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Microsoft Office Formats Not Really Being Opened 310

Contradicting this earlier article claiming otherwise, smith_barney writes "Contrary to reports, Microsoft is not opening up its proprietary Office XML schemas. Essentially, the state of Massachusetts is simply repositioning what it considers an 'open format.' According to a report in BetaNews, Microsoft told the state it would ease licensing restrictions, but only for 'end users who merely open and read government documents.' This hasn't stopped Microsoft from tooting its horn, but Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox says, 'Buzz about so-called open formats is little more than PR FUD.'"
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Microsoft Office Formats Not Really Being Opened

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  • Open? (Score:4, Funny)

    by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:47AM (#11538898)
    Nothing for you to see here. Please move along

    That is probablly what your going to get when you try to work with one of these "open" formats from MS.
  • by ( 782137 ) <joe&joe-baldwin,net> on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:49AM (#11538908) Homepage Journal
    Bush not really a Muslim.
    Babies not really delivered by storks.
    Bears do not actually have modern sanitation.
  • Heh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by g33ker ( 853100 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:49AM (#11538910) Homepage
    Looks like an 'open and shut' case to me...
  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 16K Ram Pack ( 690082 ) <[tim.almond] [at] []> on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:49AM (#11538914) Homepage
    Just tell them that you're going to be installing this on all your computers.

    Seriously, how many people need stuff in Office that isn't in

    • i had to reinstall the software for a friend of mine after his system became unusable because a lot of installed junk. I could not bothered locating a warez version of MS office for him, so I just installed Open Office and told him that it was equally good. He still uses it and seems to be completely satisfied with it (apart from once when he had to rewrite a document, incorrectly imported by openoffice from RTF format, just a night before the deadline). My main grief with OpenOffice is its interface. Whil
    • RTF and doc are just too complicated for them to be used by programs outside of Open Office and Microsoft products.

      I would like a simpler format.

      I would prefer to allow any program that is capable of printing a layout to export to some document format, and right now the only possibility is pdf and ps, both of which have no WYSIWG editors.

      Anyone else feel that way?
    • Seriously, how many people need stuff in Office that isn't in

      Seriously? Plenty. I can't wait for OO 2.0 to come out, so that I can try again to convert some of my friends to Linux, or to OO 2.0 for Windows. Everyone I've talked to needs something different, but here are some of the things:

      - Access Equivalent (OO 2.0 will have it)
      - Times New Roman Font (applies only to Linux, and is still do-able, but is not there out of the box)
      - Near-perfect conversion from whatever version of Office
      • Last time I used OpenOffice it didn't have revision tracking... or at least I couldn't figure out how to use it. In addition, it couldn't open Word files which had revision tracking data, producing only a garbled mess.
  • by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:51AM (#11538928)
    Almost everyone uses Microsoft Office as opposed to the various flavors of OpenOffice, StarOffice, etc. Not speaking of its fairness, this is a very effective strategy from Microsoft and not at all surprising.

    It's a blatant abuse of their virtual monopoly, but there hasn't really been an effective incentive for them to stop taking such actions in the past. Why would they refrain from continuing such behavior?
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:53AM (#11538943) Homepage Journal
    "open" is a four letter word, and to Mr. Gates, it is an obscene four letter word.
  • by daniil ( 775990 ) * <> on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:54AM (#11538955) Journal
    If this is their understanding of an open format, then what would a closed format be in Microsoft's book? A write-only one?
    • Well, one could interpret the what they said to mean that anyone can get Microsoft's data and can implement a reader without violating their license. It would be a big step forward for Open Office to have a perfectly compatible reader, especially as it can write to an RTF format that Word reads.

      Of course that's not going to happen, because we have no system of accountability in place to hold companies to their Word. I guess it will be a long time before we see an open office Word Text Format (WTF{tm}).

    • If this is their understanding of an open format, then what would a closed format be in Microsoft's book?

      Any proprietary format owned by a competitor.

      Someday soon, too, Steve Ballmer will complain that GPL'd formats are "closed to Innovation®".

      • Someday soon, too, Steve Ballmer will complain that GPL'd formats are "closed to Innovation®".

        Probably. This fits the definition I've seen:

        Innovation (n): taking something built by someone else, making small cosmetic changes, and claiming the result as yours.

        This is as distinct from "invention", which is a term you don't hear much in the corporate world these days. Only little guys invent; the corporations innovate. And since you can now patent innovations, you have a way to legally prevent the
  • by A Drake Man ( 809441 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:54AM (#11538957)
    OASIS, the format Apple uses for iWork, the KEY is that it will be illegal for anyone to reverse engineer the file format for cross patform/application use. Is that the gist of it?

    I would think that even the NEW Office will still be able to create good ol' .doc files, so wouldn't it burn their biscuits if people just continued to use that instead? (They'll make some minor feature .newdoc only -playing solitaire while working on a doc?- and everyone will use it, anyway, no wishful thinking here...)

  • Microsoft is joking with us again or we are joking with ourself on beliving this?
  • Open Proprietary! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:56AM (#11538967)
    " is our expectation that the next iteration of the Open Format standard will include some Microsoft proprietary formats."


    I guess Proprietary is Open and War is Peace?
    • Re:Open Proprietary! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ctr2sprt ( 574731 )
      Proprietary just means "owned by a private individual or corporation under a trademark or patent." Consider IBM's recent "freeing" of a bunch of their patents for use in open source software. That would be proprietary technology in an open source product. It's not a contradiction at all.

      I also think that when you say "Open" what you actually mean is something closer to "Free." Open Source is a notoriously pragmatic term, whereas Free Software aims more for philosophical freedom ("free as in speech").

      • Or would that be Closed Open formats? I'm confused.

        Let's leave "proprietary" and "free" out of it. Open usually means that you can use and build upon something. An "open" system. i.e. the IBM PC was open, while Mac was criticized for being "closed" (despite that you could get everything about the machine practically down to the schematics).

        Open is a lot less confusing than "Free".
        Closed is a lot less confusing than "Proprietary".

        Microsoft Doublespeak(tm) at its best. In the great tradition of
  • by Jack Taylor ( 829836 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @08:57AM (#11538973)
    Let us all hope that Massachusetts doesn't accept Microsoft's formats if they aren't completely open when it undertakes its review of the decision. If Microsoft are seen to have open office formats in the eye of the public when they are not really open, it can only be a bad thing for OpenDocument and other truly open efforts.

    Everyone who lives in MA, go and write to your appropriate representative now!
    • I don't know who the "appropriate representative" is. This department (the source in the article) seems like a good place to start.

      Eric Kriss, Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance
      Department home page: []
      Contact info:
      Executive Office for Administration & Finance
      State House, Room 373
      Boston MA, 02133
      Phone (617) 727-2040
      Fax (617) 727-2779

      I suspect that a flood of email will be ignored.

      The more clear, concise arguments to
      • Not to reply to my own post, but don't be mad at the guys at Administration & Finance, be helpful. They are the ones standing between MS and the consumer by attempting to force MS to play nice. They're in danger of making a mistake, but at least they're trying. They could just as easily do nothing (c.f. the other 49 states) and no one would notice the opportunity passed by. If you call them frothing at the mouth at the fact that they are stupid and are being played by Microsoft, then they might decide,
    • A flood of e-mail notes will be ignored.

      Microsoft has probably already sent someone a flood of notes. (green ones)
  • Bill said "Suprise! what did you expect fuckers?" :-) *bang goes my karma!*

    Really, Microsoft always say they will do some things, to basically spread FUD, to make managers have an excuse for not jumping ship.

    Why do they do this?

    Hmmm, lets read my crystal ball, aaaah here is a M$ press release:

    "Closed format is more secure! Plus it locks you into Office, which we have no bundled with Windows, which is now etched into the core of every processor! *stiffled manic laughter*"


    "We really don't wa
  • question (Score:3, Informative)

    by vdthemyk ( 843984 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @09:03AM (#11539000) Journal
    Isn't this like saying, "we wrote the English Dictionary so no one is allowed to read English without our approval?" To me, if you want to copyright an idea for a product, go ahead, if you want to protect intelluctual property, that's fine too, but formats for files? Come on! So what if my program can read and write files that your program reads and writes. As long as I didn't take your way of writing those files, I should be fine.
  • by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @09:07AM (#11539014) Homepage Journal
    Could we all endeavor to remember that "FUD" is an acronym for "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" and not simply a synonym for "lying". There is little of the usual Microsoft "end of the world" blather here; it's just deceptive marketing.

    In other words, business as usual.
  • 1) crawl to the File menu
    2) click on Open document
    3) select a document

    Voila... the document is now open. Yes it's THAT simple.
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @09:10AM (#11539032) Homepage Journal

    The MS Office open XML file format consists of an XML branch, followed by an Office branch.
    Unfortunately, due to the complexities of parsing this branch, it should be passed directly as a parameter into our improved Office ActiveX object.
    We are currently developing an addin for firefox as well.

    Thank you for looking at this documentation, that will be all.
  • It is a Commonwealth. There are 46 States and 4 Commonwealths.

    Boring, I know. But I live here so I get to have at least one pet peeve.

  • Whoever submitted that needs to look up what FUD means. It is not a cool leet internet word for dogma. It specifically refers to disinformation about a competing product or competitor intended to damage their business.

    Have the children of slashdot learned nothing from their elders?
  • Hard to reconcile. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DJProtoss ( 589443 )
    Whilst the annoucement in yesterdays /. was a licence that was gpl-incompatible, it was (afaict) within the scope of existing open licences (it didn't read too disimilar to an old-style bsd licence) - I certainly didn't notice any restrictions on writing, and since that is still up on MS's page, i'm guessing that possibly the chap quoted here was speaking unaware of that announcement. either that or MS's site was hacked or maybe I've just misread something.
  • by PsiPsiStar ( 95676 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:08AM (#11539492)
    Essentially, the state of Massachusetts is simply repositioning what it considers an 'open format.'

    How does Bill Gates screw in a lightbulb?

    He doesn't. He declares darkness the industry standard.
  • Document Formats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <`sd_resp2' `at' `'> on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:11AM (#11539528)
    It's clear that too many important people have had their heads up their arses for too long.

    We need to have it made law that file formats are not secrets and not patentable, but form as much a part of the specification for interacting with the software as, say, the key bindings. {I personally would like to see it become law that software vendors must supply full annotated source code with their products, but let's take it one step at a time ..... Mandate open data formats first, then guarantees of performance, then source code escrow to back up the performance guarantees and protect against vendor , then slowly tighten the screws on the escrow agencies and software companies till it's no longer economically viable to sell closed-source software.}

    It wouldn't surprise me if some software vendor had tried at some stage seriously to claim in an EULA that all the rights in any document created with their software belonged to them. I know that it used to be a breach of EULA to use a certain software company's programming languages to develop applications that competed directly with that company's offerings.

    The good news is that EULAs aren't legally enforceable in any sane jurisdiction anyway, so you can go ahead and exercise your inalienable statutory right to reverse-engineer documents -- for the purposes of study, creation of interoperable software or just morbid curiosity -- to your heart's content. In fact, you can even refuse to accept the EULA at all. You can still quite legally use the software under your inalienable statutory right of Fair Dealing -- you just don't get any benefits that were only promised to you in the EULA.
    • by Eivind ( 15695 ) <> on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:48AM (#11540516) Homepage
      I agree. File formats needs to be open. And one more thing too: protocols.

      Software interacts basically one of two different ways.

      Either in that one piece of software saves a file, and another piece of software reads that file.

      Or in that one piece of software directly talks to another piece of software, using some protocol.

      If all file-formats and all protocols where open, a lot would be won.

      • Sorry, I forgot that. Yes, I agree absolutely: all protocols should be open. Maybe I'm just so used to files and block/char devices being accessed alike, that I forgot there even was a distinction: a file is really just a build-up of information, and a protocol is really just a file format for files that move.
      • Of course, in a well-designed OS, programs talk to each other via files, and a protocol is merely the data format used in such files. So a file format and a protocol are really (special cases of) the same thing.

        Going at it from the other direction, we might notice that things like disk drives are in fact "running" or "active" objects in the same class as a process. So reading and writing disk files are in fact special cases of inter-process communication. The I/O channel commands used to do disk I/O are
  • Anti-MS FUD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xfmr_expert ( 853170 )
    I'm no big fan of MS, but this is nothing more than good 'ol jump on the bandwagon MS bashing. This all comes from a letter from MS' XML guru explaining recent clarifications to the license to address concerns from MA. The exact quote is:

    "We are acknowledging that end users who merely open and read government documents that are saved as Office XML files within software programs will not violate the license."

    Here's the exact line from the license:

    "By way of clarification of the foregoing, given th
  • by Go_Ask_Alex ( 459685 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:10AM (#11540124)
    From NPR...

    "Morning Edition, January 31, 2005 The government of Brazil says it will switch 300,000 government computers from Microsoft's Windows operating system to open source software like Linux. Microsoft founder Bill Gates wants to meet with Brazil's president to discuss the change. Brazil is dropping all proprietary software."

    Listen here: Id=4471963 []

    The Brazilians are just saying no!

    • It's pretty sad when the head of a corporation can address foreign government officials as if he is an ambassador and negotiate terms for their government's operations. It's like pulling out the nuclear wild-card, except lawyers are the bombs.
    • Interesting, thanks for the link. Gates wanted to meet with President da Silva of Brazil last week in Davos to work things out. The story you linked to said that they did meet in Davos two years ago, but didn't mention if they met this time. From eWeek, The Open-Source Challenge [] :

      Competitive pressure intensifies when whole countries move toward open-source platforms and applications. Brazil is following the example of China in embracing Linux both for government workers and citizens. This year, Brazil
  • whew! OK, my world makes sense again.
  • Straight from the horse's mouth: px

    Looks "open" enough to me..
  • Eric Kriss, secretary of administration and finance of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
    • They have made representations to us recently they are planning to modify that license, and we believe, if they do so in the way that we understand that they have spoken about (we will leave it obviously to them to describe exactly what they are going to do), it is our expectation that the next iteration of the Open Format standard will include some Microsoft proprietary formats. These formats, like DOC files, will be
  • The FSF has repeatedly told us that words matter. "Free" versus "open" makes a difference because they don't mean the same thing and they don't have the same implications [].

    The open source movement's philosophy focuses on technical superiority in their aim to benefit businesses. This is an incredibly weak philosophy which means open source proponents end up sometimes stumping for software that doesn't qualify as "open source"--proprietary software, in particular (because there is proprietary software that

  • I read the license from and it appears to be clearly open. It allows any developer to create programs (even open-source ones) that read and write in the format; and any patent claims are waived insofar as an attribution notice is included.

    The only change has been a clarification that "end users will not violate this license...merely by reading files...constituted by Microsoft specifications." This does not overrule the prior (open) license in any way, or state that only end-users could read

  • by snorklewacker ( 836663 ) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @03:33PM (#11543313)
    'Buzz about so-called open formats is little more than PR FUD.'

    Show me where Fear, Uncertaintity, and Doubt is being employed as a tactic there? Maybe a bit of uncertaintity, all right ... but chrissakes, could people stop overusing this term? It's just become idiotic, and I've started to get this knee-jerk reaction to knock lots of credence off any argument that uses it.

    "FUD" seems to have the same connotation and baggage as "counterrevolutionary" does in a banana republic.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."