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IBM Slams Microsoft, Calls OOXML "Inferior" 238

cristarol sends word that Microsoft's accusation, that IBM has sabotaged Redmond's attempts to have the Office OpenXML format approved by the ISO, has drawn a heated response from IBM. Ars Technica has the story. "'IBM believes that there is a revolution occurring in the IT industry, and that smart people around the world are demanding truly open standards developed in a collaborative, democratic way for the betterment of all,' IBM VP of standards and OSS Bob Sutor told Ars. 'If "business as usual" means trying to foist a rushed, technically inferior and product-specific piece of work like OOXML on the IT industry, we're proud to stand with the tens of countries and thousands of individuals who are willing to fight against such bad behavior.'"
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IBM Slams Microsoft, Calls OOXML "Inferior"

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  • by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:01AM (#22305442)
    I'm not really much for liking megacorps, but it's good to see one -- IBM in this case, for the moment -- that's on the right side.
  • IBM Are Right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:12AM (#22305520) Homepage
    I think IBM are absolutely right when they say that the customers prefer to have documented open standards which can be supported by a variety of different applications from different vendors.

    I can see no case at all to support Microsofts point of view that it's better to use a document format which is supported by only one company that can only be guaranteed to work with their products and where this guarantee is not set in stone and could be subject to change at the whim of the company.

    From a business point of view anything which maintains the lock in to Microsofts Office products is good for Microsoft and anything which is truly open benefits IBM and as I said above I think what the customer wants in this case is also the same thing IBM want which means IBM are going to be getting a lot of goodwill for pushing their point of view.

    It will be interesting to see just how far MS are willing to go to defend their office lock in and whether they will see sense, give in and rely on Office ( which is a good product IMHO ) to compete on a level playing field with it's competitors.
  • Standard reply.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wowsers ( 1151731 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:14AM (#22305534) Journal
    If only Microsoft concentrated so much on fixing their software as they do in trying to force standards (or with the web - break standards).
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:14AM (#22305538) Homepage Journal

    When a company that used to be a monopolist is now one of the staunchest defenders of openness, I really do hope there is no hidden agenda here.
    Of course there's a hidden agenda. Except that it's not so hidden. IBM's business model currently revolves around services, rather than products. It's in IBM's best interests to have a diverse set of vendors in the IT industry to choose from rather than a monopoly and a monoculture. Microsoft is also in the services business, but their services revolve around their specific products, whereas IBM is a vendor that takes a more ecumenical view.

    IOW, IBM's 'ulterior' motive is profit, and their profit goals happen to be in alignment with what's best for the IT industry and the greater IT community.
  • Re:IBM Are Right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <> on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:25AM (#22305592) Journal

    From a business point of view anything which maintains the lock in to Microsofts Office products is good for Microsoft and anything which is truly open benefits IBM and as I said above I think what the customer wants in this case is also the same thing IBM want which means IBM are going to be getting a lot of goodwill for pushing their point of view.

    Anything which maintains the lock-in to MS Office &c. is good for Microsoft and Microsoft alone.
    Anything which is truly open benefits IBM as well as the rest of the world.

    With two sides such as these, there is really no question as to which side I'm on.
    Of course, should IBM become too greedy, nothing would stop me from loathing them as much as I loathe Microsoft nowadays.

  • by RMH101 ( 636144 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:25AM (#22305596)
    IBM now sell overpriced services sold at tremendous profit. They'd much rather have open standards that they can use, and profit from consulting you to death wrapping a service layer around them.
  • by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:28AM (#22305608) Homepage
    Exactly and it's my suspicion that a company whos business model is actually in line with their customers requirements is going to be more successful than one whos business model basically relies on customers behaving in a way which suits Microsoft and attempts to enforce that behaviour by removing the customers choices.
  • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) * on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:33AM (#22305646)
    Is that Microsoft Office blows away. Completely. Microsoft could go with ODF and still compete very well against OO.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:35AM (#22305652)
    " They'd much rather have open standards that they can use, and profit from consulting you to death wrapping a service layer around them."

    Yes, that's very true. But they are OPEN STANDARDS. You don't have to give IBM oodles of money, you can just figure it out for yourself.

    IBM will continue to make money as long as there are people (or companies) around who are willing to pay their rates, I'm guessing because they feel they get their money's worth.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:44AM (#22305704)
    Seems pretty logical to me.

    Microsoft mostly gets money from its software, they thus need to make sure they will keep selling it. Then they can make even more money with consulting when customers are locked in.

    IBM mostly gets money from consulting services, they thus need "open" environments where they can charge high price for advice vs software.

    So what you think is the right side is actually the opportunistic side to them. This is still the right side for us though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:46AM (#22305730)
    Interesting how Microsoft refers to being unchallenged as "business as usual."
  • by Dan541 ( 1032000 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:53AM (#22305802) Homepage
    In the 21st century a standardised file format for Word Processors and other office documents is long overdue.

    I support the .ODF format all the way.

  • by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:53AM (#22305804) Journal
    Interesting how Microsoft words corruption, bribery and subverting the ISO process as "Business as Usual". In which case, what IBM is doing is very good for the industry - exposing crooks for what they are.
  • by Ngarrang ( 1023425 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @09:59AM (#22305872) Journal
    IBM, despite having lost the OS battle, will win this one. They are the 1600lb gorilla. Their influence in the industry and deep and wide and should never be underestimated. Microsoft would do well not to make an enemy of them.
  • by ta bu shi da yu ( 687699 ) * on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:01AM (#22305908) Homepage
    Yup, and to chime in here - that's the difference in this situation. Let's say IBM gets lots of money for an overpriced service. In this market, there is noone forcing you to use their services. With Microsoft software, however, because they have a virtual monopoly then everyone is forced to use Microsoft's non-open, locked down format.

    The quote that was most telling for me was this one, from Tsilas:

    "[Mandating open standards in government] is a new way to compete. They are using government intervention as a way to compete. It's competing through regulation, because you couldn't compete technically."

    That quote is, frankly, hilarious. Finally they have found that they are uncompetitive in something, and boy do they find this difficult. They've been so used to forcing the market to use their product that when the market finally corrects itself they're not sure what to do. Thus they try to fast-track a technically inferior standard.

    The end result is that the exact opposite of what Tsilas asserts is happening. The ODF format is technically superior, but because it won't work with old Microsoft "features" (read: bugs), Microsoft cannot compete.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:06AM (#22305960) Homepage Journal

    IBM, despite having lost the OS battle, will win this one. They are the 1600lb gorilla. Their influence in the industry and deep and wide and should never be underestimated. Microsoft would do well not to make an enemy of them.
    Oh, I think it's much, much too late for that. IBM and Microsoft have been at odds since the whole OS/2 joint development agreement fallout. The only thing nobody seems to notice much around here is that IBM has been winning.
  • by Prototerm ( 762512 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:09AM (#22305992)
    Microsoft appears to have a core philosophy that all things in the computer should be mushed together. Every application and device driver should be allowed (and indeed encouraged) to share their innermost secrets with any process that asks. This is the reason for all of Windows' and Office's vulnerabilities. Notice the utter chaos that has ensued when Vista tightened up a few of those "I'm-ok-you're-ok" sharing paths.

    One of the problems I have with the whole MS Office file design is that it includes both data and executables in the same file. There is no way to separate the two. Now, I suppose I'm out of step with the rest of the world, but those should be in separate files. As long as the data is fully documented, and has all the appropriate pieces for the purpose (style definitions, mathematical formulae), any program should be able to operate on it. IMHO, we should not be encouraging the mixture of (for example) a spreadsheet document that contains the calculations for a company's PL statement with the code (e.g., VBA) used to control data entry into that document. Simply loading the document should not put someone at risk for malware infection, because it should contain no programs in the first place. I like having powerful macros as much as the next guy, but I believe it has gone too far.If you need that much control, then write a separate program that operates on the data, and keep the data separate.

    Here's a wild idea: Replace all the data files (and only data files -- no macros or exe's) on a computer with entries in a SQL database (with appropriate security, of course, to restrict sharing), so any application, from any vendor, can easily read and write it. As Microsoft proved when it tried to put SQL into the OS, this isn't as easy as I made it sound. But this may have more to do with their inability to add the old vulnerabilities into the scheme than making the whole thing work right.

    Microsoft wishes to enshrine all of its past mistakes in the new format, and continue its malware-friendly development philosophy. That is wrong, and the Office 2007 file format is too flawed to be seriously considered as a universal standard (intellectual property issues aside). It's good to see a company the size of IBM fight against its acceptance.
  • by mgblst ( 80109 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:20AM (#22306058) Homepage
    This all sounds nice, and we all wish what you just said is true, but only a fool would discount the effect that Microsoft has on the industry at large. Most companies out there, are ALL microsoft shops - they won't even consider anything else. Most people out there don't give a damn about anything else, except their core business, and it ain't IT. Sure, there are a bunch of smart people out there who stay away from Microsoft as much as possible (and these people were aound 20 years ago), but they work in Universities or a few small businesses. This is the fact. Microsofts hold is great and legendary.
  • Re-worded quote from the comment above: "Most companies out there are All-Microsoft shops -- They won't even consider anything else. Most people care only about their core business, and that isn't IT."

    True, but IBM is influential with people who understand Microsoft's abuse. See this quote from the Ars Technica article:

    A ZDNet article published late last month quotes Microsoft officials who claim that IBM is solely responsible for ISO's recent decision to deny OOXML fast-track approval. "Let's be very clear," Jean Paoli, Microsoft's senior director of XML technology, told ZDNet. "It has been fostered by a single company--IBM. If it was not for IBM, it would have been business as usual for this standard."

    I'm glad we don't have "business as usual", as defined by Microsoft.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:47AM (#22306388)
    Revisit your comment in 10 years and see if you were right. These things have a way of panning out in unintended ways. I'm very nervous about getting behind IBM for ANYTHING
  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @10:59AM (#22306532)
    IBM sell hardware and Software too. Open standards allow IBM to suggest its own software and hardware as part of its consultancy :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:26AM (#22306902)
    Microsoft - not IBM is forcing the initial ulterior motive. Microsoft's biggest money makers are Office and Windows. They've run out of room for Office "improvements" and thus customers don't need to upgrade from the 2000 and 2003 versions. Changing the default file format of the Office programs "forces" users who haven't upgraded to upgrade...note how MS hasn't made a patch for 2000 or 2003 to read the default .docx and .xlsx formats of 2007.

    2007 users who don't know better, send these formats to 2000 and 2003 user who can't open them, thereby creating an artificial need to "upgrade."
    I think IBM is trying to call MS out on this practice.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @11:45AM (#22307134) Homepage Journal

    It's perfectly true that many companies only care about the practical aspects of IT. They have accounting and word processing to do and that's the end of it.

    The same applies to fax machines, copiers and telephones.

    However, they DO care about the bottom line. They aren't cellphone experts, but they WILL avoid the provider that "everyone knows" drops more calls than it completes and costs twice as much as the others. Likewise, they will avoid the OS that "everyone knows" is annoying, user hostile, and costs way more than the others. Especially if "everyone knows" the BSA will come busting in and waste everyone's time checking for those little bits of paper that come in the box.

    Most business people know instinctively that the more dirty tricks a vendor pulls, the more likely their own product is to suck. MS's antics are getting large enough and frequent enough that people outside of IT who don't read /. or groklaw are starting to notice.

  • by Snorklefish ( 639711 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @12:04PM (#22307434)
    This spat is an example of Microsoft's decision to fight too many battles. It always seemed Microsoft picked a target, e.g., Netscape, and then destroyed it. By carefully choosing its battles, Microsoft ensured the odds were stacked in its favor. It seems to have moved away from that strategy. Lots of little and not so little companies are in open, pitched battles with Microsoft.

    IBM is fighting lock-in by OOXML. Google has MSFT on the defense in the internet services arena. Linux has a dominate presence in the server space. Mozilla is a growing and viable alternative to IE7 and Apple, though a bit player in TOTAL sales, is making strong gains in the desktop market and the iPod continues to stomp the Zune. Sony and Nintendo have ensured that Xbox won't make real money for years to come, if ever.

    I suggest MSFT has fallen victim to a classic blunder. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: you can't fight an entire industry, even if you're the biggest punk around.

  • by Dewin ( 989206 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @12:13PM (#22307570)

    For that definition of open standards, then OOXML is just as good, prehaps better since it is better documented (the good part of 6000 pages)
    The length of any set of documentation is by no means an indication of its quality. In addition, the difference in length could be simply a matter of documenting an overly complicated bloated system vs. a simple, clean and elegant one.
  • by tjwhaynes ( 114792 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @12:21PM (#22307666)

    What are the sales figures of OS/2 and SmartSuite versus Windows and Office, again?

    That might be the battlefield that Microsoft would like to have chosen but it isn't the one that IBM is playing on. For IBM, the money is in the middleware. For Microsoft, the money is on the desktop.

    Before I go on, yes, I work for IBM. What follows is entirely my own opinions and is not a formal statement of IBM policy.

    ODF is a huge enabler for middleware document services because it removes barriers at the desktop end and allows significant freedom for customers to choose solutions. IBM already has plenty of XML integration ticking in its products (such as pureXML integrated in DB2 and the Content Manager products) and ODF fits very nicely into that scenario. IBM would like to be able to go to customers and offer a complete end-to-end document/content management system. Why do you think that IBM would produce the Symphony products and integrate Document editing into Lotus Notes 8?

    While OOXML also fits into the XML-on-middleware approach, it necessarily ties itself to a set of Microsoft clients because only Microsoft will know what the next version of Office will support with respect to OOXML and even the most assiduous followers of OOXML implementations outside Microsoft will be months (or more likely years) behind the latest OOXML version.

    Toby Haynes

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @12:39PM (#22307942) Homepage
    Is that Microsoft Office blows away. Completely. Microsoft could go with ODF and still compete very well against OO.

    But Microsoft doesn't want to compete with OO. They would much rather have a monopoly based on a de-facto document standard that is incompatible with other software. After all, you make more money with monopoly sales and monopoly markup than you do in a competitive market, even if you're the market leader.

    If Microsoft fully supported ODF, then it may happen that a great deal of people who would not consider anything but MS Office today due to requiring Office compatibility would decide that OO does what they need well enough and has the right price. Already many people who don't require perfect MS Office compatibility have made the same decision.

    And if you don't need MS Office, then maybe you don't need MS Windows. The entirety of the Microsoft business model is built upon these two monopolies reinforcing each other by being incompatible with anything else. If either of these monopolies is broken, if software compatibility means that MS Office or MS Windows are merely choices rather than requirements for the majority of people, then MS' days of dominance are over.

    This is absolutely bog-standard MS thinking, it's how they've operated for the last twenty-plus years. They always prefer to monopolize over compete, and only compete when absolutely necessary (with very mixed results).

    So that's all there is to understand -- competition is anathema to MS, and they will protect their monopolies at all costs. ODF, an actual standard juxtaposed with their de-facto standard, threatens their monopolies. They will fight against supporting it tooth-and-nail.
  • Re:Misread that (Score:3, Insightful)

    by avdp ( 22065 ) * on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @01:36PM (#22308834)
    No you don't need to see a doctor. I would be willing to bet that you read it the way it was intended to be read. Nobody says "piece of work" without meaning "piece of s**t".
  • by an.echte.trilingue ( 1063180 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @02:56PM (#22310118) Homepage
    Being an all-MS shop is irrelevant because more and more companies are switching to server-side applications for their needs. It started with Content Management Systems and database front ends, and with google docs the public at large is beginning to get a glimpse of office on the server.

    And this next generation of applications is going to be OS-agnostic-- you can run WAMP just as easily as LAMP, and you can view an html-based application on any browser on any type of desktop/kiosk/cell phone/... . That is really all that IBM and many others want: interoperability so that customers can choose the solution that is best regardless of who everybody else has chosen.

    They want this, of course, because their systems are better and they know that companies will move to them.
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @03:57PM (#22311224) Homepage Journal

    I'm not going to trot out the license costs because, as you point out, retraining is the real cost.

    Instead, I'll bring up that Vists is DIFFERENT and so are the new office suites. Perhaps they're different enough that retraining will happen even to stay with MS. As long as that cost is going to be there anyway, might as well call it an opportunity to step gracefully off of the MS treadmill and get an environment that is more concerned about doing the user's bidding than the *AA's (should be irrelevant in a business environment, but Vista will still happiny burn cycles on it) and of course, MS's.

    Based on what I have seen of a typical business user's grasp of things, even a minor change to button/menu placement is no less traumatic than switching to KDE or Gnome with Open Office would be. The only real difference is that users feel stupid claiming that the new version of the same software has completely confused them, so they're less vocal about it.

  • by giafly ( 926567 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @04:24PM (#22311660)

    I lean toward ODF because it is truly open but either way our main problem 10 years from now will be finding hardware to read those funny plastic disks and paying someone to do it.
    If you store some Dells or HPs in a climate-controlled warehouse today, the hardware will still work in 20 years time. But if you try to boot your equally ancient ancient copy of Windows to run Office, Windows Genuine Advantage and its DRM siblings from 2008 will try to 'phone home, fail, decide you're a pirate, and lock up.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.