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Microsoft

Microsoft Open Document Standard Not So Open 160

avik42 wrote to mention an EWeek article discussing Microsoft's attempts at an Open Document Standard. From the article: "According to a Microsoft representative, 'The covenant language is what was referred to as the updated license for the Open XML formats that will be submitted to ECMA International for the standardization process.' The only difference between Microsoft's November 2003 open and royalty-free license for the Office 2003 Reference Schemas and today's Office 2003 license, according to the company, is that 'Microsoft is offering a covenant not to sue for the Office 2003 Reference Schemas.'" We reported on this initiative when it was first announced.
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Microsoft Open Document Standard Not So Open

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  • by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:23PM (#14142074)
    Water is wet, and the sky is blue.
    • I'm not suprised (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ndtechnologies ( 814381 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:33PM (#14142187)
      This really isn't all that suprising. In fact when Microsoft first mentioned the possiblity of opening up their XML schema, a lot of people automatically looked at how they were going to do it, and they came to the same conclusion as has been found here.
      • by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:42PM (#14142268)
        Indeed. There is a line in the "license" which specifically states it is a nontransferable right to distribute software using these schemas, but if the right to distribute is nontransferable, any GPL project is banned from using it automatically. From day one it was clear nothing had changed.
        • by SeventyBang ( 858415 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @07:09PM (#14142963)


          My ongoing post about Microsoft, MS Office, and the XML Format.

          I post it every time this topic comes up and people keep forgetting it.

          The last time was Nov. 21:

          They're opening their file formats because they still has a trump card [slashdot.org] (the XML Format Patent). Or has everone forgotten about this?

          A quick patch or two to Microsoft Office (now one of their biggest or the biggest ca$h cow - 1/3 of their profits?) and MS Office suddenly reads|writes XML format only. They aren't about castrating themselves voluntarily. They still have shareholders to keep happy, but more importantly, they want to be the trendsetters, no matter what.[1]

          How does this impact Open Office? Open Office can then read the XML Format because it's declared in the patent. But what O^2 won't be able to do is write the MS Office XML Format [except to violate the patent]. This means: no interoperability and any business which wants to migrate away from a closed system (MS Office) to Open Office can do so only as a one-way trip, burning the bridge behind them. And the company can't communicate both directions, so that forces a move en masse. Corporations do not do this.

          They may not be making the right decisions, but Billy G has it covered:

          "Success is a lousy teacher. It convinces smart people they can't lose."

          p.s.

          Remember, Office Live is still coming down the road and it's going to play a role in this as well.

          ______________________________________________
          [1] They don't want to become what IBM became: an also-ran. They keep stopping to catch their breath, thinking they've got time to rest and the rest of the world keeps moving forward. They haven't learned their lesson. Their first online work was with Compu$erve because they didn't know anything about the Internet (this was up to the release of Win95). They did official support on Compu$erve of all things because of unfamliarity and it wasn't until Bill's "Annual Two Week Summer Sabbatical" he realized they were about to be dealt out of the future. Eventually, he learned eough to say, "I don't care what the Information Superhighway looks like as long as I have a tollbooth on it." Over time, they've attempted to grow from desktops and rise up to the Internet. Google has started at the Internet and spread out. This week's BusinessWeek cover: "Googling for Gold: A market cap over $120B. $8B in cash. Plus 5 billionaires. 1'000 millionaires. No wonder dealmakers, VCs, and brokers are clamoring for a piece of the action." When was the last time you heard this much buzz about Microsoft? Microsoft would love to think Google is a fad. Just as IBM used to have corporate singalongs, I think Microsoft has a ritual. The inner circle gets together every morning and they collectively put skid marks in their shorts. And if at any time during the day they stop, pause & loose their focus, that squishy feel and smell yanks them back to reality and reminds them they may think they're #1, but it's only because they had a head start and it's not doing them much good very much longer. Another thing I've said before: listen to Ballmer when he speaks or look for quotes when it's in print. You will hear him refer to Google in one way and one way only: search engine . This is intentional. Remember, marketing is Microsoft's strongest advantage in the business world. He wants all of the suits^w decision makers in the business world to adopt this mantra: "Why pay so much attention and money to a search engine? There are lots of search engines on the market and any day now, someone's going to come along with a better search engine than Google and we'll have spent time, effort, and money on an also-ran." You don't hear about him spending money, just Bill & Paul (Allen). Steve's got billions himself, but he's in it for the ego rush. He also knows if he slips, even a little, he'll be known in Trivial Pursuit, the Internet Edition, as the guy who let Microsoft slide from #1.
        • by Da_Weasel ( 458921 )
          "This covenant shall not apply with respect to any person or entity that asserts, threatens or seeks at any time to enforce a patent right or rights against Microsoft or any of its affiliates relating to any conforming implementation of the Specifications."

          So ummmm...if Microsoft infringes on your patents in the specification or implementation of it, and you attempt to say anything or do anything about it, then you are no longer covered by the covenant. Hmmm...sounds to my like they are trying to hook ever
      • by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <chris.traversNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @07:49PM (#14143236) Homepage Journal
        It may be compatible with some FOSS licenses (Apache License, for example) but it may not be compatible with the GPL. I.e. the covenant places an additional restriction that the party using the patented inventions not sue Microsoft or any affiliate (read: anybody) over patent violations in these schemas. RMS has said that similar language in the Apache license makes it incompatible with the GPL v2, so maybe Microsoft is trying to select against the GPL in terms of its formats?
        • This is similar to wording in the Sun patent covenant. Why is that GPL compatible if this isn't? From the Sun covenant:

          "Notwithstanding the commitment above, Sun's covenant shall not apply and Sun makes no assurance, covenant or commitment not to assert or enforce any or all of its patent rights against any individual, corporation or other entity that asserts, threatens or seeks at any time to enforce its own or another party's U.S. or foreign patents or patent rights against any OpenDocument Implementati
          • Its GPL incompatible not because of that, but because its nontransferable. If the right ti sell software using the schemas cannot be transferred to any and all users of that software its not GPL v1 compatible, much less GPL v2.
            • Its GPL incompatible not because of that, but because its nontransferable. If the right ti sell software using the schemas cannot be transferred to any and all users of that software its not GPL v1 compatible, much less GPL v2.

              Doesn't that make it incompatible with any FOSS license ? After all, they all give the end user a right to distribute the software and any modifications to others under the same license he received it - that is the very idea of FOSS.

          • IANAL, but I don't think Sun's covenant is either.

            However, for Sun to distribute OOo, they have to guarantee that they will not place additional restrictions on people to use, modify, and redistribute the software under the GPL. So I would think that OOo would be redistributable based on grounds other than Sun's covenant.
    • by PMuse ( 320639 )
      "The sky is blue, water is wet, women have secrets." -JH (1991)
    • Water is wet, and the sky is blue.

      What is truly funny is that someone modded this informative :).

  • 100% opensource (Score:2, Insightful)

    by m3lt ( 933405 )
    What is one to expect from microsoft, just go 100% opensource now?
    • Re:100% opensource (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Jotii ( 932365 )
      I think they're going to keep releasing really small parts as open source, just to get people believe they're the good guys again.
      • Re:100% opensource (Score:2, Insightful)

        by eneville ( 745111 )
        > I think they're going to keep releasing really
        > small parts as open source, just to get people
        > believe they're the good guys again.

        They were never good guys. The only open format from them is MS Paint BMP.
        • People believed they were the good guys. What a relief that BMP is open, with it we can avoid all the legal issues with GIF.
    • Re:100% opensource (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This has nothing to do with source code. This is about open file formats, for dealing with government documents. Other parties must be completely free to implement support for these formats without royalty, without patent infringement, and without restrictions on licensing.
    • yeah... it's hard to see microsoft do something like that but can't we ask for them to not be scumbag liars? apparently this claim was as true as the "Get The Facts" campain.
  • Same old? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hkmwbz ( 531650 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:26PM (#14142103) Journal
    Haven't we been through this before? Quite a while ago Microsoft bragged about using XML as its new Office format. It turned out to be XML with some proprietary additions and such. Is this the very same format, only now Microsoft is claiming it to be open again?
    • Re:Same old? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rbochan ( 827946 )
      Yep.
      Has Microsoft _ever_ been open with regards to standards and practices? Never. They've never done anything more than lip service with regards to anything other than their own bottom line. Color me cynical if you want, but whenever Microsoft is being touted as anything even close to 'altruistic', the end result usually makes one want to wretch in disgust.



    • Just say No!

      to proprietary, closed, non-standards based bastardizations.
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:29PM (#14142138) Homepage Journal
    I was so excited when I went to the Microsoft Windows website, seeing such titles as "Transforming Word Documents into the XSL-FO Format" and such. Now all I need to do is maybe not.go download the .exe to start translating on my linux system. Oh wait, that would be for Microsoft Windows only. Well maybe I should just go take a look at "Word 2003: XML Software Development Kit (SDK)". Now all I need to do is download the wdxmlsdk.msi file and run that. Oh wait, screwed again.

    Imagine that, I look through the entire site and can't find a single executable or document format that doesn't require me to buy a Microsoft Windows OS and Office Suite. Lets all give Microsoft a big round of applause for their open XML format!

  • Seek ye groklaw. (Score:5, Informative)

    by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:29PM (#14142142)
    As usual groklaw has a very thorough analysis of this subject. From their web page here are some of the potential problems.

    "1. Patent protection is contingent on a conformant implementation. "Conformant" is not defined, meaning there is uncertainty needing legal advice.

    2. There is no provision for partial implementation, meaning true community-based development is not covered until complete.

    3. It may well mean that implementation of just a word processor is impossible -- it implies that you have to implement everything (spreadsheets & all) to reach the bar.

    4. It is specific to the version currently existing, meaning I can be hooked into supporting it now, but when Office 12 or Office 13 comes out & I update to be compatible with the format in that I can get sued. The covenant Sun uses creates ongoing protection.

    5. It does not grant patents to the ECMA standard as it only applies to Office 11 XML. This means a new covenant will be needed for the ECMA work.

    6. If the same form of words were used for a contribution to ECMA, then those prototyping the ongoing evolution of the standard as ECMA changed it would lose protection the instant any change was made. It applies only to Microsoft's input, not to ECMA's output. Or maybe they would rather ECMA didn't change anything?"

    If you ask me #1 should be "Ms lies all the time, they are probably lying now, they don't really care about anybody except themseves, they have always stabbed their partners in the back, they don't play nice with anybody, anytime, anywhere".

  • Open but not Free (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kebes ( 861706 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:30PM (#14142149) Journal
    I agree with Stallman, who says:

    "designed to prohibit all free software. It covers only code that implements, precisely, the Microsoft formats, which means that a program under this license does not permit modification."

    This control that Microsoft wants to maintain has two problems. One, programmers are not free to modify the document format to suit their particular needs. This limits freedom and innovation in many ways.

    Two, it means that the future direction of the standard is not truly free or open. Only MS can decide what the next incarnation will be like? Only MS can control the future directions of our document format? That is just another form of control. It still means that our data is locked into a format that we don't really own or control. Yes, being somewhat open, it would be easier, in the future, to migrate to another standard, but ultimately the user still gets screwed. It should be obvious that it's better to have a format that is decided upon in a more transparent and communal way. If new features are needed, they can be debated and possibly added to future versions. If someone doesn't like the trend that the format is taking, they can fork it and create a derivative format (that will presumably not have the blessing of the official versions' name, since it's not incompatible... but that's okay). In the long run, perhaps this variant becomes the "next big thing." With an MS-style control, that innovation cannot happen, and the future of the document standard is weakened.

    In short, Microsoft doesn't understand what we mean when we say "we want an open standard."
    • by syle ( 638903 ) <syle AT waygate DOT org> on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:49PM (#14142339) Homepage
      In short, Microsoft doesn't understand what we mean when we say "we want an open standard."
      Oh, they understand you well enough. When someone creates language to specifically stop you from doing what you want, it isn't an accident and it does not demonstrate lack of understanding. Just the opposite.
    • One, programmers are not free to modify the document format to suit their particular needs.

      What is the point of a standard if anyone can change it?? If you need something different than the standard, create your own format. Don't dilute compatibilty by introducing non-standard elements (embrace and extend).

      It still means that our data is locked into a format that we don't really own or control.

      As long as the original standard is published, anyone is free to implement a converter or reader to access them and
      • by kebes ( 861706 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @06:47PM (#14142792) Journal
        What is the point of a standard if anyone can change it??

        As I said here [slashdot.org] there is a good reason why (some people) need to be able to modify a "standard" to suit their needs. Agreeing on standards is useful. Preventing people from creating derivatives of a standard to satisfy their particular needs is not. We need some innovators to push the envelope, and those people need the freedom to create derivative standards. (But not necessarily the right to confuse people by claiming that these derivative standards are compatible with the original standard.) Having 1/4-20 screws as a standard is good. Forbidding someone from implementing a metric version of the same idea is bad (hooray for M6 screws! [wikipedia.org]... sometimes the derivative standard is better...).

        As long as the original standard is published, anyone is free to implement a converter or reader to access them and the data is hardly "locked".

        I think that's a large part about what this debate is. Microsoft is not providing a totally open document standard that anyone can legally re-implement. OpenDocument gives us this. What MS is doing is creating a new standard, and making the documentation available, but subjecting it to various licensing schemes. At first, the schemes seem reasonable available, but in fact the provisions make it unclear if other products will be able to open the MS document standard in perpetuity.

        At a minimum, the legalese is confusing and it's not at all clear that the MS document format will be open and useable in the ways we need it to be.

        An open format doesn't mean that everyone has a say in what the standard is

        Fair enough... but in my book, a format isn't open if I'm not allowed to create a derivative standard (under a new name). I should be allowed to innovate and come up with a variant of OpenDocument (and call it "UberTextFormat!" or whatever), or come up with a new kind of screw or electrical socket, based on current designs. Whether or not the standard becomes widely implemented is another question altogether. It is in our general interest to use a small set of standards to get our work done efficiently. But having a particular standard immune to evolution does not serve our goals.
        • Fair enough... but in my book, a format isn't open if I'm not allowed to create a derivative standard (under a new name). I should be allowed to innovate and come up with a variant of OpenDocument (and call it "UberTextFormat!" or whatever), or come up with a new kind of screw or electrical socket, based on current designs. Whether or not the standard becomes widely implemented is another question altogether. It is in our general interest to use a small set of standards to get our work done efficiently. But
  • Legal question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eric76 ( 679787 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:31PM (#14142165)
    Can a covenant not to sue even be considered to be some kind of license?

    I think a covenant not to sue is basically a promise, nothing more.

    In contrast, a license grants certain rights to the licensee.

    In what way does Microsoft's covenant actually grant any kind of rights to a licensee?
    • by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:48PM (#14142328)
      In the Middle Ages: "DUNK the WITCH!" If she floats, she IS a witch and we BURN HER! If she sinks and drowns, then she is not a witch, and we bury her in the full embrace of Church. As one can see, Microsoft draws on fairly well established and traditional legal presidents.
      • Um, I think you meant "... well established and traditional legal congressmen "...
      • Re:Legal question (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        traditional legal presidents.

        I think you meant Legal Precedent [wikipedia.org].

        A legal president is what you're supposed to get after a valid election in democratic republics. Don't worry, the mistake is understandable. You're probably from a republic where politicians use illegal tricks to get elected... Hence your confusion.
    • Simply put, stating publicly that you will not pursue litigation with respect to a Patent or Copyright under "X" conditions, while not carrying the same weight as a license, will make it deucedly difficult to pursue an "infringer" at some later date because there would be an expectation of them keeping to their public proclaimations at a later date. But, it would only apply to the implementations that explicitly followed what was "promised" and anything else, esp. after they go back on their promise, would
      • I want a license, not a promise. While it will protect me in court, a promise holds less weight than an explicit license.

        That's fine for software.

        But we're talking about standards governing the way I can store my proprietary data, and the way my government is to store any data that could affect me.

        I want that to be free of any kind of license; I demand that this standard be completely unencumbered by any corporate or individual rights. What you compose on the keyboard is your intellectual property; n

  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:33PM (#14142188) Journal
    From an AC developer in a linked article in TFA: "In English, that means if an open-source group agreed to use the license (never gonna happen) and built an application with it, they can NOT provide the source code for it with the license. If you write code with a license, you can NOT share that code with me unless I go get a license, too. Pretty much against everything open source is about," the developer said.

    MS: The ceiling is blue.
    Me: Obviously, it is not. It is chartreuse. You said you'd make it blue, but it is still chartreuse. Maybe a slightly different shade of chartreuse, but chartreuse.

    MS: No, it's blue. It says it right here in our marketing materials. That color you see is now called blue.
    Me: Screw this, I'm going outside, where the sky is really blue, and everyone calls it blue. Whatever you're selling isn't the same as what you're calling it.
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:38PM (#14142229) Journal
    things have changed. Just this AM, people were saying that MS should be given a chance. Oh, well. I still want to see how this shakes out. Part of me hopes that MS will see the light, but I doubt it.
    • I love the jackoffs who came/come here whining "Can we please not do the whole typical slashdot MS is evil so let's bash them no matter what they do. Can't they for once just possibly be doing the right thing?".

      Here's a clue to you Microsoft fanboys who somehow continue not to get it. No, MS cannot possible act in any other way beyond being an unethical ill behaving monopolist. We will contine not to trust them and we will continue to call them out for what they are. They play extremely dirty lie, cheat, an
    • Part of me hopes that MS will see the light, but I doubt it.

      I don't doubt it...but only in the looooooong term, decades and decades down the line when we all have Eyeball Linux running in our contact-lenses and Google implants in our temples and we're all having spontaneous orgasms from being able to download porn just by *thinking* about it...Microsoft will wake up one morning and notice that it isn't 1995 any more and it'll never again be king of the megabytes and it'll stand on it's last million in res

  • by adolfojp ( 730818 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:40PM (#14142247)
    The only difference between Microsoft's November 2003 open and royalty-free license for the Office 2003 Reference Schemas and today's Office 2003 license, according to the company, is that 'Microsoft is offering a covenant not to sue for the Office 2003 Reference Schemas.
    Now, if we could just get the same thing for mono...
  • by Descalzo ( 898339 )
    MicroSoft is not stupid, and they will do what they have to do. So the only way to make them do what we want them to do is to make it so they have to do it. They are making these overtures of openness to try to keep big customers, like the city of Boston, right? Well, if Boston doesn't like this 'open' plan, they can do something else (and should!).

    People (by people I mean most people) take what they are used to taking. If we can get enought people to be ticked off at this and use another format, we

  • by Tim Browse ( 9263 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:44PM (#14142285)

    Covenant language?

    So that's what the religious war was about in Halo! The Aliens using OpenOffice against the heretic humans using Microsoft Office. Or possibly the other way around.

    I always wondered why both sides hated each other so much.

    Time to call in the Arbiter!

  • by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:45PM (#14142301) Homepage

    M$ will never make their documents standards open because the Office apps represent an enormous amount of their income. The other app is Windows. Everything else they do is either a loss or a drop in the bucket. M$ knows that once they open up their doc formats, competitors would drive them out of that business.

    gasmonso http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • Vector Graphics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Biff Stu ( 654099 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:47PM (#14142317)
    Even if it were really open, the other question is how to deal with embedded vector graphics? Right now, the only formats that MS supports are .emf & .wmf. These are MS proprietary formats and they only display reliably if you're working on a Windows machine. If you're stuck with documents with significant embedded emf graphics and you don't want to use Windows, you're currently S.O.L. Of course, the ultimate answer would be for MS to support .svg in its Office products, but it's not clear that they will ever want to give up this subtle little lock that ties Office to Windows.
    • Re:Vector Graphics (Score:3, Informative)

      by narcc ( 412956 )
      The WMF format is very well understood. Microsoft isn't hiding anything about it. Check out wotsit.org [wotsit.org] for 3 good documents about WMF (including one from MS)
      • by Biff Stu ( 654099 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @07:29PM (#14143095)
        I'm not sure that you get the problem. I haven't looked through everything on the site you linked, but I did find the document from MS on EMF; it's in the form of a Microsoft help file. This makes me suspect that these documents focus on how to format an emf graphic for display on a Windows box and how to call the Windows emf rendering engine from your program on a Windows box. If so, I'm sure that there's plenty of documentation on how to do that. The problem is the reverse. As far as I know, the only effective emf rendering engine out there is the one embedded into the Windows OS. Getting reliable emf files to render on other OS's is not so easy. Take Office for Mac for example. MS supplies an emf rendering engine, but half the time the results are complete garbage.

        I work for a company that provides research to the government. Many of our documents contain plots of data. In order to keep file sizes manageable, these are embedded as vector graphics. Yes, we could use Postscript with a low-res bitmapped preview and they would print nicely on a Postscript printer. However, our customers typically want WYSISYG performance and they don't necessarily want to be locked into Postscript printers. Furthermore, you can't put Postscript graphics into Powerpoint. (Well, you can, but all you see is the low-res bitmapped preview.) Therefore, if much of this work is to be viewed correctly, the government is locked into Windows. To make matters worse, this lock-in is being supported with your tax dollars. (Assuming that you're an American; if not, your government probably has the same problem anyhow.) What we need as part of an open document standard is an embedded vector graphics standard that will display on Windows boxes running Office and *nix boxes running alternative software. In order for that to happen, MS will need to provide WYSIWYG support for something besides EMF in its Office applications.
    • Re:Vector Graphics (Score:2, Interesting)

      by herbyderby ( 137467 )
      This is actually a bigger issue than most people realize. All of the charts in Excel and PowerPoint are embedded as EMF files, which indeed are poorly documented.

      But even worse than WMF/EMF is the EMF+ Dual format used in recent versions of Office. It is an almost completely undocumented format that hides GDI+ commands within EMF comment records in parallel with the normal GDI-based records. Because only Microsoft knows the format of the secret comment records, only it can leverage them to produce higher qu
  • After all, the MS Office XML format is so hideous that I doubt any programmer would want to modify an application that dares touch the thing!

    Thank you, Microsoft! :)
  • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:49PM (#14142340) Homepage Journal
    PJ and Marbux do a fine job of demolishing this particular feat of verbal legerdemain over on Groklaw [groklaw.net]

    Not only do MS not promise to extend the covenant past Office 11, but they limit the covenant to "patent claims necessary to conform" without defining what constitures conformance or necessity in this context.

    This means that they can still sue if they allege that there was another way you could have implemented the spec without infringing on their patents (since it wasn't necessary) or they can sue if you don't implement every last detail on the spec (since your implementation isn't conformant).

    Between those two, and the fact that MS have not committed not to change the spec at some future time, they can sue just about anyone they like.

    PJ also points out that the EMCA doesn't require a free licence, just Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (RAND). However they explicity decline to offer a definition of RAND and simply presume that all submissions will be offered under RAND terms. Which means MS can pretty much do as they see fit.

    All in all, typical Microsoft smoke and mirrors.

    • It's also important that MS is only judge of what is and is not conformant with the spec because they get to decide what is "complete". This means that at any time they can decide that an open source project is not "complete" and then sue them if they continue to insist that it is.

      Too bad they seem to have bought the governors office though. Spread a few rolexes around and MA will accept your definition of open. Do we live in a great country or what?
      • I think the second part of your comment got you modded down, but I wanted to say that I thought you hit the nail on the head with the first part:

        It's also important that MS is only judge of what is and is not conformant with the spec because they get to decide what is "complete". This means that at any time they can decide that an open source project is not "complete" and then sue them if they continue to insist that it is.

        The additional concern is that MS is so big and known to be legally aggressive, the f

  • by coastin ( 780654 ) * on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:53PM (#14142377) Homepage
    Lie to me, force me to write hot checks, but please, please Microsoft, respect me in the morning...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:56PM (#14142408)
    that it might fool a political figure or high level state govenment functionary into thinking it was open.
  • by phrackwulf ( 589741 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:58PM (#14142423) Homepage
    Cross Bill's heart and hope to die, stick a needle in Balmer's eye, promise they won't sue. It must be true, Redmond's lawyers say so! (Anyone else flashing back to Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown by any chance?) Too bad Johnny Cochran kicked the bucket, we might need to employ the "Liar, liar, pants on fire defense" if this goes bad!
  • by snitmo ( 901312 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @05:58PM (#14142434)
    I'm guessing some marketers and engineers in MS got excited about open format and made a splash. For example, Mr. Brian Jones looked genuinely interested in doing so in his blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/ [msdn.com]). The executives learned about it later, and said "Oh, no, we can't let them open the format ... we'll lose the lock-in!" and they overruled them. Happens all the time in corporations.
  • Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said "The commonwealth is very pleased with Microsoft's progress in creating an open document format. If Microsoft follows through as planned, we are optimistic that Office Open XML will meet our new standards for acceptable open formats."

    Romney, for those who don't know, seems to be positioning himself for a run at the 2008 Republican nomination for president. Those MS campaign dollars must look very tempting to him. But political corruption is being uncovered on an alm
    • I tend to agree with the earlier poster who postulates that data and application are two different issues. You should be able to use any application you like to access YOUR data. If the file formats are truly standard, than the best product - open source or otherwise - will win. Features, price point, etc will rule the day. This has NEVER been the Microsoft business model and I think all of here are well aware of it.

      I plan on keeping a rather close eye on this gentleman for quite some time. All politic
      • Features, price point, etc will rule the day. This has NEVER been the Microsoft business model and I think all of here are well aware of it.

        It used to be the Microsoft business model. WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 were once as dominant as Word and Excel. Microsoft was the up-and-comer trying to do it better and cheaper while maintaining compatibilty with the incumbent. And WP and Lotus tried to block MS by tweaking file formats and application behaviors.

        The same thing is true of Netware. Early versions of W

    • Better watch your step watch, Mitt. You're not in Utah anymore.

      Why should he start worrying now. Playing to the corporates has been working well for him so far. http://thinkprogress.org/index.php?p=819 [thinkprogress.org]
      Don't forget, he's a (former) venture capitalist who spent almost 10 million to get elected. He's there for a reason...
    • Well then MA is going to have to change their current standard for a format to be considered open. Anyone listening to the hearings knows that one of the criteria is that the format be open to everyone for revision and input. In this case the format is controlled by a single vendor and fails that point miserably.

      I am sure however that given some crooked politics and a little money thrown in the right places that may be revised.
  • by sit1963nz ( 934837 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @06:15PM (#14142559)
    Personally I don't give a damn one way or the other about open source software. What I do care about is open source document/data formats and open source protocol formats. Miscrosoft, Apple, Adobe, who ever can write their own software, keep the source well hidden and do what they like, however the DATA that is created is created by ME, not them, so I believe that I own that data and have the right to access it via what ever means I require. Instead of anyone protecting their marketshare by consumer lock-in methods such as proprietry formats, they should be keeping their customers happy by having the best products. It is ONLY through this method that we will see software improvements, better interface designs, better (useable/needed) functionality, better speed, wider platform acceptance. Lets face it, how much more needs to be jammed into a wordprocessor, being able to put in multimedia is crap as the ultimate goal of a WP is the printed format/document, if you need a multimedia presentation then there are other formats (acrobat is one option). Bottom line is if it can not be printed it is not part of a WP. So I guess we can almost safely assume that the WP has been done to death and the only thing keeping it there as a revenue stream is changes in file/data formats. The same applies to protocols, Microsoft can keep Exchange proprietry as hell, however the data and the protocols must be open, that way someone can create a functionally equal (better?) product. if MS has the best product (useability,support,functionality,etc) and they charge for it and have the most customers then more power to them, if someone can create a better product client side or server side the again more power to them. To see if this works, well just look at POP servers, Webservers,NNTP, etc etc etc. There are both open source and commercial softwares accross a variety of platforms, and it seems to me that this system has proven its worth over time.
  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @06:36PM (#14142728) Homepage Journal
    Why does Microsoft insist on proposing a new "open" document format when there is already an established one accepted by several official standards bodies as well as endorsed by practically every other office suite producer? Why can't Microsoft for ONCE accept someone else's standard and stick to it? I know there's the whole "it's not from here" ego thing, but sheesh.

    If Microsoft learned to play well with others, they'd not have a black eye right now. Microsoft is like the kid who was bigger than everyone else in 3rd grade and a bit of a bully, only everyone else has caught up to them in size and are now starting to fight back and hit the punk where it hurts. Linux on the server end and the OOo suite on the deskop are really hurting, and with several Linux distros' being ready for prime time - for real now - they're scared shitless.

    Microsoft could continue to dominate the market through offering integration services plus value-added development and extension of open source projects, but again, it's the whole "it's not from here" thing getting in the way.
    • Because MS is in business of making money instead of making friends. It has nothing to do with their egos. More to do with greed and shortsightedness, I think.

      As long as MS has its own Office format (even if it's open), OOo and other products can never be 100% compatible with Office. No offense to OOo developers here ... I have a lot of respect to them. However, once OOo achieves 100% compatibility with Office, MS will change the format slightly so that OOo won't work 100% well. This routine repeats

      • Good points. I don't understand all the comments wondering "why Microsoft is so stupid not to know what an open format is?" They are doing this simply to buy some time and give the image that they are creating an open and free to use standard. They never truly will because then a lot of people would immediately switch to other office programs to save a few bucks. Microsoft NEEDS office. They need to hold on to the format lock-in that helps them retain their customers.
    • Why does Microsoft insist on proposing a new "open" document format when there is already an established one...

      Good point. And for that matter, if Microsoft is trying to support open document standards, then why not just open up the old Microsoft Office formats? You know, give us all the documentation, let us write fully compatible readers (legally). After all, lots of people already use MS Office formats. Of course, we all know that they are offering a new document format (rather than accepting what Op
  • Why people never even consider that something else exists other than MS Office. It's not just a philosophical argument, everyone I know has ran into problems with a.doc from a different version that doesn't open. It is hard for some people to do work at home, then bring it to work/school and use it! If it's a.doc, it should work in every version of work. The same goes for all the other formats.

    py
    • Because there isn't any real alternative to the almighty MS Word, no matter how much we hope otherwise.

      Really, who wants to pay hundreds of $ for every copy of MS word? Considering today's hardware prices, the price of Windows + Office may well be more than the price of the hardware itself...

      OO.o is not there yet, although it's close.
      Abiword lacks the features (and it only takes one important person in your group who can't live without those features for the whole group to abandon it)
      LaTeX is too complicate
  • by FishandChips ( 695645 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @07:16PM (#14143016) Journal
    The whole thing is a farce. Microsoft aren't going to implement open formats because if they did their business would take a monster hit. At the same time, they aren't going to tell the truth and say so because they daren't risk alienating yet more people and, besides, they know which way the popular wind is blowing. What is it with these guys that no matter what happens, they simply cannot tell anything straight?

    So we are subjected to this grim charade, which might just be enough to put Massachusetts and others back in their box and prevent a domino effect. Meanwhile, behind closed doors, the dirty work of persuasion continues with (metaphorically speaking, of course) a sap in one hand a a wad of $100 bills in the other.

    Really, if Microsoft were Pinocchio, they'd be having to employ a train of footmen to carry their nose in front of them, and give ten minutes' warning of a sneeze so that a team could struggle down the line with a kerchief the size of a parachute. I know it's unreasonable to treat every Microsoft proposal as suspect. Alas, though, experience suggests that it usually is.
    • Bingo.

      The only thing I disagree with is this: "I know it's unreasonable to treat every Microsoft proposal as suspect."

      At this point I think it's entirely reasonable, even prudent, to treat every Microsoft proposal not just as suspect, but as outright hostile, until definitively proven otherwise. I can't remember the last time I saw something come out of that company that didn't have an angle or a hook buried in it somewhere, or give me the vague feeling that they were out to screw me as a consumer down the
    • What is it with these guys that no matter what happens, they simply cannot tell anything straight?

      So we are subjected to this grim charade, which might just be enough to put Massachusetts and others back in their box and prevent a domino effect.


      You probably noticed, but in case you didn't...you answered your own question 8*)
  • In fact, right here on Slashdot, very early this morning [slashdot.org].

    It will be interesting watching this one play out.
  • from pcpro.co.uk>

    Sun Microsystems is urging the state of Massachusetts not to be swayed by Microsoft's submission of Office XML to the Ecma standards body.

    In a letter sent to Secretary Trimarco, Massachusetts Executive Office of Administration and Finance, Sun's head of corporate standards, Carl Cargill, outlines his concerns over Microsoft's recent move. ....

    While Microsoft has promised to submit its work to Ecma, Cargill emphasises that promises alone should not replace existing open standards.

    'Just as
  • Believing in an ECMA [wikipedia.org] standard is like believing to a restaurant rating on the Michelin Guide.
    In other words, ECMA is driven by industry leaders. How can you be sure they aren't eager to swallow everything MS and its pockets throws at them? Just the same with IEEE...
    This is not the case for ISO and IEC standards, for example (which have other problems anyway, see the SUN/Java affair...).

    And don't even think to cite JavaScript (ECMAScript), please...

We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything.

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