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We're Open enough, Says Microsoft 660

Posted by timothy
from the one-way-doors-don't-count dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft Australia has come under fire from rival vendors and open-source advocates for keeping its Office document standards proprietary. Greg Stone, Microsoft's national technology officer for Australia and New Zealand, faced criticism during his presentation at the Australian Unix User Group conference in Canberra yesterday. However, he stood firm on the company's policy of making the XML schemas for its Office 2003 document standard publicly available provided interested parties sign an agreement with the software heavyweight. "Why should I have to sign an agreement?" one audience member demanded to know."
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We're Open enough, Says Microsoft

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:55AM (#12279267)
    Just look at IE.
    Can one piece of software possibly be more open to exploits and viruses?
    • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:16AM (#12279355)
      "Why should I have to sign an agreement?" one audience member demanded to know.

      What would the agreement do? The standard is either open or not (specification is published or withheld). Does it mean that any program that reads the file in this "open" format is bound by this agreement? I can see someone writting "Here, I sent you a powerpoint presentation and I also had to attach the 3 page agreement that you have to sign and send to Microsoft along with your name, date of birth, social security # and all your bank information. Then you can open and use my file. If you don't Bill Gates will come in person and take your firsborn child. Have a nice day, -Your dearest friend Jojo"

      • by Zero Sum (209324) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:30AM (#12279405)
        Well, using GPL fonts in a document means the document has to be open, does it not?
        • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2 AT earthshod DOT co DOT uk> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:39AM (#12279652)
          Only if you are going to modify the document, then distribute it outside your organisation; and even then, you might have to modify the actual font. Otherwise, embedding a font into a document -- provided it is done in such a way that the complete font can be recovered for use in other documents -- would be considered "mere aggregation". At any rate, a document is not generally considered to be a derived work of a font.
          • by rnturn (11092) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @12:13PM (#12282542)

            ``At any rate, a document is not generally considered to be a derived work of a font.''

            Just how would anyone think they could make this claim is beyond me. That would be like, say, Grumbacher claiming that someone's painting is a derived work because they used their paints and/or brushes.

            Stop the insanity!

      • by bigman2003 (671309) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @08:33AM (#12280288) Homepage
        "Why should I have to sign an agreement?" one audience member demanded to know.

        If I were the guy on stage, I would be very tempted to reply with "Why should we open this up to you anyway?"

        Some people expect a lot- for nothing.

        It is amazing who you meet when you do something 'for the public.' I run a totally-free, totally-unsponsored web app. It is a combination calendaring/weight and exercise tracking/reminder/organizer/bulletin board. Think Weight Watchers on-line for free - with a calendar.

        It is surprising how often people send me things like - "I won't use your system until you do xxx" or more commonly "I DEMAND that you make the following changes or we will stop using your system."

        That is why I went from being an involved host, to being the guy who is seen as a dis-interested developer. The moment you show interest, there will be a bunch of people (about 5% as far as I can tell) who feel that it is their god-given right to demand that everything works exactly the way they want it to. And instead of just going away, they do things like organize a boycott, and post hundreds of messages in the bulletin board complaining about the perceived problems.

        What the complainers don't realize, is that they only make up a small percentage of the users, and the other 95% use the system and are fairly happy. Of course there were other people who were un-happy, and they moved on- possibly to Weight Watchers, where they are paying $200/year- of COURSE it is better, I am sure they have more than one developer.

        So- I am not saying that Microsoft should, or should not open up their system more. I am just saying that there is always at least ONE jackass out there who feels that the world owes them everything, just for the honor of having the jackass use their software.
        • You should tell them to get off their fat asses and excercise more.
        • So- I am not saying that Microsoft should, or should not open up their system more. I am just saying that there is always at least ONE jackass out there who feels that the world owes them everything, just for the honor of having the jackass use their software.

          You're extrapolating your experiences and applying them to Microsoft. Unfortunately you are failing to account for the fact that Microsoft does not behave the same way you do. First they are a monopoly convicted of abusing that monopoly position to

  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:59AM (#12279280)
    "Why should I have to sign an agreement?"

    So Microsoft can own your soul, your offsprings' souls, their retroactive grandparents' souls, and the souls of everyone they come in contact with.

    In the form of a nice law suit.
  • Feed me! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:02AM (#12279289)
    Ok can someone explain this to me.

    With Open Office, I can read and export every major Microsoft file in and out of OO.

    How much more open do you want?

    If you want to make applications which use MS file formats, Open Office code is freely available (open source no?) so whats stopping people from developing ?

    -SJ53
    • Re:Feed me! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:07AM (#12279309)
      You are able to do so, despite MS best efforts. People had to reverse engineer the doc format to get this accomplished.

      So I don't really see your point. Just because people make great efforts to accomplish something that would be trivial if MS released the specs or adhered to an open standard, doesn't mean that MS is in the right, does it?
    • Re:Feed me! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:07AM (#12279313)
      With Open Office, I can read and export every major Microsoft file in and out of OO.

      How much more open do you want?


      I want to be confident when I read and export Microsoft files from Open Office, when they reach their intended destination they'll actually still look the way they looked when I exported them.

      I want to be confident about this without having to keep a copy of Word around to check to make sure I didn't somehow accidentally trigger some minor incompatibility with the spec that OO committed because they don't have the spec itself.
      • Re:Feed me! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:45AM (#12279467)
        They probably won't look the same, except in the most trivial cases. However you don't have that level of confidence if you use one version of Microsoft Office and send the document to a user with a different version of Microsoft Office, so you don't have much to lose by using OO.o instead.
      • Re:Feed me! (Score:5, Informative)

        by AttilaSz (707951) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:14AM (#12279953) Homepage Journal
        OOo Writer has an "Export to PDF" menu point in the "File" menu. It is ideal for preservation of the format -- unless the receiving party needs to edit it, that is. But in vast majority of cases, just sending over something for people to read, PDF is sufficient.
    • Re:Feed me! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:10AM (#12279324)
      "I can read and export every major Microsoft file in and out of OO"

      For now... wait until the next version of Office comes out... it isn't like formats can be reverse engineered overnight
    • Re:Feed me! (Score:5, Informative)

      by realityfighter (811522) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:16AM (#12279354) Homepage
      Actually, OpenOffice's encoding for .doc doesn't work perfectly. And it's a downright bitch if you're trying to pass files between OpenOffice and Word. I was a freelance manual writer for a while, and my copy of Word self-destructed. (It wouldn't take the activation code that was printed ON THE DISK.)

      So I thought, time to switch to an open alternative. Bad idea. I couldn't pass edits to the engineer I was working with because every time I'd get back a file with corrupted layout and images about the size of Jupiter.

      As far as I can tell, this is because they have to build their .doc encoder based on intelligent guesswork. If the standards were open, they could get compatability spot on.
    • Re:Feed me! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by miyako (632510) <miyakoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:17AM (#12279361) Homepage Journal
      The problem is that importing .doc files into OO.org is a bit of a craps shoot, sometimes the document imports perfectly, other times it's usable but ugly, and sometimes it's so garbled as to be nearly useless. Not that I'm discounting the work done by the folks at OO.org or the other F/OSS projects that import .doc files (KWord usually does a pretty good job in my experience, and abiword tends to be all or nothing, though I haven't use abiword in a logn while, so it might be better now).
      Of course, support is always improving, but that's because the .doc format has been pretty stationary for a while, the new format will still require time to reverse engineer (assume the authors won't or can't agree to whatever MS wants them to sign). I suspect that there will be a decent amount of time where the new format is the preferred windows document format, but importing/exporting for Linux applications isn't quite good enough.
      Of course, the real problem, IMO, has little to do with the format itself, but with how often people send .docs for seemingly no reason. It aggravates me to no end how often clients and peopel from school send out emails with the text of the email in an attatched .doc file, when the content of the file is nothing more than plain text that could have simply been put in the email, or at least a plaintext file.
      A bit off topic, but also, why the heck won't MS Office import OO.org .swx files? The merits of each file format aside, I generally save office documents as .swx, and it's a pita when I have to open up the file and export it to a .doc everytime I want to send it to someone. Since OO.org is GPL (IIRC), would allowing Office to import OO.org files mean that it would have to be GPL as well, or is it just microsoft trying to fruther their monopoly?
      • Re:Feed me! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ssj_195 (827847)
        A bit off topic, but also, why the heck won't MS Office import OO.org .swx files?
        It is not is Microsoft's best interest to be interoperable with an open-source competitor - if it could import and export to .swx flawlessly (pretty easy, since not only is the standard open, there's even a reference implementation!) a lot of headaches in switching to OO.o would disappear. Plus, it would lend OO.o credence.
      • Re:Feed me! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2 AT earthshod DOT co DOT uk> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:14AM (#12279733)
        If MS Word could import and export .SXW files natively, there would be no need for MS Word in the first place. It's only the fact that Word -- and nothing else -- can read .DOC files properly, that keeps Microsoft selling it. If Word could import and export .SXW files, an organisation could keep just one PC with a copy of Windows and Office {plus OO.o export}, all the rest using OpenOffice.org, and use just this one machine for translating legacy documents.

        Now, MS Word has a macro language -- a bastardised dialect of BASIC -- and a document object model {though not quite like the W3C ECMAscript one} that allows the canny programmer access to every feature of a document. And the code to synthesise and analyse SXW files is open source. It ought to be very possible for some third party to write a Microsoft Word plugin to do absolutely seamless import and export of OO.o .SXW files .....

        If I had a copy of Windows and a copy of Office, I'd be having a go myself. As it is, I got clean three years ago and don't intend to relapse anytime soon. Someone else can have the glory.
        • by Chordonblue (585047) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @08:19AM (#12280233) Journal
          It's a fallacy to assume that Word can open .DOC files perfectly. It doesn't. Do you have any idea how many .DOC formats have been created over the years? There are rules governing what versions will open which version .DOC and when you're given a random floppy to open with a random version of Word - cross your fingers. Then there's the international incompatibilities... And don't get me started on Works!

          I wish a mainstream reporter would investigate this so that businesses can understand that .DOC isn't 'all that'. OASIS is a MUCH more open and stable format, and will be for years to come.

      • Open Office is dual licenced [openoffice.org]. You can pick which license you want to use.

        "The libraries and component functionality of the OpenOffice.org source code" are LGPL, which allows them to be linked in to proprietary works.

        It is also possible to license OO.org under the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL). This allows you to make proprietary, binary only distributions, if you maintain compatibility with with the APIs and XML formats. Microsoft could download the entire source, add an MS-Office GUI a

    • Re:Feed me! (Score:3, Informative)

      by nmg196 (184961) *
      > With Open Office, I can read and export every major Microsoft file
      > in and out of OO.

      You can. In same kind of way that you can build a car with sellotape and cerial packets. You get something that's vaguely what you were after, but it doesn't look right and it's kind of messy.

      If you've ever tried it on anything other than a very simple letter, you'll know that it doesn't really work AT ALL. The formatting gets completely messed up, things get resized, the layout goes haywire, some text gets lots e
  • by Umbral Blot (737704) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:02AM (#12279290) Homepage
    In reality there is no way MS will open up the .doc format. Lock-in for office file formats and the office products are central to MS's revenue scheme. The way to beat them is not to beg for them to open up their standard, but to create a better open standard backed by the community, one that is not layered in junk like the .doc standard is (why would you need to embed a video in a text document?). Then this standard could be supported by as many open source, and maybe even commercial projects as possible. With enough momentum we might be able to pull an adobe and create a format that is able to coexist popularly with the .doc format. It would be wonderful if MS would play nice; they don't have too, but we don't have to play their game either.
    • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@@@slashdot...firenzee...com> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:20AM (#12279372) Homepage
      There is such a format, OpenDocument, it is supported by the upcoming openoffice 2.0 and the next version of staroffice and is listed on oasis-open.org, now if only other opensource apps would start to use it.. And perhaps commercial vendors like wordperfect and apple.
      • by RoLi (141856) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:16AM (#12279743)
        KOffice has been part of the OASIS-group and was actively developing the standard. (and of course they support it)

        AFAIK there are talks about Abiword joining in, too.

        Anyway, KOffice doing OASIS is great because it's much less bloated than OO.

        • I have also tried to persuade the gnumeric guys to support OASIS. The response was basically 'sure we'll export to it if someone codes it. It's up to the distro which format it will export to by default'.
    • by jazman (9111) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:21AM (#12279377)
      > why would you need to embed a video in a text document?

      Why not? The other way is to distribute a bunch of files and have references in the document like "play video 1 now". If you want to distribute a document that describes a series of video clips, embedding those videos in the document itself is seamless.

      Just because the OSS community doesn't consider it necessary doesn't mean it's a daft idea. Geeks are completely at home with receiving a bunch of files and playing them as prompted within a document, but the average PHB who can't tell one end of a mouse from the other isn't going to want to mess around like that or to spend more than a microsecond trying to figure out why one of the distributed videos won't play on his system. Geeks will spend hours messing with GSpot and downloading codecs, but PHBs aren't going to fanny around with all that geeky crap.

      Plus any boss who fiddles with Linux for a bit isn't going to take long before concluding Linux is retarded because you can't embed video in docs like you can in Word. Sorry, but you have to address "what the users want" and not just "what the geeks want" if Linux is to take over from Microsoft. Windows may be the biggest pile of bugs since a very big pile of bugs but apart from keeling over once in a while it does do what most people want.
      • Hmmmm, AFAIK OpenOffice Writer documents can contain Video, Adio and all other multimedia stuff.
      • I think the gist the grandparent was trying to get across is that it is supposed to be a static text document for printing out, etc - a purpose which makes things like embedded music, video, etc obviously pointless. What the GP failed to take into account, however, was the fact that the Word format, like so many others, MS or otherwise, has been extended to do things far outside the scope for which they were originally created.

        However, as Word is still primarily a letter- and other dead-tree-distribution
      • by master_p (608214) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:15AM (#12279736)
        A printed document is a different thing than a Hypertext document. The grandparent post is right: there should be no need to embedd a video in a document that is to be printed, i.e. used as a book, as written documentation.

        On the other hand, you are also correct, but what you are referring to are not paper documents, but hypertext documents. Hypertext documents should be able to have anything in them, because their sole purpose is to pass information around through computers.

        The difference between paper and on-screen documents is what caused your disagreement. Software vendors like Microsoft have either failed to realise this difference, or they deliberately ignored it in order to lock-in their customers.
        • by MrMickS (568778) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @08:03AM (#12280138) Homepage Journal
          As a user why should I care about the difference? I'm making a document to send to someone, I should use a document editor. I don't care about what sort of document it is, I shouldn't need to know. I just create the document and distribute it in the most appropriate way. If its got video in then I know that it won't print very well but I understand that. Why should I have to create two types of document based on the distribution medium?
          • by civilizedINTENSITY (45686) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @10:16AM (#12281200)
            Why should I have to create two types of document based on the distribution medium?

            Interestingly enough, that requirement was a good chunck of my Organizational Theory/Behavior class last night. You always have to match the presentation of the message to the medium. A large part of the "barriers in formal communication" section of that lecture was about people with attitudes exactly as what you just expressed. Effective communication can mean just a timely text-based email. Or a 30 minute movie. It depends on who, and why, you are communicating. But awareness of the limitations of various media is always necessary. And sometimes, those limitations actually enhance the message by limiting noise.
    • by molnarcs (675885) <molnarcs@gmai l . c om> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:00AM (#12279703) Homepage Journal
      That's what is great about the new OpenOffice.org format. (trying to build it right now, fingers crossed). According to oo.o, it is not only supported by the community, but also the European Commission as well:

      Beginning with version 2.0 OpenOffice.org uses the open standard OASIS OpenDocument XML format as the default file format. The OASIS OpenDocument format is a vendor and implementation independent file format, and thus guarantees freedom and independence. In addition to OpenOffice.org itself, the open source office suite KOffice as well as OpenOffice.org derivatives like the StarOffice software support the OASIS OpenDocument file format. The OASIS OpenDocument file format is also one of the file formats recommended by the European Commision.
      oo.o-2.0 feature-guide [openoffice.org]

      Fileextensions:

      • OpenDocument Text [.odt]
      • OpenDocument Text [.odt]
      • OpenDocument Text Template [.ott]
      • OpenDocument Master Document [.odm]
      • OpenDocument Spreadsheet [.ods]
      • OpenDocument Spreadsheet Template [.ots]
      • OpenDocument Drawing [.odg]
      • OpenDocument Presentation [.odp]
      • OpenDocument Chart [.odc]
      • OpenDocument Database [.odb]

      I think that this standarization might help in persuading governments to choose this new format. Although not an office suite strictly speaking, I wonder about abiword's default file-format... Does/will it use this new standard as the default as well (seems to be a good idea).
    • Free clue (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:27AM (#12279993) Journal
      It's not about embedding music and videos, it's about embedding _anything_ whatsoever. Some of which _are_ valid things to have in a document.

      E.g., surprise, I might want to embed a CAD drawing as an illustration in a document. E.g., I might have a map generated out of sattellite data, by a specialized program. E.g., I might have a scientiffic/simulation program which can present its data or results in its own format, and I might want to embed that in a document. Etc.

      "Text document" no longer means 80 column, 7 bit ASCII, you know. If an illustration or diagram actually belongs in that text, I'd very much like it to be actually included there, and not just referenced as "oh, and you also need to look at asdfgh666.jpg in the attached pics.zip file." Stopping to do that not only is a waste of my time, it also pointlessly disrupts the reading process.

      Yes, one could do the stone-age thing and do a piss-poor export to some graphics format first, and then embed that. And pray to the dark gods that you don't end with some piss-poor conversion and/or scaling artefacts when printing. Just like in the bad old days.

      Or you could have a modern design which can spare you that waste of money, brains and time. Microsoft obviously took this route. Kudos to them.

      So, no offense, the "why would you need to embed a video in a text document?" is just a straw man, and not even a good one.

      Again: The point is to have an architecture which can embed anything whatsoever, from any program. Incidentally something that generic is also usable to embed videos. But it's also able to embed stuff that _is_ perfectly normal and logical to have in a text document. Which is the real point.
      • Re:Free clue (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NtroP (649992) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @11:25AM (#12281999)

        Yes, one could do the stone-age thing and do a piss-poor export to some graphics format first, and then embed that. And pray to the dark gods that you don't end with some piss-poor conversion and/or scaling artefacts when printing. Just like in the bad old days.

        This is the part that really pisses me off about idiots who use computers and just assume that Microsoft == Computer. What if I CAN open your document, maybe I even have a copy of MS Office running in CrossOver, but what if I don't have your particular CAD software or proprietary mapping software or stupid fucking MS DRM CODEC for that video clip? Now I have a document with a bunch of stupid broken data in it!

        My mother-in-law is famous for this. She downloads Neto-Keen PhotoGallery Maker (tm), sets up a photo album and sends it to everyone in the family. Everyone goes WTF is a .nkpg document?! She just assumes everyone can read it because she can. She also loves to send out .doc files. Why? 'Cause Pimply Face, the local guru, installed MS Stolen Office on her computer, furrthering the myth that "everyone uses Word"!

        Where I work we are required by law to archive most of our official documents for a minimum of 80 years! WTF! I've already got archived documents in Works, ClarisWorks, WordPerfect, MS Word (all flavors), etc. I've tried to stress to management that we MUST choose an open standard (at least for archival copies) or we'll be in deep shit when, 30 years from now, we can't read any of the old formats. I've also stated that we pretty much have to have all of our archive ON LINE. Why? What format should we archive to that will be readable in 80 years (besides microfiche or paper?). We have a whole rack in a storage room of, what, those old 9660 reel-to-reel tapes? Hmmm... I don't have a reader for that. I don't even have a reader for 5.25 or 8-inch floppys any more! At least with all data online we can migrate it to the new drive arrays and have a chance at reading it with some archaic piece of software running in VMWare or something.

        The "Information Age" only really kicked in about 10 years ago. We are still really new at all this 'Letrconic Data stuff. Already we are seeing valuable information lost because it's published to the web and then removed to make room for more content. Effectively (except for the way-back machine) it's lost forever. Do you think the person or company that posted that will give it to the local library or make their backup tapes available upon request? Of course not.

        Back when people carved their data in stone or baked-clay tables, it lasted damn near forever. Then they moved to papyrus and it rotted easier, but still could be rolled and stored for thousands of years. We moved to paper and celluloid which maybe last a couple hundred years it properly stored. The future will be digital. I've got data at home on ZIP and Jazz discs I know I'll never be able to get off because my reader died and I'm not about to go buy another one just to get it off. Is that data critical? No. If that data was on paper, would I have kept it? Probably not for much longer, but if I had waned to, I could at least be able to save it and read it without having to hunt down a data archeologist with and archaic set of hardware and software to decode it.

        DRM will cause even more problems in the future. Even if you were to archive everything on line in a format that is still supported, if it is DRM'd will you be able to read it? Will all future software be 100% backward compatible with all the previous DRM models? We should be thinking about this BEFORE we choose a file format.

        I believe, in the long run, we will be doing more harm to the human race in the form of lost history and information by choosing closed standards as the way to store data now, than the burning of the Library in Alexandria ever did. We are turning information in to the tower of babel.

        To get back on topi

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Here's my company's policy on Word docs. No, it's not a legal contract, but no one has sent us Word docs since.
      • The document contains no viruses or other malicious code. We understand that if it does we will be legally liable for damages.
      • The document is compatible with Word 98 (UK English edition) for Macintosh and has been tested as such.
      • The copy of Word(TM) used to create this Word(TM) document is legally liscenced.
      • None of the document data is confidential, including hidden information s
  • Too True (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rathehun (818491) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:03AM (#12279297) Homepage
    He said open and proprietary standards could co-exist, arguing Microsoft promoted common development of standards by sitting on all of the representative bodies working on them.


    And opposing every one of them? This is like the US saying that it "protects everybodys interests by sitting on the UN" - and then using its veto for say - The International Criminal Court.


    Just too scary.

    • by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @08:42AM (#12280328) Homepage
      Being on a committee and helping is very different than being on a committee and doing a) nothing b) being passively obstructive or c) being actively obstructive. So far MS is on the record as the only OASIS member taking a "wait and see" strategy to the OpenDocument DTD. Whether it's participation is in role a, b or c, who knows? except other committee members. At some point MS is going to be left behind.

      OpenDocument is being supported and encouraged within the EU [eu.int]. It will also be supported in OpenOffice 2.0 [openoffice.org], which is due out soon. The beta for OOo 2 is out already for testing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:05AM (#12279303)
    You'll still be completely and totally unable to use Word files in non-Microsoft applications, except in a buggy and incomplete reverse engineered form.

    But that's open enough to suit Microsoft perfectly fine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:08AM (#12279316)
    'Why should I have to sign an agreement?' one audience member demanded to know.

    Because you want something that they have. They developed the file formats, so they own the intellectual property. If you want them to spell out how they work for you, you'll have to play by their rules. If you don't like that, that's fine too. You don't have to know now their file formats work to use their product, and when it comes down to it you don't even have to use their product.

    This seems to me a lot like the BitKeeper debacle. It's all about contracts: the people who have something of value get to dictate the terms of the contract. No matter how much you complain about it and say "but file formats should be free!", that's not going to change.

    • by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:45AM (#12279466) Homepage
      They developed the file formats, so they own the intellectual property.

      Of course, after they developed the file formats they violated United States antitrust law and were found guilty, and in lieu of sentencing agreed to a settlement which (in spirit, even if it contains many loopholes in letter) stipulated they must open up for use by the public the file formats, APIs, etc, which they own.

      But, y'know, little niggling details.
    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:51AM (#12279485)
      Because you want something that they have. They developed the file formats, so they own the intellectual property. If you want them to spell out how they work for you, you'll have to play by their rules. If you don't like that, that's fine too.

      This is in the context of governments storing data in proprietary formats. The public information would then be available only to those who use MS software or signed such an agrement with them. That's the objection. The "something they have" is the information that you have a right to already, but can't use without MS's permission.

    • by Raphael (18701)

      If you want them to spell out how they work for you, you'll have to play by their rules. If you don't like that, that's fine too. You don't have to know now their file formats work to use their product, and when it comes down to it you don't even have to use their product.

      I don't think that the problem is really about understanding how these file formats work. The old .doc format has been reverse-engineered successfully (including features that were not documented by Microsoft) and most parts of the ne

  • Agreement (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JanusFury (452699) <kevin.gadd@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:10AM (#12279323) Homepage Journal
    However, he stood firm on the company's policy of making the XML schemas for its Office 2003 document standard publicly available provided interested parties sign an agreement with the software heavyweight. "Why should I have to sign an agreement?" one audience member demanded to know.

    Isn't this basically the same as me agreeing to the terms of the GPL when I download GPLed source for a library or app that manipulates some open source document format? The only real difference is the terms of the agreement.
    • Re:Agreement (Score:3, Informative)

      by mcc (14761)
      No.

      A legally binding contractual agreement which you must sign in order to read a document and which restricts both your behavior and what you may do with the information contained in the document is in no way similar to a license attached to a document which says "if you wish to make copies of this document and distribute them to others you must satisfy certain conditions, if you cannot meet these conditions then do not redistribute this document".

      Similarly signing an employment contract with the company
      • Re:Agreement (Score:3, Insightful)

        by strider44 (650833)
        In addition, the GPL is only under distribution. You can use the software in whatever way you like, but if you distribute it then you have to agree to the terms under the GPL.

        However the Microsoft agreement is not similar to the GPL in any way since you are just licensing the documentation of the format under the terms that you pay Microsoft money, you don't distribute it and you don't use it in any open source projects. You also have to give Microsoft privelages to your software including auditing, cr
    • Re:Agreement (Score:3, Informative)

      by dossen (306388)
      Well, AFAIK you do not have to agree to the GPL to _download_ and _use_ Free software. The GPL is a copyright license, which provides you with the right to distribute the software. Assume that I sell or give you a GPL'ed program (and that I include the source and the license) - you are now in possesion of a legal licensed copy of the program, which you may install and use on your computer as much as you like (copyright/fair use allows the internal copying needed to use the software). If you choose to accept
  • MS Half truths (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:10AM (#12279326)
    While Microsoft is not going to fool a group of ol' beardy UNIX gurus, it can still fool the general public who aren't in key with how MS operates.

    "Open Source" has become a bit of a buzzword these days. I figure that Microsoft reckons that it can ride on the open source wave by twisting the meaning to it's own benefit. Not too unlike their so-called "Open Licensing" or whatever-it-was initiative.

    No MS. You can say it as many times as you like, but until you release Windows under an open source licence you will never be truly open. Charging money to see source code is not "open source".... so no, you can't play in our sandpit.
    • Worked before (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:18AM (#12279363)
      Notice how Microsoft successfully ended all use of the word "innovation" anywhere in the late 90s by their repeated abuse of it.

      "Open" is next.

      They've found that if you don't want to do something, it's totally sufficient to not do it and then repeat to the press over and over that you did it.
      • Re:Worked before (Score:3, Interesting)

        by pnatural (59329)
        "Open" is next.

        Methinks "Free" will be impervious for obvious reasons. Not even Microsoft could induce such double think.

        Oh, wait.
        • I can see it now, instead of Windows NE (NExt) or something marketdroidy, they will produce Windows Free {tm}. "Microsoft will set you Free!" {tm} Of course, a legal copy of Windows Free {tm} will cost $395.
  • by goMac2500 (741295) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:12AM (#12279333)
    Earlier I posted on how today Microsoft had declared beta software as ready for production, and how root is apparently completely safe. Microsoft calling themselves open source enough just takes the cake though.
  • and... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:13AM (#12279335)
    our customers are also opened enough....we only have to give them a litle more vaseline to maximize the opening
  • Madness (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:20AM (#12279375)
    It would be madness to sign any such agreement to look at their format. I would need to have some very competent lawyer go over it and figure out what it's saying and what the risks are. If I sign it, do I have the right to talk about what I have learned? Can I build tools based on this format? Are their restrictions on how I can redistribute or use such tools? If I build such tools and sell them, do I have to pay any royalties? Am I committing to patent licensing? Are there trade secrets in the formats, so that if I learn these "secrets" I can no long do any work on other open formats like OASIS? Am I committing myself to some specific dispute resolution protocol if there is a dispute under the agreement? Am I committing to some particular jurisdiction (which may not be advantageous to me)? Am I agreeing that they have injunctive relief if they think I have done something wrong under the agreement? Injunctive relief means that they could get a judge to shut me down while the dispute is being resolved, which could take years and enormous amounts of money. Until I could get some very clear answers to these questions I would stay far away, and I would guess it would a big legal bill to get answers I am comfortable with.

    So before I would sign, I would need to find a lawyer and pay a lot of money to find out what the implications of signing it would be. I would go through enormous hassle and a lot of money, just so I would have the honor and delight to look at MS' file format specification. But wait, I might go through all that hassle and expense and come up with some answers that I don't like, like finding out that the spec does contain trade secrets, or that I am agreeing to give MS injunctive relief, and if I find those thing out, I will have spent all that money and still I won't be able to look at the spec.

    Or I could skip all of this nonsense and ignore whatever they are offering and just use one format which I know is truly open: OASIS. I don't need to sign anything, it doesn't contain any trade secrets, I don't need a lawyer, I don't need to spend any money, I am free to write whatever kind of software I want to based on it, I can do whatever I want with it, I don't have to pay, I don't have to worry about someone getting an injunction to shut me down if he thinks I did something wrong. Wow, when you look at it this way, what's there to even think about in making this decision?

    What we really need is an OASIS plug-in for MS Office so that MS Office users can use the OASIS format without any hassles. That would be cool.

    • Re:Madness (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)
      What we really need is an OASIS plug-in for MS Office so that MS Office users can use the OASIS format without any hassles. That would be cool.

      I am not up on the proper windows terminology but I believe you can write software which hooks into MS Word and basically constructs a document.

      So it should be possible to do this with a client for OASIS or Oo and thus import documents into Word. I am not so sure about going the other way, though.

    • Re:Madness (Score:4, Funny)

      by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @09:30AM (#12280706) Journal
      What we really need is an OASIS plug-in for MS Office so that MS Office users can use the OASIS format without any hassles. That would be cool.

      That sound you just heard was 10,000 Microsoft lawyers, all getting a boner.
  • OpenOffice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tacocat (527354) <tallison1 AT twmi DOT rr DOT com> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:22AM (#12279380)

    My wife is in College and has a lot of term papers to write and share with other student groups for her projects. She is able to do all of this with Open Office by converting to .doc formats without incidents.

    The only problem she ran into was PDF. She was using it for her last semester and loved it's simplicity of use with OpenOffice. But then she ran into someone in her class who "couldn't open it in notepad". Avoiding my Nike Burns, Computer Guy, impressions I thought it best to just export to .doc format and leave it at that.

    This is the third year that We've been using only OpenOffice on Linux. I've also shown a few others the use of OpenOffice on Windows and they have adopted it as well. As far as I'm concerned, at this point, Microsoft really doesn't have anything useful to add to a word processor. Wait, they might be able to add something, but it's not cost effective.

    • Re:OpenOffice (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ShieldW0lf (601553)
      Word is the only application in the office stable that can be easily replaced with any text editor under the sun.

      Who cares about word processors? Excel, Access and Outlook/Exchange are the important bits. Yeah, I suppose PowerPoint too... not that it has any redeeming qualities, but a lot of ppl do use it to put their employees down for their morning nap.
    • Re:OpenOffice (Score:3, Insightful)

      by shic (309152)
      at this point, Microsoft really doesn't have anything useful to add to a word processor.

      If only this were true.

      For all the faults with MS Office (and there are many!) it has at least 3 important benefits over OO 2.0 as it stands today:

      1. MS Word has far superior spell checking to OO.
      2. MS Word has a (crappy) grammar checker - OO has none.
      3. Word has better interactive response - especially on less capable PCs.

      All of these could be rectified... but as it stands today Word _does_ offer some important adv
  • by digipres (877201) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:24AM (#12279391)

    Dang. While Mr Microsoft was next door, I was sitting at the OpenOffice miniconf at LCA just 60 metres away. I wonder if he knew that the Forces For Good were gathered so close by.

    I'm glad someone mentioned the NAA and the use of OOo. For the purposes of Digital Preservation, openly documented formats are essential. XML is good, but XML that you have to sign up for? C'mon Mr MS, who are you kidding?

    At the NAA, we're about keeping records for long after we're all dead. Digital records *must* be stored in publicly documented formats. Your grandkids won't be keen to sign an agreement to use those records.

  • by Mr_Silver (213637) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:32AM (#12279419)
    Why should I have to sign an agreement?" one audience member demanded to know.

    Last time I checked, Microsoft are under no obligation to provide anyone with any details about their XML schema.

    Despite the fact that you have to sign an agreement, this is certainly more "open" than a blanket rejection to everyone who requests access.

    I can think of plenty of companies who won't let you get details about a file format they use under any circumstances.

    • by zonix (592337) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:50AM (#12279479) Homepage Journal

      Last time I checked, Microsoft are under no obligation to provide anyone with any details about their XML schema.

      They're not, but then why not just stick with their binary format? Offering an XML-based file format (cabability) without supplying the schemas is not all that useful? You get the data, sure, but you could always export as plaintext for that.

      Furthermore, it's certainly contrary to the basic idea and openess of the XML format, if you're gonna trap people with a patent license, trying to control how they parse the XML?

      This is deceptive if you ask me.

      z
    • Actually last time i checked they were , At-least in the EU and the USA.
      They have two court orders(atleast) demanding that they open up there formats and APIs so we are all free to use them.
  • by zecg (521666) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:53AM (#12279496)
    Root is safe, beta is gold, MS is open enough and MN2004 is coming back on a corrected trajectory. All makes sense.
  • by l3v1 (787564) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:57AM (#12279513)
    "However, it was the proprietary standards that grew up and allowed those open standards to develop."

    There are probably enough people out there who would heartly defend FOSS against such a statement against MS for a simple reason: FOSS was there about one&half decades before MS started to appear.

    The other thing that bothers: We had to ask the question of whether to include backwards compatibility for that [OpenOffice.org] specification. Is just this simple to brush away odf as sucking too much to even care [at MS], and, funny thing, nobody objects to this ?

    Microsoft promoted common development of standards by sitting on all of the representative bodies working on them

    Just one quick example. MS also was in boards creating h.264. And now they have a closed implementation of something like it in wmv10. MS being in all of those boards in absolutely not about helping anyone: it's about being there where these happen, to know about them, to influence it towards they see it best, etc. Is there anyone who honestly believes MS is there to help ?

    "why should I have my documents from government in a proprietary format and have to ask a third party for permission to open them?".

    Quite true. In the sense, that if e.g. an official body picks a proprietary format to distribute documents, they implicitely force everyone else to use these, which in MS's case means either more pirates or more money.

    I, personally, wouldn't like either of those.

  • by f3773t (820782) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:11AM (#12279557)
    and I also believe all politicians are honest and truthful
  • by aug24 (38229) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:11AM (#12279563) Homepage
    If MS wishes to keep its office format licensed, that is their choice. However, it is then imperative that public documents are not stored in that format. I'd go further and say that there should be an open standard (there prolly already is, if not develop one) and that all governments should adopt it immediately whether or not it is as good as MS's.

    Justin.

  • by FidelCatsro (861135) <[fidelcatsro] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:23AM (#12279601) Journal
    Free as in costs money
    Advantage as in same thing later

    We are proud to present
    Open as in closed
  • by maxpublic (450413) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:27AM (#12279610) Homepage
    If anything the extremists should be encouraging Microsoft to be as closed, proprietary and cumbersome as they can possibly get. They seem to be shooting themselves in the foot here by trying to cajole/convince Microsoft into playing along.

    Seriously, if you're one of those folks who sees all proprietary software as a tool of Satan (says me, writing this in Opera), you don't want Satans reps on Earth to soften their image. You want them to instead impress people over and over again with their Black-Hatness so even the most clueless will eventually wake up and say "what the fuck?"

    You *want* MS to lock people in - and then bend them over and ream them good and hard once the lock-in is established. That creates enormous ill-will, especially to the PHBs who don't like anyone messing with their kingdoms. When the next opportunity comes to jump ship, they'll be that much more inclined to do so (e.g., when the next full-scale upgrade and conversion takes place).

    The harder they squeeze, the more star systems, er, customers, that'll slip through their grasp.

    So fanatics, crusaders, and all you "information wants to be free" loons (who STILL won't send me your credit card numbers, you hypocrits), reevaluate your game plan here. You're doing your cause a disservice. Every time MS screws over a customer pat them on the back and say "good job!"

    Max
    • > If anything the extremists should be encouraging Microsoft to be as closed,
      > proprietary and cumbersome as they can possibly get

      You're falling into a common trap of assuming that anybody that encourages MS to open their formats and
      code is an "extremist". There are plenty of practical (i.e. non-idealogical) reasons why this is a
      good idea for MS's customers and arguably for MS themselves. Hell, I'm as much a Linux enthusiast as
      you're likely to find, but I don't hate MS nor want them to dry up and b
  • by Delgul (515042) <gerard@onlinespa ... minus physicist> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @05:31AM (#12279627) Homepage
    Wasn't there talk recently about making the OOo format into a ISO standard? Perhaps this is the way to go:
    1) Make a good XML based ISO standard for textprocessors.
    2) Try to convince governments/companies to require their sofware to be compliant with this standard.
    3) And this is very important: Demand a very high and continued compatibility with this format to receive the "ISO approved" label. Or else we have another "IGES" debacle on our hands.

    Managers and administrators just _love_ ISO standards and will at least frown if we can say: "Well M$ is not even ISO compliant, you will be in trouble in the future if you use that! It's not even compatible with the only existing ISO standard!!". This way M$ will have to coorporate to satisfy the very people that decide about buying their software...

    Just a thought. Wouldn't know where to start to make this happen. But perhaps someone else here does :-)
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:15AM (#12279737) Journal
    I didn't read the license, but I'm sure it includes some sort of 'no reverse engineering' clause. Now here's the question: there are some countries out there where reverse engineering is allowed regardless of what the license says about it. Could someone from such a country possibly get the schema (legally), and then reverse engineer it to make a clean, Open re-implementation of it? And would it be legal to use it in e.g. US?
  • by ceeam (39911) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:15AM (#12279740)
    I'd say they are _gaping_ open!
  • why was he there ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by l3v1 (787564) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:24AM (#12279767)
    Yup, just occured: Greg Stone, Microsoft's national technology officer for Australia and New Zealand, faced criticism during his presentation at the Australian Unix User Group conference in Canberra yesterday. - was he invited ? wanted to go ? MS wanted someone to be there ? what's the story ?

  • Uh (Score:3, Funny)

    by northcat (827059) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @06:48AM (#12279861) Journal
    Running as root is safe, beta is good for production use and MS is open enough. Next thing you know, they'll be saying that Adobe bought Macromedia, one of its enemies.
  • Don't use it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vhogemann (797994) <victorNO@SPAMhogemann.com> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @07:01AM (#12279910) Homepage
    Of course Microsoft thinks they're open enougth, they still profit!

    When OpenOffice.org stand a real menace, then Microsoft will be pressed to open their format, or to support OO.o own.

    OpenOffice.org 2.0 is comming, with database support and a REAL laguage to extend it, Java. Let's see how it stands against Microsoft Office.
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @11:10AM (#12281845)
    The defenders of MS Office always make me smile...

    Invariably 90% of them have never paid for their copy of it believing themselves to be under the Microsoft "I use it at work so I can install it on 12 PCs at home" Licence or the Microsoft "My mate gets the MSDN CDs and he's allowed to let anyone else use them" License.

    I wonder how many of the same people would be so vocal if they had to shell out £200 for a copy?

    Me? I use OpenOffice and can save my pennies for 100 pints of fine English real ale while sleeping soundly and night knowing I'm not contributing to Bill and Melinda's sorrow at being unable to afford a new extension this year due to all those "naughty little Office pirates".

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