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Microsoft Eases Licensing On Office 2003 Formats 208

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the opening-up dept.
kfiller writes "Microsoft has negotiated a deal with the state of Massachusetts to lower licensing restrictions on the Excel and Word XML formats in Office 2003, in exchange for the state to reconsider their focus on adopting 'open standards' to adopting 'open formats'. Is this just another move to encroach on the open source community?"
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Microsoft Eases Licensing On Office 2003 Formats

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:30AM (#11372814)
    Extend and embrace. (tm)
  • Microsoft (Score:2, Interesting)

    by defrabelizer (842549)
    Microsoft must have doing that type of thing, they love to keep everything to themselves. They even copy writted the tabbing process, ah well, what can be done
    • Re:Microsoft (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Elektroschock (659467) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @01:10PM (#11373577)
      The problem for Microsoft is the domino effect.

      OpenOffice.org 2.0 will make it even more difficult for them. I currently use the development versions and I must tell you, they are a giant leap. The advantage of MS-Office melts away. Governments now know that they have to consider using OpenOffice to get discounts for MS-Office. But soon OpenOffice will be a superiour choice.

      MS responds here, it does not set the agenda, it does not embrace it reacts to a policy drift out of their control.

  • by eddy (18759) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:32AM (#11372820) Homepage Journal

    state: We're going to go to open formats!
    MS: Psst.. if you pay us, you can stay with closed formats instead! You know, the ones we use to squeeze you for $$$ ever other year?
    state: Great idea! We love paying to be locked in!

    Bah.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...and before some smart-ass comments on MS calling it 'open formats'; MS definition of 'open' is "you can look at it, but we control it". That's what we normal folks call "closed", not "open".

      • Except it's not, is it? You can read the format, you can write file conforming to the format, you can edit the format, you just can't extend it yourself.

        You may well only consider something to be open if you can get source, or mess around with it yourself, or software is only free if you get source, but the every day user will consider being able to get the format and use it open enough. The presumption that your definition of open is the one "normal folks" use is simply arrogant.

      • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Saturday January 15, 2005 @11:12AM (#11372979) Journal
        So is other content in the article. Check out this whopper of a lie:
        As with the introduction of Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative, gaining approval for the Office 2003 XML formats would certainly bring Microsoft closer to the open source community
        Someone who actually bought into the whole "Shared Source" bullshit. Shared Source, of course, is Microsoft Doublespeak and has nothing to do with the open source community, except possibly to taint open source developers who are stupid enough to look at it.

        Figures, though - the original article was written using Word (had to remove the stupid "smart quotes and other bizarre characters" stuff when cutt-and-pasting the quote).

    • Actually, IMHO, MA doesn't really care if they use openstandards or not. They just want to cut spending. Advertising interest in openstandards is just a ploy to get Microsoft to lower their prices so MA can cut spending so the politicians have something to brag about during their next campaign.
  • Licensing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:32AM (#11372826)
    Will it be possible for openoffice to *read* (not write) these files under the new licensing restrictions. If not, then they are not open enough for exchangability. Write support I can understand MS wanting to keep proprietary. The old non-XML format is used as the lowest common denominator between nearly all word processors/spreadsheat applications. However, I would like to see this MS-XML fail due to OOo's XML, and eventually force MS to include support.
    • How on earth are you going to make an open standard for reading, but not writing? Either the specs are available, or they are not. If OOO is going to be able to read a format, it doesn't require much intelligence to do the opposite.
      • Re:Licensing (Score:2, Insightful)

        How on earth are you going to make an open standard for reading, but not writing? Either the specs are available, or they are not. If OOO is going to be able to read a format, it doesn't require much intelligence to do the opposite.

        Licensing. This stuff is patented so even though writing MS-XML files may be trivial, it may be just as illegal.
  • by Krankheit (830769) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:34AM (#11372835)
    They are trying to get Microsoft jealous by flirting with opensource to get Microsoft to lower their prices. Nothing to see here. Move along.
    • Yes but as any guy knows. Soon enough, you start ignoring the cocktease. At that point either they have to seriously ante up and start looking at OSS or admit they are Microsoft's bitch and roll over and take it.
    • Well why they do it isnt as important as the fact that soon everybody is doning it. This will force the prices down and everybody is a winner. It will also force more interobability into MS products wich is much needed. The closed formats will be a nightmare for future generations that need Office 97 to read 40 years old documents on computers that cant even run Windows Longhorn.
    • by jackbird (721605) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @12:53PM (#11373473)
      No, this is about file formats, not applications, and they do appear to be fairly serious about it.

      From the article [danbricklin.com]: "...In our definition, "Open Formats" are specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying Open Standard developed by an open community and affirmed by a standards body or de facto format standards controlled by other entities that are fully documented and available for public use under perpetual, royalty free, and nondiscriminatory terms.

      ... An example of an Open Format that we have already characterized is TXT text files and PDF document formats.

      ...It should be reasonably obvious for a lay person who looks at the concept of Public Documents that we've got to keep them independent and free forever because it is an overriding imperative of the American democratic system. That we cannot have our public documents locked up in some kind of proprietary format or locked up in a format that you need to get a proprietary system to use sometime in the future. So, one of the things that we're incredibly focused on is insuring that the public records remain independent of underlying systems and applications insuring their accessibility over very long periods of time. In the IT business a long period of time is about 18 months, in government it's about 300 years, so we have slightly different perspective."

      This not only goes far beyond "flirting with open source to get a better deal," it ignores that angle completely - they'd be happy to buy MS Office if they know they (or anyone else!) can hack together a reader for the format in 300 years based on publicly av ailable information.

  • Good or bad? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ctr2sprt (574731) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:34AM (#11372836)
    If the result of this is MS fully opening the MS Office file formats, so that every other office suite out there can read and write them with 100% compatibility, then that's great! It's not as good for open source as mandating the use of e.g. OO.o would be, but it's still good, and more importantly it focuses more on freedom. (I don't see how being forced to use OO.o would be any better than being forced to use MS Office. I still don't have a choice either way.)

    I did RTFA and it's a little unclear as to whether this is what's actually happening or not, but I can certainly hope.

    • Re:Good or bad? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:39AM (#11372850) Homepage
      If the result of this is MS fully opening the MS Office file formats, so that every other office suite out there can read and write them with 100% compatibility, then that's great! It's not as good for open source as mandating the use of e.g. OO.o would be, but it's still good, and more importantly it focuses more on freedom.

      Were this the case, then it'd actually be better for the OSS crowd than mandating the use of any specific application. Any app, anywhere, can read and write MS docs with complete confidence. Nothing to sneeze at.

      That said, it remains to be seen what this translates into. I'm betting they open up their schema a bit, but leave the actual data storage closed.
      • But how hard is it, really, to crack a schema on an XML document? It's viewable in a text editor, right? So a little trial and error and experimentation would crack it in no time.

        Or is it XML wrapped inside some container that needs a special code from Microsoft to be opened.

        • It can get very complex - the problem is you need to crack the algorithm used to create the document, before you can emulate it.
        • Then you're not talking about Microsoft's so-called XML. Unless you're referring to their brain-dead stripped-down version which sits somewhere between text/plan and text/html in terms of "richness".

          Why don't MS just make an OASIS ioslave for MS-Office? (-:
        • Re:Good or bad? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by HiThere (15173) *
          If I remember things correctly (dubious) XML files can require schemas hosted at remote sites to be intelligible. And those schemas can contain (or be?) binary modules that must be executed, not just "cracked".

          I haven't been paying any attention to what MS has been doing, but it seems to be that this is something that they COULD have been doing. Being in XML is no guarantee of intelligibility.
      • The article says only that M$ will "ease" its licensing, not how or to what extent. So that's still bad, unless "easing" means that the schema and APIs are turned over to a not-for-profit third party without restrictions on re-use.

        Otherwise, this is just a scam to

        1. force MA citizens to buy MSO 2003 in order to access public data. MSO 2004, in turn, requires MS Windows and DRM...
        2. distract from the advantages and rising success of OpenOffice.org [openoffice.org]

        Massachusetts should insist on *open* formats [eu.int], not PR gi

    • OO.o does a reasonably fine job of reading Office file formats, particularly Word files. This considering that even Word sometimes have problems opening files created with different versions, or corrupt files. Which, by the way, OO.o handles much better; opening a Word file with OO.o and saving it again is a sure way to fix borked Word files for mom and dad.

      As for the Word file format opened, i also hope it happens. Word is a defacto standart, and it's files are used everyday for tons of important docum
    • Re:Good or bad? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IO ERROR (128968) *
      This appears to be [crn.com] what will happen.

      For the state to use a format under their "open formats," there can be no restrictions on its use. MS Office XML formats are patented. The article seems to allude to Microsoft licensing the formats for anyone's free use. If that happens, then OOo can implement them directly, and interoperate perfectly with MS Office.

      But as with all things business, it's too early to tell, and read the fine print.

    • If the result of this is MS fully opening the MS Office file formats, so that every other office suite out there can read and write them with 100% compatibility, then that's great!

      Except that lots of third-party apps already know how to read Office formats. Open Office is a prime example. The big problem isn't getting the data out of those proprietary formats. (Which are, contrary to myth, fairly well documented.) The problem is not that nobody knows how to get the data out of Word or Excel -- the problem

  • Yes... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by avalys (221114) * on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:35AM (#11372839)
    "Is this just another move to encroach on the open source community?"

    Well...yes. Why would you expect Microsoft to do anything different? Open source is one of Microsoft's primary competitors - they're certainly not going to do anything to help it along.
    • they're certainly not going to do anything to help it[open source] along.

      I dunno about that.

      It seems practically everything they do just screams "please hate us!" I'd say Microsoft has been been doing a lot to help open source along.

      -
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:42AM (#11372865)
    PJ at groklaw has a good read on this at
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=200501141 8070774 [groklaw.net].
    The devil is in the licensing details, but maybe Microsoft has [decided|been forced] to play nice in order to not be excluded.
    • not get excluded (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ecalkin (468811) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @11:02AM (#11372937)
      Even the big guys have to compete sometimes. About 1988 or 1989, IBM was making the PS/2 line, which was 3.5 floppy only. You could get an external 5.25 floppy (low density), but it was expensive and a PITA.
      A lot of people wanted 5.25 internal at that time and IBM said 'NO'. Our way or the Highway.

      All of the sudden a large number of major corporations and *Government* agencies were buying computers with a specification that said 'Internal 5.25 HD FDD'. I was actually at a event where an IBM rep was trying to tell a major customer that they didn't really need this. One of the effects of this was to automatically remove IBM from the bid process.

      Sometime in 1989 or 1990, IBM introduced a 5.25 internal HD FDD for the model 80.

      The Moral of this Story?
      If enough people wave enough money that someone can't touch, it get's their attention. Even Microsoft.

      eric
  • by Tim C (15259) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:45AM (#11372874)
    For all software developers to use documented, open, royalty-free standards for file and other information interchange formats?

    If the formats are open, then anyone can write software to read and write them. Surely this is at least a good first step in that direction?
  • Mmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Paiway (842782) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:45AM (#11372875)
    Bribes.
  • What? Where? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CaraCalla (219718) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:47AM (#11372881)
    ... so what are the terms of this new licensing model?
    • They don't exist. At least not yet.

      Massachusetts said Microsoft said they would try to address Massachusetts's concerns. Mere hearsay of a claimed intent to do something unspecific.

      I'm sure right now Microsoft has a team of lawyers battling over what changes they need to make to squeak by convincing Massachusetts that the have complied with the "open" requirements, while still maintaining overt or covert means of excluding GPL or any other genuine interoperability and to further Microsoft's goals of total
  • by perlchild (582235) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:47AM (#11372882)
    Is the new license only available in Massachusetts, or did the State work on Microsoft to get them to open the formats for everyone?
    If it's a state-only thing, then Microsoft knows it already lost, and is just doing damage control, no?
  • Like it or not Microsoft has alot of bargaining power and if they can make a "concession" that allows them to retain a grip over the corporate and buisiness arena then they will make the so called concessions and still manipulate the markets as they have always done.

    The question really is what can the OSS community do to negate the effect of these so called concessions and really force Microsoft into a different way of doing business?

    Just my $.02...

    • Case #1. Microsoft fails to get their file formats approved. No problem.

      Case #2. Microsoft succeeds in getting their file formats approved.
      a. We will need a clean TEST IMPLEMENTATION of
      1a. Reader
      2a. Writer
      b. We will need a way to document any variations between Microsoft's output/input and the Test Implementation.

      I don't trust Microsoft NOT to break the published "standard" in small, but important ways.

      If Microsoft gets this included, then their program's output must be validated against
      • Problems may occur over time with Microsoft trickery, but I think a larger concern is that the file format will be published (open enough for the State of Massachusetts) but patent encumbered (not open enough that your "Test Implementation" could be made Open Source). Massachusetts wants assurance that the documents can be read in 300 years. Microsoft wants to hold off competition for as long as possible. Open Source people want a file format that they can legally implement for reading and writing immedi
  • by niittyniemi (740307) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:51AM (#11372899) Homepage

    Is the state of Massachusetts stupid enough to drop the long term benefits of open standards and open formats for an indeterminate, short term gain?

    Since with proprietary software there is always kickbacks involved, you just have to stir that up with a few politicians and my money is on the state going for the MS "solution".

    I'm cynical because I've seen a lot of governments (esp. UK) talk a lot about open formats but it just doesn't happen. Hence, UK govt sites being littered with .doc's :(

    • Hence, UK govt sites being littered with .doc's :(

      Perhaps the new FOIA can help here. If people start demanding to know what is within these documents, it might prove cheaper for them to publish as PDFs rather than mailing out paper versions. Remember, they don't charge you for information unless it requires significant resources to collect.

  • by fishdan (569872) * on Saturday January 15, 2005 @10:52AM (#11372902) Homepage Journal
    MSFT knew who to strike a deal with first. Even the most liberal person living in MA will admit that there is an incredible amount of graft going on in state government. There are many people in MA who look at the state goverment coffers as a personal tough to feed from. From the Big Dig [taxpayer.net] to the DNC [thebostonchannel.com] to the Mass Pike [prorev.com], Massachusetts is a commonwealth (not actually a state) predicated on BIG government. Really Big.

    If the state was able to eliminate spending completely on software, the state IT department's budget would be considerably lessened. In a bureaucracy like the Mass State government, the larger your budget, the more power you have. So when faced with the option of suddenly cutting their budget requirements by a large amount, of course the suits jumped at an offer that allowed them to maintain the prestige of spending massive amounts.

  • This is a game (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wine (211387) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @11:00AM (#11372930)
    WTF are open formats? Open to implement, but not to modify or without the right to sublicense? Microsoft still has to change the license and no one knows what that license is going to be.

    Policy makers in general really don't understand the differences between open source, shared source or open standards or open formats. And maybe they don't even care most of the time, since the majority of their voters also do not understand or do not care. They can present this as a victory, while only a small minority cares about the details.

  • from the link in CRN that TFA referes to : "[Microsoft] has made representation to us recently [that] they're planning to modify that license, and if they're to do so, ..." For those that were fooled by the language of the story and TFA to think that this is done
  • Microsoft is making moves like this to prevent the open source community from encroaching on them. They've got the lead, so they're the ones trying to keep the hounds at bay.

    I'm not so sure they can pull it off, though - Windows won't be getting knocked off the perch any decade soon, but the competition is starting to show up on the radar screen again. As Microsoft's reactions show.
  • This is just a case of someone threatening to go opensource in order for Microsoft to lower their prices. That being said, Microsoft can't do this forever. Eventually they will actually have to start offering a better product. Because even if Microsoft costs the same or less, oss is always the smarter choice.
  • by Dink Paisy (823325) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @11:10AM (#11372973) Homepage
    Microsoft really wants to be a good guy. The thing that remains to be seen is if they are any good at it. This is the latest move. Earlier moves include lots of customer communication initiatives, encouraging employee blogs, and settling open legal issues so that Microsoft is not seen as happy to be in court.

    Microsoft is losing customers, particularly European and American state governments, because they don't like Microsoft. Microsoft really does have the best office suite in a technical sense. OO.o is generally less intuitive, and has less features (particularly in spreadsheets, but even the word processor lacks much advanced functionality). Costs are hard to judge, but most studies suggest that using a free office suite instead of MS Office won't pay off over the time periods that corporations and governments make long range financial plans. Switching to OO.o is about politics, not technical or financial superiority.

    It's also difficult to switch right now, partially because of proprietary lock-in to the file format. That's one of the things that makes switching so expensive (although probably not the major one, with OO.o import filters being somewhat decent). Customers want to be free to switch. They also want to be free to generate documents from sources other than MS Office and import them natively, and they want to be able to process documents using their own custom tools. Open file formats help all of those things, and so customers are happy.

    Microsoft really wants to make customers happy. Opening file formats helps, so Microsoft is doing that. There are risks; if customers continue to hate Microsoft, and Microsoft makes it easier to switch away from them, the obvious result is losing customers. The upside is that they may make customers happy, convincing more to stay. Being a nice guy is directly connected to making customers happy.

    From an open-source community view, opening file formats is good. It makes interoperability easier. By itself, though, it's not enough to make customers happy, or to make Microsoft a friend to the OSS community. More moves are necessary, and what they are and when (if ever) the will come is still a big question.

    Just a question here, what would Microsoft have to do for you to consider them to be a friendly corporation, rather than an evil and menacing corporate giant? I kind of like them already, but I know I'm unusual in that regard.

    • Just a question here, what would Microsoft have to do for you to consider them to be a friendly corporation, rather than an evil and menacing corporate giant? I kind of like them already, but I know I'm unusual in that regard.
      That's an easy one. Split out the apps. If I could run office under linux, or Project, then I'd think a lot differently about the company. The main evilness of MS ( IMHO ) revolves around the OS lockin that they are obviously practicing.
      • Split out the apps.

        FULL ACK! I would happily shell out real money to buy MSIE or MS-Office for Linux or FreeBSD. Being forced to use some flavor of Windows just because these apps are not available for other platforms is kinda insulting. If MSFT started playing nice this way, they would not only gain a better reputation (not that they needed it anyway!) and sympathy, but also customers in the FOSS camp.

        Oh well, let's keep hoping!

    • by zonix (592337) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @01:04PM (#11373542) Homepage Journal

      Good post.

      OO.o is generally less intuitive, and has less features (particularly in spreadsheets, but even the word processor lacks much advanced functionality).

      IMHO, anyone with prior exposure to MS Office can't say whether or not OOo is less intuitive than MS Office. It can be less familiar if all you know is just MS Office. For either office suite to be less intuitive than the other, you'd have to test with people who have had zero exposure to said office suites.

      Just a question here, what would Microsoft have to do for you to consider them to be a friendly corporation, rather than an evil and menacing corporate giant? I kind of like them already, but I know I'm unusual in that regard.

      With regards to "opening up" formats, as with the MS Office XML schemas, they'd have to offer a true roalty-free license for access and use - no patent license traps [slashdot.org]. That would be a start.

      Just my two cents.

      z
    • Which office suite is better is a subjective thing. A magazine I just read (PC Authority) had a comparison of "Microsoft Office clones" and, taking away price, it gave OO.Org the best out of the bunch. That truly surprised me. This is a new magazine from this month.
    • "Just a question here, what would Microsoft have to do for you to consider them to be a friendly corporation, rather than an evil and menacing corporate giant? I kind of like them already, but I know I'm unusual in that regard."

      That's a good question. I'm thinking that there are about four things:

      [1] Follow standards properly. This wouldn't be nearly so irritating as it is if not for one thing: MS had a large amount of say in almost all of those standards. MS is such a huge software company, it gets some
    • by rlwhite (219604) <rogerwhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday January 15, 2005 @02:10PM (#11374040)
      I am the paying customer who has made you rich.

      You shall have no other priorities before me.

      You shall not make for yourself a priority in the form of monopoly or world domination. You shall not seek them; for I, the paying customer, am a demanding customer, punishing the bottom line for the sin of management to the third and fourth product lines of those who are greedy, but showing love to a thousand product lines of those who love me and keep my commandments.

      You shall not lock-in the customer, for the customer will not hold anyone guiltless who locks him in.

      Remember the law by keeping it holy. Within the law you shall labor and do all your work, but outside the law you shall do no business. Outside the law you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your employee, nor your contractor, nor your family. For the customer is a citizen who has taken part in creating and maintaing the law, but he despises criminals. Therefore the customer blessed the law and made it holy.

      Honor the open standards, so that you may live long in the profits the customer is giving you.

      You shall not make buggy, insecure, or generally bad products.

      You shall not conspire with or attack other businesses.

      You shall not steal.

      You shall not deceive anyone.

      You shall not covet the paying customer's remaining cash. You shall not overcharge him, obsolete his product, break his systems, or covet anything that belongs to your paying customer.

      Do to others as you would have them do to you, for this sums up my commandments.
    • Microsoft really does have the best office suite in a technical sense. OO.o is generally less intuitive, and has less features (particularly in spreadsheets, but even the word processor lacks much advanced functionality).

      I think that's a very subjective thing to say. Certainly, MS Office is more advanced in providing certain features, and some people need it just for that. But there are also some notouriously frustrating bugs is MS Office, that have an effect on very simple and common uses. For wh

    • Last I heard, the XML file format is NOT the default format used by Word. So this doesn't really help anyone leaning towards an alternative to Word - 99% of the documents you receive are still going to be the binary format.

      I like your post and would tend to agree on all points. It's just a shame MS couldn't go that extra mile and make the XML format the default.
    • Change things so that it's not DEMANDING that it's customers trust them.

      Change the EULA to not be so one sided.

      I don't believe that MS want's to be nice, but I will believe that there are people at MS who do. If MS is to be seen as even a decent corporation, not so demanding as averagely good, then it will need to stop being a bully, and to stop taking blatantly unfair advantage of it's size. Also it needs to stop buying legislation that hurts it's customers, and buy repeals for some of the legislation
  • the bar is lowered by this quite desperate move on microsoft's part. in an attempt to keep at least one customer, they get to give away what they have been ordered to release _anyway_, and everyone gets it, and so everyone benefits...
  • Damn Microsoft, if you would just let us switch to Open Source without your bitching, maybe we can focus on spending less for maintaining our state systems and giving some money back to the community. I have no clue how much Mass has to pay Microsoft but I can ensure that it will always be more than just going with open source. And Microsoft's little Open Source Initiative is a joke. I'm going to try and get some of the source but I highly doubt I'd get anywhere close to it. "Ohh, you're a college student
  • Open Formats? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by adolfojp (730818) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @11:51AM (#11373150)
    Does this mean that I can start making perfect doc format documents in Abi Word and Open Office? Where is the documentation on the open standards so we can start fixing the open source apps to be compatible with the open formats.

    I will not hold my breath.

    Cheers,

    Adolfo
  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @12:02PM (#11373197) Homepage
    I hate how much effort it is to even pull plain text out of Word and Powerpoint documents.

    I just finished up work on a commercial Java text mining package and I spent far too long on code to read Word and Powerpoint files while handling PDF, OpenOffice.org, and AbiWord was fairly simple.

    I do have a word (no pun intended :-) of advice for organizations who must use Microsoft office: OpenOffice.org has a batch processing option to recursively search nested directories for Word documents and write out fairly equivalent OpenOffice.org Writer documents (that use a very nice XML format). If I had a company with thousands of Word documents on my servers, I would have an automatic "save to OpenOffice.org, then archive" backup strategy and not have my long term Document store backups in native Word format.

    It is not going to happen, but I would love to see pressure from user groups and governments force Microsoft to use the OASIS open XML based document formats. If Microsoft really wanted to give maximum value to their customers, then they would do this on their own (yes, just wishful thinking).
  • by alangmead (109702) * on Saturday January 15, 2005 @12:09PM (#11373231)

    This is where Open Source might be a less effective rallying point than Free Software. Since Open Source encourages practical reasons why someone using software distributed with source ( like the arguments Eric Raymond gives in "The Magic Cauldron" of cost sharing, risk spreading, or the arguments that file formats are open if the code is visible, etc.), they are designed to appeal to companies and organizations that want to reduce cost and risk. Free Software is much more moralistic that computer owners should be able do as they wish with their machines, and anything less than full right to change and redistribute source code is evil.

    The Massachusetts state governments IT department doesn't care about open source. What they do care about is that a MS Word document created by one of the users they support can be read by another user. Or by the same user five years later. Or that the documents can be manipulated by other tools (like automatic indexing, automatic taxonomy generation, or even virus scanners.) They used the request for "Open Standards" to solve this particular issue, and to their satisfaction Microsoft licensing changes solve this problem as well

    The advantage of the practical arguments for Open Source is that one can find just need to find one of the arguments compelling to come on board. The disadvantage is that you can lose them just as easily by solving that same issue in a closed source manner. The argument for Free Software is much more absolutist, and it may be easier to get someone to join, but you won't lose them nearly as easily.

  • by martin-k (99343) on Saturday January 15, 2005 @12:24PM (#11373315) Homepage
    Now they tell us, when our OpenOffice/OASIS/OpenDocument filters for our TextMaker word processor [softmaker.de] are pretty much completed... ;-)

    In earnest, is anyone using Microsoft Office XML for anything?

    Martin Kotulla
    SoftMaker Software GmbH

    • Interesting, you don't appear to have a Mac version. I want to be using the same word processor on MSWind95, Linux, and Mac OSX .. so far that means OpenOffice.org or AbiWord.
      • We are a 15-people company, already supporting Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Pocket PC, Handheld PC, Windows CE.NET, Sharp Zaurus and soon Palm OS. We'll soon have Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Chinese versions. Also, we'll add a database and a presentation-graphics program this year.

        I'd love to add a Mac OS port, but right now we are already spreading us pretty thin... ;-)

        Martin Kotulla
        SoftMaker Software GmbH

  • Why is the motivation even in question? They see a market threat, and go after it the best they can.

    Geesh..
  • ...of COURSE not! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dodongo (412749)
    What are you talking about? I realize this is a visceral reaction and probably won't do anything for my karma...

    Of course this isn't any positive sign that MS wants to kill F/OSS projects; they've put it out in black and white. It should never be forgotten, though, that what is really a threat to the MS business model is the whole ideology behind F/OSS. It's much classier to knock Linux as a program than to knock the idea of open-source as evil. Freedom is supposed to be treasured in the US, and MS has
  • by jeroendekkers (803638) <[xc.srekked] [ta] [neorej]> on Saturday January 15, 2005 @12:54PM (#11373478)

    This is actually what the EU commission thinks is an open standard:

    The following are the minimal characteristics that a specification and its attendant documents must have in order to be considered an open standard:

    The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.).
    The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee.
    The intellectual property - i.e. patents possibly present - of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.
    There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.

    It's a very strict definition. For example, PDF doesn't qualify as an Open Standards, because it's controlled by Adobe and doesn't have an open decision-making procedure

    I think Microsoft is pretty scared about this, because most EU member states are going to use this definition, together with previous or future decisions to move to Open Standards. That would mean that MS Office either has to support these Open Standards or it will just be replaced by software that does.

  • Is this just another move to encroach on the open source community?

    Nothing a really big company does is as simple as that. Without a doubt, there are decision makers in Redmond whose careers depend on their maintaining the Microsoft Monopoly, and look at any competition, including the Open Source community, the way a wolf looks at an elk herd. If they can find a way to use a particular initiative to screw people over, they will. But that doesn't mean that the screwover is the main motivation of the initia

  • How can anybody trust a company that desperately begs you not to use open formats?

    Why doesn't Microsoft open its formats, and remove all restrictions?
  • You can find more information and share your knowledge about open formats here [openformats.org].
  • Whats wrong with this picture?

    "Massachusetts Consumer Protection Litigation Case"

    Plaintiffs allege that Microsoft unlawfully used anticompetitive means to maintain a monopoly in markets for certain software, and that as a result, it overcharged Massachusetts consumers who licensed its MS-DOS, Windows, Word, Excel and Office software. Microsoft denies Plaintiffs allegations and believes that it developed and sold high quality and innovative software products at fair and reasonable prices. The parties settl

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