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Sun Asks China to Merge its Doc Format With ODF 114

christian.einfeldt writes "Sun's Chairman Scott McNealy has asked the world's most populous nation to merge its Uniform Office Format with the Open Document Format. Tech lawyer Andy Updegrove thinks that McNealy would not have flown to China and taken this chance of rejection if McNealy didn't think that there was a good likelihood of success."
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Sun Asks China to Merge its Doc Format With ODF

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  • Numbers game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Random BedHead Ed ( 602081 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @07:33AM (#18810065) Homepage Journal
    Playing the numbers game, if a country as large as China were to adopt ODF (via harmonizing with it), it's game over, and ODF wins. That wouldn't spell the end for Microsoft's XML standard, but it would be a major setback, globally speaking. I wish him luck.
    • Re:Numbers game (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EveryNickIsTaken ( 1054794 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @07:52AM (#18810161)
      I beg to differ. Given that English is still considered the "language of business" even in the East, I'd think that China would adapt to whatever format its potential buyers use.
      • Re:Numbers game (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Random BedHead Ed ( 602081 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @08:00AM (#18810207) Homepage Journal
        They could, and you're right that China could change their minds and opt for the MS Office formats. (That the leader of China wanted to meet Bill Gates on his visit to the US is worth noting.) But there are a couple problems. One, MS's office formats can't easily be implemented by third parties, particularly if those third parties want to remain independent of Microsoft (and not licensees). Second, China already has a non-MS office format, so they were thinking of diverging from Microsoft's lock-in model long before now.
        • I purchased dollar-store goods from Chinese manufacturers/sweat shops for a few years. Regardless of what document standard they may have adopted already, any correspondence I ever received was MS office format, and in broken Engrish. It matters not what their standard is if they're going to use MS office in any outbound correspondence to accommodate their Western buyers.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            The big difference is the sweat shop copy of MS was undoubtedly pirated. Now that China is cracking down, nobody wants to pay Microsoft prices. Instead, they'd like to use a cheap, homegrown product - built on UOF (or, if it goes that way, UOF/ODF). - Andy
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              They would? How exactly do you know this? China's businesses don't rely on domestic sales for their profit, they rely on exports. Despite the fact that you and others may dislike MS, the majority of the business world still uses Office. As long as that remains true, the Chinese will use it to accommodate their Western buyers.
              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by ronocdh ( 906309 )

                They would? How exactly do you know this? China's businesses don't rely on domestic sales for their profit, they rely on exports. Despite the fact that you and others may dislike MS, the majority of the business world still uses Office. As long as that remains true, the Chinese will use it to accommodate their Western buyers.

                I don't see the sense in this. Are the products they're exporting word processing documents? If not, it doesn't matter one bit what the customer is using as far as a word processor go

                • I hate Microsoft. Call the Waaaaaahmbulance!
                  You clearly have superior knowledge about the Chinese culture and its business practices. Congratulations.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Shotgun ( 30919 )
                And all the American corporations scrambling to cut their own throats to get into China? What do you think their reaction will be to the Chinese government proclaiming, "Use and open format if you want to talk to us". We don't care to be owned by Microsoft"? That's right. The chief execs will all surrender their left nuts to switch to ODF documents (and that includes Carly Fiorna).
                • Nah. I've dealt with them. They kiss ass like no others. Again, just because *you* hate MS doesn't mean that everyone in the world does.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by marcello_dl ( 667940 )
        But, English is in the public domain :)
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You're deluding yourself if you think that English is the language of business *in* Asia - or in China itself. That has occurred in India for historical reasons.
        Remember English took the international language title from French due to the importance of *selling* to the English speaking market - particularly the US. When - in 10 years - China is the biggest market, they'll begin to take that title.
      • by killjoe ( 766577 )
        Chinese are buyers too you know.
    • Harmonize or Adopt? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If China adopts ODF thats a good thing.
      If China 'harmonizes' with it, thats a bad thing, it creates yet another format.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CarpetShark ( 865376 )
      Until someone at MS decides that they're "going to f'in kill China", and starts spreading crap about their weird isolationist document format that only commies like, so that everyone else shies away from it.

      When the greedy are playing dirty politics, and decent people still care about their reputations, there's no such thing as game over. Well, not for the good, anyway.
    • Hmm, last time i read M$ sold only some ~300 Vista licenses in China in 2 weeks. Not much more of a loss if China uses ODF.
  • I can't wait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DigDuality ( 918867 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @07:39AM (#18810095)
    This could be an awesomely smart idea and all the power to all parties involved making it work. I really like open source software, but i could really care less in the big picture. There's more to stand for in open formats than software. The illusion of openeess that OpenXML is needs to go away. I hope MS office continues to grow and improve but their strong hold on document formats need to go.
    • Re:I can't wait (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ror ( 1068652 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @07:50AM (#18810155)
      If Microsoft lose their hold on the document format then there would be little to tie people to office, and through that, windows. Every time I try and 'sell' openoffice to my family they scoff and say "but it's NOT office" despite the fact they're using office 97 that can barely handle office 2000 documents.

      There is a perception that people NEED office to function, getting ODF widely accepted would be a huge blow to Microsoft.
      • Re:I can't wait (Score:4, Interesting)

        by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @08:11AM (#18810255) Journal
        There's also the perception that if they can get Office at a discount they're saving money. Recently Microsoft offered office (and some other programs like the latest Outlook Express) for Australian university students at $99 or $199 (I can't remember). My father recommended I get it so I had a look and couldn't find any new features in Office that I would use and I didn't use any of the other software that came bundled with it. Well my sister and her boyfriend thought I was crazy. After all, it was SO much cheaper then Office normally is. I asked them what features the latest Office had that they used, they couldn't name one. Her boyfriend mentioned the great spam filtering in Outlook, but that was it. My sister liked the look of it. I said well I didn't use Outlook and I'd need a bit better feature then its "new look" before I'd buy it, they thought I was crazy.

        So if the people making this decision in China are like my sister and father, all they need do is offer them a discounted Office and they'll go with Microsoft's XML format, simply because there's the perception that they'll be getting a discount.
    • Maybe Sun should extend their invitation to Microsoft as well - surely this would be the killer to getting the more open standard accepted.

      Or maybe Sun should be working to adopt Office Open XML, which is likely to be the most adopted format. I know that Microsoft could have some ulterior motives behind making their XML format open - and perhaps it isn't open at all, but why can't the open source community use the same tactics to their advantage and make an effort to steer the populist formats towards th
  • i.e., a suitcase of US dollars, then I predict success.
    • by wbren ( 682133 )
      ...or better yet, a suitcase full of British pounds [].
    • that depends on who receives this case. better not someone who make exaggerated claims of having strong links to some powerful officials but really having none. it is only a success if the suitcase reaches the hands of the powerful official or better of his son/wife/relatives.

      that's what china really is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20, 2007 @07:54AM (#18810175)
    I live in China. All I see is Office 2000 or 2003 with windows 2000 or Windows XP, and it's all free for them so nobody is going to change. Except perhaps they'll change to Windows Vista and Office 2007 in 2010 when enough schools buy new computers with it installed already.. and no, don't think for a minute they are legal copies.

  • From TFA:

    [...] China's overall strategy, which for the last several years has been oriented towards developing "home grown" standards in areas where high foreign royalty payments, or product prices, would otherwise be encountered. These standards have most notably been in the area of wireless (WAPI), video (AVS), and 3G telephones (TD-SCMA), with other standards on the way. For China to give up independence with UOF would run counter to this trend, and would provide a very interesting bellwether indeed rega

  • Let's don't overlook that Chinese is generally written using an extensive set of non-alphabetic characters. My guess would be that the Chinese, like the Japanese, prefer their written materials to be in their characters, not in romanized text that conveys less information.

    So, one issue would be whether ODF is suitable for representing Chinese (and Japanese) text. ... and how much aggravation is involved in using ODF to represent the chanacters -- compared to whatever solution(s) they are using now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Of course ODF can handle Chinese characters, just like anything that supports Unicode. You'd be hard pressed to find a modern word-processing format that cannot contain Chinese characters.
      • Sorry. I forgot that most westerners do not understand that most Chinese characters are neither ideograms nor alphabetic characters -- something in between ... sort of.

        Anyway, just because ODF (or any similar encoding scheme) can represent a subset of the characters does not mean that the Chinese will be happy with it. If you want to take this discussion further, you'll need to learn some basics of how Chinese characters are constructed. See h inese []


        • I still don't know what you're talking about. I'm a student of Chinese and Japanese, and I always use ODT in for all my vocabulary lists, etc. The only problem I have encountered is that Ruby (furigana) annotations are not handled in the same way in MS Office, so I can't always convert documents; but that's a minor point.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Tipa ( 881911 )

      ODF has had this support since 2002.

      See: []

      2002 Definitions for CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) and complex text layout languages get added to the XML file format specification.
    • by fuzz6y ( 240555 )

      Let's don't overlook that Chinese is generally written using an extensive set of non-alphabetic characters.

      non-English-alphabetic characters. And you know who this stunning insight has occurred to before?


      • > ... Chinese is generally written using an extensive set of non-alphabetic characters

        > non-English-alphabetic characters.

        No, non alphabetic. You know alphabet == alaph-bet or alpha-beta. The name derives from the first two letters in middle eastern/western system. The Chinese use an ideogramic character system, the Japanese use a combined syllabery and ideogramic system and in Europe and the middle East, languages are written in the Roman/Greek/Cyrillic/Hebrew/Arabic/etc alphabet.

        As usual, Wikipedia
      • Are you saying that Chinese characters are alphabetic? I thought they were morphemes.
      • Chinese characters are NOT alphabetic. Mostly, they are compounded according to a rather byzantine scheme that makes perfect sense if you happen to speak a Chinese based language (or a language like Japanese with a large vocabulary inherited from Chinese). As a first approximation, most of them are composed by merging two simpler characters on a sounds_like-refers_to basis. There are standard subsets that are easily encoded just like European alphabetic characters. But there is no rule that says that us
  • he wouldn't do it if he didn't think he would be sucessful? yeah right... his other option is to sit back and watch his steadily dwindling market share. last ditch effort is what this is
  • That's what he said, ol' Scott McNealy, "Mr. Tao, tear down this wall!"
    • by koreth ( 409849 ) *
      That'd be Mr. Hu, if you're talking about the current president of China. His given name is Jintao. Chinese, like other languages, puts the family name before the given name.
  • Probably Because (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @10:18AM (#18811285) Homepage Journal
    In Sun you need to file a business justification to run a Windows machine. If China runs ODF then Sun's China sales and support force does not need to run Windows or Word.
  • Andy Updegrove gave interesting link to article: Sun's McNealy Proposes Merging ODF with Chinese Counterpart [].

    The article goes into into technical side of merge highlighting technical differences between the two file formats. And from my reading it seems like UOF is superior to ODF in many aspects.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein