprietary standards', where they state that:

    "Some of the things that /we do/ are not represented easily in [open mark-up formats like] XML." (emphasis and clarification mine)

    They further clarify this by pointing out how they "questioned whether" it would be worth it to them "to include 'backward compatibility'" with the OpenDocument format adhered to by OOo v.2. They pulled no punches with that double-jab, at once claiming both that:

    A) such forward-thinking, /content oriented/, not to mention "open", mark-up formats as XML is insufficient for storing the... erh... "content" their tools "do" [[begs to question just what, exactly, are their tools "doing" that they don't want anyone else to know without first signing a "no cry foul" agreement?]]; and

    B) competing tool vendors, like OOo, nevermind /Sun/ (their new "friend" and "technology partner"), are 'backward' for utilizing the open document standards based on it.

    [[ Yes, the "spin doctors" at MS no doubt get lots of training in using 'words of art'. :-p ]]

    Furthermore, the "Novell customer" was not questioning the need to ask "a third-party" for permission to access that party's proprietary format (as the "audience member" apparently was). Rather, the customer was asking why the documents produced by his government in that format should require permission to be viewed by its public -- it is natural that IP produced by government is defacto "public domain" if not, necessarily, open to public inspection. That notwithstanding, governments are, in essence, "corporate entities", being formed under public contract with its governed, and as such are just as subject to the contractual stipulations ("license agreements"), set forth in its dealings with other "corporate entities" ("third-parties"). Therefore, that "Novell customer" should really have been questioning his /government/ for its choice to use a closed "standard", subject to the whims -- er, "license restrictions" -- of the "third-party" from whom that "standard" was licensed, for the production of its documents... particularly "sensitive" or "clazzified" ones!

    It should go without saying that adherence to an open document standard does not invalidate the security of the information needing it. Quite the contrary, in fact: it aids that security by ensuring that long term access to the information is both "unlimited" and "unrestrained" to those properly granted access to it (based in part on "need to know" criteria)! Iow: The real issue here is not whether some "second-party" needs to ask permission of the "third-party" to view the documents produced in their format by the "first-party" (ultimately, they do not need to ask for such "permission"). The real issue is the long term accessibility to those documents by the "first-party" being subject to license limitations imposed by the "third-party" as conditions for using their IP! An extreme measure of control over "public information" is being handed to MS by licensing its 'proprietary' specifications and agreeing to whatever limitations they choose to impose on their use. Without those specifications being openly accessible and /implementable/, even the "first-party", whose information it is to begin with, can lose their access by the mere termination of their license. No government agency -- nevermind any private organization -- should permit such measure of control by an outside party!! Whatever bureaucrat signed that deal either was a blind fool or walked away from the
    anonymous