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Microsoft Wins Industry Standard Status for Office 281

Posted by Zonk
from the bully-for-them dept.
everphilski writes "The International Herald-Tribune reports that Microsoft has won industry standard status for Office. EMCA International, a group of hardware and software makers based in Geneva, approved the MS file formats with only one dissenting vote - IBM. IBM backs the OpenDocument standard, which was approved by the ISO in May of this year." From the article: "Bob Sutor, IBM's vice president for open source and standards, called Microsoft's Office formats technically unwieldy - requiring software developers to absorb 6,000 pages of specifications, compared with 700 pages for OpenDocument. 'The practical effect is the only people who are going to be in a position to implement Microsoft's specifications are Microsoft,' Sutor said."
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Microsoft Wins Industry Standard Status for Office

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  • Sounds about right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As long as by "industry standard" you mean buggy, bloated, insecure, unreliable, overpriced, nonintuitive, clunky piece of dog shit. Am I right, or am I right?
    • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@NosPAm.gmail.com> on Friday December 08, 2006 @05:15PM (#17167062) Homepage Journal
      "The great thing about standards is that there are so many to chose from." --Attributed to Admiral Grace Hopper
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:26PM (#17166378) Journal

    Wow, 6,000 pages to describe an "open" format? Never underestimate the power of committees.

    Sutor, IBM's dissenting voter says: "The practical effect is the only people who are going to be in a position to implement Microsoft's specifications are Microsoft." This in the context that the OpenDocument (competing) standard is only 700 pages. Seems like both must be quite verbose, but I'd opt for mastering 700 pages.

    6,000 is a lot of pages to master, but it should be freely available for others to interpret, correct? On the other hand, since it is "essence of Microsoft", there's probably lots to misstep with and lots to nuance for interpretation letting Microsoft essentially maintain a proprietary flavor of a supposedly open standard.

    Also of note from the article:

    Van den Beld of ECMA International said the standard recognized reality. "The vast amount of data in the world is in Microsoft format," he said.
    Van den Beld might be an idiot. Using his logic we should strike Microsoft Windows XXXXX as the standard for OSes, not.

    Hopefully there is still some inertia for the OpenDocument (yes, I know it's an ISO Standard) standard to gain purchase and compete. It is largely the emergence and work done with OpenDocument that has pushed Microsoft into the uncomfortable arena of pretending to like open standards.

    • by camperdave (969942) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:38PM (#17166550) Journal
      Yeah, we're going to need to send that off to the Reader's Digest to get it condensed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by enc0der (907267)
      1. I'd hate to see the word file with 6,000 pages in it, will that fit on a dual layer DVD?

      2. I guess I kind of look at standards like the dictionary...just cause I don't know everything in there doesn't mean I can't speak at least at some meaningful level. I'd also take 6,000 well written, well thought out pages as opposed to 700 if they were missing content. Comparing page count to me is like comparing CPU Ghz....it's not the whole story. I've seen neither document, so I really don't know.

      3. Now
    • by SquareOfS (578820) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:57PM (#17166762)
      6,000 is a lot of pages to master, but it should be freely available for others to interpret, correct? On the other hand, since it is "essence of Microsoft", there's probably lots to misstep with and lots to nuance for interpretation letting Microsoft essentially maintain a proprietary flavor of a supposedly open standard.

      The problem is, if we know anything about Microsoft, even if they're doing it with otherwise decent intentions, they're writing Office-the-software first and Office-the-standard second -- and therefore, there's a significant risk that the standard will always lag the implementation, and since their installed base is so big, the implementation will just win over the standard.

      Exactly what was happening on the web for a while when IE's implementation of HTML/CSS could trump the standard to the degree that other vendors had to encode "quirks modes" into their own implementations to deal with people who wrote to the implementation rather than the standard. . .

      And I would feel differently about this if it weren't for the fact that MS is bolting an XML format onto an existing product, which means that reverse-compatibility decisions are likely going to be determinative in the engineering.

      So it's not the 6,000 pages -- it's the internal memos interpreting the 6,000 pages that we never get to see that are the problem.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Wow, 6,000 pages to describe an "open" format? Never underestimate the power of committees.
      Even more important than the length, is it really accurate and specific enough to write software that can access .doc? Remember, Word was not written to this spec, it's the other way around. So it may be more descriptive than definitive.
      • by tlhIngan (30335)
        Question is, which version of the office formats?

        If you don't know, Office 2007 changed file formats after nearly a decade of staying the same...
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          From TFA, "the newest version of its Office file formats". Actually the previous format (the OLE container format) has varied slightly from Office version to Office version.

          The other interesting point is from TFA:

          Van den Beld of ECMA International said the standard recognized reality. "The vast amount of data in the world is in Microsoft format," he said.

          The vast amount of data in the world is in the OLD format. I doubt very seriously there is very much content in the world in the NEW format in comparison to the old.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nschubach (922175)
      I think if you remove or even replace all the instances of the word Microsoft or "Copyright Microsoft" in the document, it might reduce to somewhere around 2-300 pages.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ArtDent (83554)
      Wow, 6,000 pages to describe an "open" format? Never underestimate the power of committees.

      This "standard" was not created by committee. It was simply offered by Microsoft and rubber-stamped in an effort to "recognize the reality" that "the vast amount of data in the world is in Microsoft format."

      Granted, this vast amount of data is in older binary Microsoft formats, not this one, which isn't yet supported by any released products. But why let facts stand in the way of a good rationalization?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bert64 (520050)
      Part of the size difference is because opendocument tries to reuse existing standards wherever possible (mathml, images are stored as jpeg/png/whatever format etc) and microsoft's format tries to reinvent the wheel each time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kripkenstein (913150)
      Wow, 6,000 pages to describe an "open" format?
      Sutor, IBM's dissenting voter says: "The practical effect is the only people who are going to be in a position to implement Microsoft's specifications are Microsoft."


      This should make it clear that a spec is not necessarily enough for a 'standard'.

      I suggest that standards committees (ISO, ECMA, etc.) require not just human-readable documentation for a new standard, but also BSD-licensed code that implements that standard, i.e., a 'reference implementatio
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Seems like both must be quite verbose, but I'd opt for mastering 700 pages.

      So would I, but I don't even have to go that far.

      Fact is: Ever crack open a WordML document? I thought it'd be easy for a work project to do some specialized convert-Word-to-XML -- just a quick XSLT, or maybe I'd actually have to write a quick Perl script...

      Took one look at it and gave the fuck up. Ok, I Googled it, found nothing, took another long, long look, still couldn't even figure out where to start.

      Remember: Saying you use

  • EMCA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AuMatar (183847) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:27PM (#17166386)
    Does EMCA standardize anything other than MS apps? Before MS started using them, I'd never heard of them. My guess is its a mouthpiece for large companies who want a body to declare them a standard. At this point I'm ignoring anything from them- if you want to call it a stadard I want to see ANSI, ISO, IEEE, or IETF on it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jfclavette (961511)
      On the top of my head: EMCAScript, Eiffel. See for yourself. [ecma-international.org]
      • ECMA (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ford Prefect (8777) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:45PM (#17166630) Homepage
        EMCAScript

        It's ECMA. It even says that in the page you've linked to. And the original article. This Slashdot typo's infectious - it seems to have spread to half the comments posted already...
      • Conspiracy Theory: EMCA created/used for the purposes of the appearance of endorsement by ECMA without the burden.

        More likely theory: editorial dyslexia.

    • Re:EMCA (Score:4, Informative)

      by Bogtha (906264) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:39PM (#17166558)

      Does EMCA standardize anything other than MS apps?

      ECMA have ratified a few standards relating to JavaScript - for instance, ECMA 262 defines the language that JavaScript, JScript, ActionScript and QtScript are implementations of, and the E4X extension that allows XML literals is also an ECMA standard.

    • Re:EMCA (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:42PM (#17166598)
      They standaridized JavaScript; hence js's official name ECMAScript. However, although Netscape created javascript, ECMA based their standard on the "clean room" document Microsoft created in the process of reimplementing javascript, errors and all. The upshot was that after standardization, netscape was instantly in violation the standard of the language they themselves had created.
    • by camperdave (969942) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:52PM (#17166688) Journal
      I guess your standards for standards is higher than the standard industry standards standards used by standard Microsoft employees. In other words, "I've upped my standards, so up yours".

  • Bias (Score:4, Insightful)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:27PM (#17166394)
    IBM's vice president for open source and standards, called Microsoft's Office formats technically unwieldy - requiring software developers to absorb 6,000 pages of specifications, compared with 700 pages for OpenDocument.

    This piece of information is of little use without comparing the supported *features* in both format and their implementation.
    • (Not Invented By Microsoft) so naturally IBM would prefer it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Timesprout (579035)
      I had to laugh when I hear IBM describe a competitors offering as 'unwieldy', as opposed to anything IBM which requires legions of IBM 'consultants' to achieve basic functionality. That aside though I belive the majority of the 6000 pages he is referring to is actually a 4000 page primer on the markup MS use, complete with verbose desciption, examples and pretty pictures etc.
      • That aside though I belive the majority of the 6000 pages he is referring to is actually a 4000 page primer on the markup MS use, complete with verbose desciption, examples and pretty pictures etc.

        Even assuming that's true and the meat is only the remaining 2000 pages of the specification, its still over 3 times as big as the 600 pages cited for OpenDoc.

        What value does it offer (aside from currently being implemented by Microsoft) that OpenDoc doesn't for the additional complexity?

      • Pages 700-6000 are marked "This Page Intentionally Left Blank"
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mandelbr0t (1015855)
        Well, the IBM consultants are at least implementing Open Standards. They push Linux servers, WebSphere for J2EE environments, and (OK there's one proprietary thing here) DB2. I'd rather pay the consultants for providing me with an accountable amount of service (how often were you in the office, what meetings did you attend, where's our new server, etc.) rather than some unknown amount of proprietary closed-source code that took some guy 2 days to write, but we have no idea what it is since source isn't prov
    • by Kjella (173770)
      Yeah, first thing that struck me is - are we comparing apples to apples.. for example, I know the OO format allows MathML, is that included in those 700 pages or is it really "700 pages + whatever we reference"?
      • Re:Bias (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ArtDent (83554) on Friday December 08, 2006 @05:23PM (#17167180)
        Naturally, a restatement of MathML is not included in the Open Document specification.

        But here's the point: by reusing MathML, instead of reinventing the wheel, Open Document also allows existing implementations of that standard to be reused.

        The size of Microsoft's spec is a real problem. A Word developer estimates [msdn.com] more than 4 years for a team of 5 (within Microsoft) to implement just the Word portion in Word for Mac. Apparently, that's too much work, so they're just going to "port" the Windows version.

        Is a standard with only one, proprietary implementation much use to anyone?
    • by moochfish (822730)
      I think it's a stretch to believe Microsoft's specifications have over 11 times the "features" of their OpenDocument counter parts... no? I mean 6000 is a *lot*. Printed out, that'll stack up a foot or two... or three.
    • by Erris (531066)

      This piece of information [6,000 M$ vrs 700 ODF pages] is of little use without comparing the supported *features* in both format and their implementation.

      No, that order of magnitude difference is informative. I imagine 6,000 pages can buy you:

      1. ODF, so I can tell you about it in text, spreadsheet and presentation with all of the same features M$ Office has.
      2. PNG, to draw you a picture of a pig
      3. OGG, so you can hear it squeal
      4. a database to organize the pig stye
      5. a computer language to implement it all
      6. FTP,
  • by Doctor Memory (6336) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:29PM (#17166436)
    ECMA just confirmed the MS Open Office XML format as a standard, not Office in general. MS further states that OOXML will be an "open and royalty-free" specification.

    What's also interesting is that MS will be offering a "bridge" (as a separate download) that enables Office software to read and write ODF (the OpenOffice Open Document Format) files.
    • by the_humeister (922869) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:45PM (#17166632)
      Way to bring facts into the discussion. Your Slashdot license is hereby revoked.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by l2718 (514756)

      MS further states that OOXML will be an "open and royalty-free" specification.

      This sounds nice, but is a serious trap.

      1. Microsoft "open and royalty-free" licenses are normally non-transferrable: users of software written by licensees have to get their own license to use the software. This sounds fine in principle, but in practice it makes writing free (or even open-source) software relying on such licensed technology impractical: people who download your software will have to individually logon to Micros
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Brandybuck (704397)
        There is a difference between specifications and software. Really there is. End users do not need specifications in order to run software. Thus, your dooom and gloom is unjustified. As long as the specs are patent-hindered, use them to your heart's content.

        Reverse compiling Microsoft's software to figure out how they implemented the spec, on the other hand, is a whole other kettle of fish. So don't do it. Get the specs directly from ECMA and start implementing.
  • by mechsoph (716782) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:35PM (#17166490)
    Tom Brookes, a Microsoft spokesman in Brussels, said the software maker had created open-source versions of Office and...

    Malice, or an incompetent journalist?
  • I don't think "Industry Standard" is any sort of official designation.

  • by Sgt_Jake (659140)
    If the format is designated as an "industry standard", won't that make it more susceptible to regulation by governments needing access?
  • by moochfish (822730) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:36PM (#17166514)
    I am not an expert on these bodies so can someone please explain the difference between EMCA International and ISO and how the approval from each organization differs.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Kopl (1027670)
      "The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from"-Grace Hopper
    • by belg4mit (152620)
      First off it's ECMA. Second, how hard would it be to look it up?

          European Computer Manufacturers Association
          International Standards Organization

      Capisce? See wikipedia for digested details.

      Sure ECMA rubberstamps stuff that gets adopted more broadly (or has already been)
      e.g; LiveWire/LiveScript/JavaScript/ECMAScript, but they aren't the defacto int'l
      group.

      Really though, there's plenty more than two, don't forget IETF and W3C
  • Now that it is a standard, does that mean that the specifications are openly available, and that other programs can use these standards to make compatible documents without royalty concerns? Does it mean that there are no hidden or proprietary options that only Microsoft can use?
    • by kherr (602366) <kevinNO@SPAMpuppethead.com> on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:50PM (#17166668) Homepage
      It's all well and good that OOXML is a published standard, but how long until Microsoft decides they need some enhancement and just add it without going through a revision to the ECMA standard? It's one thing to get something to become a standard, quite another to adhere to it. Think of how Netscape decided they wanted new HTML features but didn't want to wait for W3C and just dreamt up stuff like the blink and marquee tags. Once Microsoft Office diverges from the OOXML standard we're right back to where we started—a proprietary document format.

      Microsoft as a company may decide product features mean more to them than adhering to a standard, even one they created. I'll never forget Microsoft's FORTRAN compiler under MS-DOS described by Microsoft as "a superset of a subset of FORTRAN 77." In other words, whatever they hell they felt like implementing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by belg4mit (152620)
        Umm blink was NS marquee was IE.
      • by SquareOfS (578820)
        {VB, VBA, C++} : a superset of a subset of Fortran

        Hear me out: remember from math that the null set, {}, is a subset of any set -- so if you're just supersetting the subset that is the null set, you can do whatever you want.

        And it's instructive that MS thinks so.

        Seriously, parent post is spot on -- MS's allegiance (and profit motive) is for the implementation, not the standard. And if they need the format to do something funky to enable the next wave of you-can't-live-without-it super-collaboration mumb

    • by overshoot (39700)
      Now that it is a standard, does that mean that the specifications are openly available, and that other programs can use these standards to make compatible documents without royalty concerns?
      According to Marbux (a retired attorney; see GrokLaw) the MS "we won't sue you into oblivion" pledge contains enough lawyerese that it turns the apparent promise into "unless we damn well feel like it, and there's nothing you can do about it."
  • One question... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by robyannetta (820243) * on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:38PM (#17166542) Homepage
    'The practical effect is the only people who are going to be in a position to implement Microsoft's specifications are Microsoft,'

    Then WHY was it approved as a "standard"?

    • by zappepcs (820751)

      Then WHY was it approved as a "standard"?

      You my friend are asking the exact right question, one that I'm sure is to be repeated many times in the near future...
  • ...that people might find interesting:

  • by tnk1 (899206) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:48PM (#17166652)
    Microsoft's spokesman countered the IBM executive's statement by pointing out,

    "Actually the Open standard we propose is six thousand pages, but that's only because we printed it in 256 point boldface fonts in order to be handicapped accessible for the visually impaired, you insensitive clod."

    Microsoft further countered allegations of being too hard for developers by pointing out,

    "If you take away the title information, the table of contents, the index and the pages that say This Page Intentionally Left Blank, all the standards document says is 'Buy a copy of Microsoft Office'. What could be simpler than that?"

  • ... that doesn't mean anyone will support it.
  • requiring software developers to absorb 6,000 pages of specifications, compared with 700 pages for OpenDocument

    OK then. Well, since neither of these documents seem to be intended to be read by mortals, I'm personally feeling more than a little "emotionally detached" from these news... :-p
  • "Your honor, since Microsoft <product> is recognized by ECMA - an independent European standards organization - as an industry standard, any attempt to <name your negative action> will irreparably harm <name your industry/collection of interest groups>."

    Damn, they're good.
  • I'm all for it if the world will be able to implement code to read the docs and the specs are openly available for that purpose. It would mean that OpenOffice would be able to read and write office formatted documents correctly right?

    I don't expect this to be true. What I expect to be true is the same that has been true for the Windows API. In Win32's API, you can know all the documented functions and features, but could never implement the stuff that's not documented... at least not publicly.

    Now would t
  • Holy crap, 6000 pages? I thought OpenDocument was bloated (which it is), but that's just absurd.
  • Microsoft's PR/media department launches a not so subtle stealth marketing campaign intended to drum up support for software that most people don't seem inclined to purchase.
  • iWork? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Friday December 08, 2006 @04:57PM (#17166766) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone know whether Apple will include support for ODF (Open Document Format) in Pages? For more a bigger testament of industry standard is getting it used by enough people.

    BTW It should be noted that Office essentially uses OLE for its binary document formats. For this reason anything you add to an Office document is essentially an embeded data type. Their XML format is another beast.
  • Which version of Office does the ECMA standard match, and what version are they trying to sell to Massachusetts?
  • Less pages than Open Document = "Microsoft sucks, Office is too basic."

    Equal number of pages with Open Document = "Microsoft sucks, they copied Open Document."

    6000 pages = "Microsoft sucks, the format is too complex for anyone than Microsoft."

    Apparently, no matter what they do, Microsoft cant suck enough.

  • by idlake (850372) on Friday December 08, 2006 @05:03PM (#17166858)
    Go take a look at it and judge for yourself. The open document formats are fairly reasonable XML-based structures (as "reasonable" as XML can ever be). MS Office XML abuses XML and is horrendously complex.

    From a practical point of view, OpenDocument already works for interchanging between multiple open source apps.

    In addition, Microsoft's file format is patented and Microsoft uses that patent to spread FUD. While the patent probably wouldn't stand, it's an additional reason not to use MS's office formats.
  • I'm probably going to get all sorts of dictionary quotes but last time I checked, standard is a by-word for Norm.

    Most people use Office, few use Open Office, why should it becoming the standard really suprise people? When you force standards which few people are already following you get the farce caused by the W3C who are constantly revising and ammending what was an established format so that every browser has a different implementation of the supposed standard and everyone of them has flaws in meeting

  • Sorry, but the only practical effect of this is to boost Microsoft's stock. People will use what they will use. In shops where .sla is used, it will still be used. OpenOffice is still going to continue to refine itself and spread into all sorts of nooks and crannies just like Firefox. With Vista being so disenchanting, and OpenOffice being part of the standard install on Ubuntu, I expect this will end up looking like what it is: Microsoft trying to plug it's finger in the hole in the dam.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "So, for most of the world, the Gregorian calendar has been the law for 250-425 years. That's a well-established standard by anyone's definition. Who would possibly ignore it or get it wrong at this point?

    If you guessed "Microsoft", you may advance to the head of the class."

    http://www.robweir.com/blog/2006/10/leap-back.html [robweir.com]

    Tips on writing a "standard":

    http://www.robweir.com/blog/index.html [robweir.com]
  • de facto (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dracos (107777) on Friday December 08, 2006 @05:44PM (#17167430)

    MS Office formats have always been a "de facto" standard, meaning they appear to be standards merely because a majority of people use them, and because there is only one implementation of them (regardless of versions). No matter how many industry groups, in this case ECMA, give them a stamp of approval, they will never achieve true "standard" status.

    Just because the vast majority of people use something (especially when they have no means to consider alternatives) does not make it a standard. That is textbook "de facto" status.

    Standards are what everyone agrees on after open, cooperative discussion. MS simply churns out what they think would be useful, influenced more by their bottom line than by user need. As long as alternative formats exist, are implemented, and are actively used and developed, MS Office formats will never be truly "standard", no matter how lopsided the usage shares are. The patent and IP issues just make this more true.

    I'm sure everyone would laugh just as hard if ECMA (or any other group) had declared AIM a standard over Jabber, ICQ, MSN messenger, Yahoo IM, or even IRC (Jabber and IRC being the closest thing to standards among all of them).

    There are countless examples of multiple ends to the same means in hardware and software. Which is the standard among SCSI/IDE/SATA? AMD vs Intel? MP3 vs Ogg? Gnome vs KDE? Emacs vs vi? None of them.

    MS is incapable of producing a real standard, unlike the *NIX community which has been doing so for decades. I can't think of a single RFC published by MS that has influenced other platforms, meanwhile MS is forced to implement (sometimes badly) such things as TCP/IP and email (among many other).

    Calling the MS Office formats a true standard is a meaningless label that can only be explained by MS having bought it. So they put a bright red "ECMA says this is standard" sticker on every box of Office 2007... the average person has no idea what the ECMA is.

  • by mpapet (761907) on Friday December 08, 2006 @05:57PM (#17167624) Homepage
    How about this one:
    No right to create modifications or derivatives of this Specification is granted herein.

    There is a separate patent license available to parties interested in implementing software programs that can read and write files that conform to the Specification. This patent license is available at this location: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpaten tlicense.asp [microsoft.com].

    The link with the actual license to READ and WRITE a file to their specifications is dead. This one works though, http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/xps/xpspatentlic.msp x [microsoft.com]. Is it the same? different license? Bad links happen to everyone.

    Some handy excerpts: "Necessary Claims" do not include any claims: (i) that would require a payment of royalties by Microsoft to unaffiliated third parties; (ii) covering any Enabling Technologies that may be necessary to make or use any product incorporating a Licensed Implementation,....

    This says to me that they have not indemnified developers from patent time-bombs for the functions one step beyond their proposed standard or other patent time-bombs laid by lesser-known Patent IP firms. Maybe someone with more coding skills can explain if it would be possible to implement a standard without so-called "Enabling Technologies"?

    (iii) covering the reading or writing of documents other than XPS Documents, or rendering of XPS Documents in a manner that is different than the rendering allowed by the XML Paper Specification. "Enabling Technologies" means technologies that may be necessary to make or use any product or portion of a product that complies with the XML Paper Specification, but are not expressly set forth"

    To me this says Microsoft can come after you if you do something they didn't think of.

    I don't see how this benefits any developer outside of a select few.
  • by 4of12 (97621) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:04PM (#17167738) Homepage Journal

    While I'm inclined to a cynical view that Microsoft is unnecessarily burdening the specification - and they probably don't mind the fact that this will impede the development of competitors products - I do have to admit the possibility that they are addressing a different criticism that many have made of them in the past.

    Namely, that Microsoft specifications are incomplete and/or imprecise (corner cases, etc.).

    Albeit verbose, is their specification technically watertight?

    Or is it merely, "Here's everything Word can do as a result of development since 1985." with no overall logical structure?

  • by bigpat (158134) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:23PM (#17168012)
    How long until Microsoft embraces and extends its own standard? This is simply an old Microsoft trick with a new twist. As soon as Microsoft documents break compatibility with ECMA OOXML, then every other third party software will lose the ability to read and write compatible documents. Worse than the current situation, because an attempt to maintain compatibility with Microsoft Office might violate the conditions of the OOXML license. And no doubt break the format they will, in subtle ways of course, a little bit off here and there just enough to make a document look much better in Microsoft Office than it will in other applications.

    The Microsoft license to use ECMA OOXML is contingent on following the standard to the letter, which is a seemingly innocuous condition until you realize that Microsoft itself is under no legal obligation to follow the standard to the letter. So you will have a bunch of third party software that follows the standard which won't be able to accurately read or write documents written by the dominant office software, it will just look like the other software is defective when really it is working according to the standard. And even if the other software developers want to break the standard in favor of microsoft compatibility, they won't be allowed to do so under the OOXML license. Microsoft wouldn't do this at first of course, what good is a trap sprung before your prey are fully in, so I am sure that Microsoft would spend a year or two adhering rigorously to the standard, just enough time for other software to incorporate OOXML compatibility. Then it would be time to break compatibility and continue the microsoft monopoly for another few years, while things work their way through the courts.

    If Microsoft itself makes a legally binding and enforceable commitment to follow the ECMA OOXML standard to the letter, then I don't see a problem with another document format standard. But as the licensor, I don't see how they could be forced to adhere to the OOXML standard. Unless Microsoft itself can be forced to rigorously follow the OOXML standard, then this is just a monopolist's trap.
  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:53PM (#17168360)
    FOSS should avoid "Open" XML because Microsoft has encumbered it. Their game is now on. Offer code and protocols that they claim is "open" but, when push comes to shove, they alone control.

    Down the road a bit they will begin strategic law suits and try to make FOSS programmers look like a bunch of thieves for implementing the "open standards" they pushed through without paying royalties.

    Microsoft is not even a bit interested in competing on a level playing field. For a very long time they have used their monopolies to gain unfair advantages; antitrust laws be damned. Now they want to use their monopoly muscle in their Office package to control a "standard" that they feel will lock out their greatest competition. They know that GPL'd software CAN NOT be encumbered by patents.

    They have no intention of real cooperation.

    The solution: EVERYONE must work to make them irrelevant. Put them into a position where they either start playing fair or die. Not an easy task. We must press our Justice department to hold them accountable for breaking antitrust laws. The Courts MUST break Microsoft into a least three separate companies. This can easily be justified by their continued disregard for the law.

    We should only support protocols and "standards" that are truly free. No unacceptable licenses, no royalties etc. As Linux gains market share there will come a time when Microsoft's insistence on being incompatible with OSS will begin to work against them.

    We should push for laws that force standards and protocols to be truly open and available to everyone including Open Source.
  • The Power of ODF (Score:4, Interesting)

    by John Harrison (223649) <johnharrison.gmail@com> on Friday December 08, 2006 @06:54PM (#17168368) Homepage Journal
    Let me tell you how simple ODF is. I did the following with ZERO documentation. No knowledge at all.

    I implemented a photo directory for my church congregation. Since it would need to be easily updated I kept the information in a CSV spreadsheet, including names, addresses, and the name of the photo file. I looked at doing a mail merge with either OOo or Word and it didn't look like I could get what I really wanted with either. So I made a sample doc in OOo Writer and saved it. I then renamed it to a .zip file, opened content.xml and found the xml for what I had put in the test doc. I then wrote a Java program that would parse the CSV and output xml that looked like the xml in the file. Cut and past the generated xml into the document, drop the photos in the pictures directory, and then zip it back up and change the name back. It just worked.

    I'll admit that you would have to be a programmer to do something like that, but it was really easy and required no documentation or specialized knowledge. That is the power of the ODF. I'm guessing the same isn't possible with the MS format.
  • which one? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Friday December 08, 2006 @07:08PM (#17168516) Homepage Journal
    So which file format is this they're talking about? That from MS Office 95, 97, 2k, 2003? And which version, the documented one or the actual one?

    Fact is that even though MS tries to cover it up by keeping the names constant, the office file formats are just as fragmented as the various versions of windos. It's a neat trick, but "Windows 3.1" and "Windows XP" really don't have much in common except that the later contains a backwards compatability layer, i.e. "Wine from Redmond".

    Same with the file formats. Yes, newer versions of MS Office contain importers for the older file formats. That just hides the fact that there are probably 10 different versions out there.

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