IBM’s Rob Weir makes it clear… he wants war


Last spring, we saw some positive developments in the file format world. We started to reach a critical mass of tools that support open formats. There were millions of downloads of the compatibility pack which allowed existing Microsoft Office customer to get full support for Open XML for free. There was a lot of progress in the ODF <-> Open XML translator project which meant that MS Office users could open and save ODF files as well. On the other side you had builds of Open Office that allowed their customers to open and save in the Open XML format. And there was the start of a project at DIN (the German national standards body) where they were going to create a full report about translation between ODF and Open XML.

There were all big positive steps for the industry, and it caused me to make a claim that if there had been any type of “file format war”, it was certainly over (and both sides had won): http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2007/03/02/openoffice-support-for-the-openxml-formats.aspx

Well, apparently IBM didn’t like that message. Even today they still believe they are in a war. A couple days ago I had a blog post where I voiced my surprise that IBM’s Rob Weir (head of the ODF technical committee), was attacking the ISO and Ecma for their discussions about setting up a plan for maintenance of the Open XML format after it’s adopted (assuming the National Bodies are happy with the proposed resolutions this spring). It was odd to me, because ODF is now a year removed from their ISO standardization, and they currently allow no involvement at all from ISO in the development of ODF. There are folks in ISO issuing reported errors in the ODF spec, and it’s not even clear how these will be dealt with: http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0942.htm

Lower in the comment section Rob and I had a discussion and I just asked Rob straight up why he wanted to continue this smear campaign:

“There is so much positive news right now and you’re trying to confuse people and not allow them to focus on those positives. Look at where we are now compared to where we were just 3 years ago. There are multiple open formats for people to choose from, and there are even open source translator projects that go between them all (ODF, Open XML, UOF, DAISY, HTML, etc.). I said back in the spring that the war was over, and I really had thought it was true. You guys just won’t let it stop though. If ODF is a better format, let it win for that reason. Don’t hold onto the ISO thing with such a jealous grasp that you block any other true progress from happening. Maybe if you spent as much time improving ODF and OpenFormula as you do trying to bring down Open XML you guys would actually have a final draft ready.

There are clearly a large number of people out there who want to see Open XML ratified by ISO, why do you want to stop that? Now you’re taking the approach you used of Ecma bashing to actually bashing the ISO and trying to bring everyone into OASIS (gee, that’s convenient).

We really aren’t going to make any progress with this mudslinging though. I’d much rather we talk about the actual technical issues and the advantages/disadvantages of the different approaches we’ve taken.”

And to it Rob Weir replied:

“Its called a “standards war”. Look it up. Whining about it won’t make it go away.”

It’s really a shame that it’s come to this. This approach is just harmful, to everyone. Again, I’d like to ask that this view of “war” stop, and instead focus on technology. We’re engineers, we’re supposed to build things, not tear them down (or maybe I’m just being super naïve).

Look at the propaganda he’s spouting on his own blog:

“But that scary part is that with even 1/3 of P-members, a number they clearly outright own, they can block anyone else’s standard. It probably hasn’t sunk into your realization yet,but Microsoft can essentially already erected toll bridge in ISO and demand payment or other concessions from anyone who wants to work with International Standards. If ISO rules get in the way, Microsoft can change them. If ISO administrators get in the way — no worry. With this number of NB’s Microsoft can control directives, staffing, paychecks, etc.

They’ve raised an army. You don’t think they will use it?”

That’s just crazy. Rob, which format floated through ISO with zero resistance? Yours!

Rob, which company has over 300,000 employees around the globe ready to be mobilized at a moment’s notice to block anything they don’t agree with? Yours!

Microsoft owns ISO and should be feared? If that’s the case someone should let us TC45 members know, because we’ve been busting our humps the past few months trying to come up with good resolutions to the National Body comments that came pouring in back in September. I can’t believe you feel comfortable throwing around crazy statements like this Rob… sounds like the type of propaganda you hear from someone looking to wage war. It needs to stop.

-Brian

Comments (79)

  1. Chris Clark says:

    Brian,

    the trouble is, Microsoft has a long history of monopoly and anti trust convictions in the US, Europe, and Asis and your CEO keeps spouting idiotic threats about Linux twice annually.  So every time people within the organisation who may have genuine desires for openness exist, and I believe they do, 70,000 NO OOXML community supporters simply point up your organisation’s ongoing track record.

    Chris

  2. mgm says:

    > Microsoft has a long history of monopoly and anti trust convictions in the US…

    As does IBM.

  3. Chris Puttick says:

    "which company has over 300,000 employees around the globe ready to be mobilized at a moment’s notice to block anything they don’t agree with? Yours!"

    But which company has mobilised hundreds of partner companies around the world to join national standards committees? Which company has got national standards bodies to gain "P" membership of SC34 purely to try to swing the vote for your ill-thought through format? Yours!

    Chris P

  4. Dan says:

    Why is MS Office 2007 still not able to natively use ODF files?  If Microsoft fixes that, maybe I’ll believe that MS doesn’t want to fight a war itself.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    [quote]Which company has got national standards bodies to gain "P" membership of SC34 purely to try to swing the vote for your ill-thought through format? [/quote]

    Or is it that the exisiting P-members are already in the pockets of IBM.

    All countries of no-voting P members seem to have heavy influence of IBM in external consultancy and advise and have a lot more IBM empoyees working for them than MS employees.

    IBM is in a position to influence more goverment processes in the world than any other company and has a lot more government contract money flowing in than MS does.

    Micrsoft works more trough partners privding services and reselling licenses with relativly low staff in a lot of countries whereas IBM relies heavily on it’s own consultancy and consulancy partners and heaving a huge amount of people employeed allover the world and also mostly in service of governments.

    So business models dictate that IBM will be using direct influence by employees and related consultancy and MS uses it’s software integration partners. This is a very common sight in business today.

    That the P-countries that voted no or abstained are the countries where IBM has big consultancy influence is therefore hardly surpising.

    I saw somebody suggesting a corruption comparison list for explaining pro-ooxml votes but it is obvious that a relative countries IBM mainframe spending list would also work excellent for explaining no and abstain votes of p-member with only the US being a notable exception.

  6. BOTH companies have a long, rich history of dirty pool, and anyone trusting either IBM or Microsoft to "do the right thing" where "do the right thing" is defined as anything but "Crush the competition under our heel and establish our own hegemony" is foolish.

    Having said that, Brian, are you really still surprised at the reactions to Microsoft saying "we want to be open" with one mouth, and then saying "We’re going to sue Linux users" with the other? One mouth says "Hey, we need to work better with Linux and Solaris and Mac OS X" and the other says "WINDOWS ONLY"? One mouth says "We should all just get alone" and the other says "If you want Windows to play nice with your other crappy platforms, you’re doing 100% of the work, and you’ll have to sue us to get the APIs and proper documentation".

    It’s not that Microsoft is worse than IBM, it’s that they’re *just as bad*, but unlike IBM who gets ‘Hey, people really hate us, but so what’, Microsoft is still kinda whiny about it. Microsoft can’t have it both ways man. As a company, Microsoft either embraces its inner asshole, or it stops saying asshole-ish things, and in fact, stops acting like an asshole. But it can’t act like an asshole, then expect to be treated like it isn’t.

  7. Ed Daniel says:

    Hmmm, this debate gets hotter and quite so.  William Isaacs has an interesting approach to dialogue that recognises in order for progression to be made between parties often a 3rd stage of ‘conflict’ needs to be navigated before arriving at a 4th stage of ‘relfection’.

    It is neither surprising nor comforting that this is regarded as ‘war’ so I did not find the title particularly sensational and quite apropos – for most CEOs that is exactly what business is – war.  Many business leaders have taken an interest in military strategy and much of modern asian business strategy is modeled on the teachings of Sun Tzu.

    So, a format standard war is obvious where there is territory up for grabs.  What is that territory, who is it’s rightful owner and who has the right to dictate in those grounds.

    Regardless of which posture one takes I still find Microsoft lacking and while a blog title that claims the other party wants a war I think Microsoft has taken that view all along. When was the last time IBM paid some one to set up false accusations, indirectly or otherwise – or was that all just some silly business where an over-zealous Boston Globe reporter lost control?

    Once upon a time technology was a luxury, now it’s a commodity – perhaps IT’s business model will evolve the way the agricultural, media and energy industries have.  Sometimes a format is just VHS/BETAMAX, other times it’s something that affects everyone of us whether we participate or not.

    The problem this debate has is that it is stuck with technology evangelists arguing for openness on behalf of the wider community, mostly ignorant to the impact these standards have and businessmen telling the public to put their trust in them looking after us.  The evangelists know the wider cost implications  – most notably in archiving, retrieval and integration costs implicity whereas the public are happy to ignore this for a simple life.

    The problem however, is that thanks to stuff like these blogs more and more of the public are becoming bemused and confused as to why these businesses don’t collaborate on obvious things like formats because of the proof of the exponential benefits openness brings to innovation yet we have the juxture position of antiquated thinking around property rights.

    This debate is so much more than formats, it delves into the right to benefit from one’s innovations and what belongs to the ‘commons’.

    What we have here is the ‘commons’ trying to ensure they have ubiquitous access while business tries to ensure they control the access.

    What do you think is best, use the Berners-Lee approach or allow an industry behemoth to guide us, their way, not our way.

    Amazing times, I just wish more people were following this ‘battle’.

  8. Andre says:

    "What we have here is the ‘commons’ trying to ensure they have ubiquitous access while business tries to ensure they control the access."

    It is about Free market vs. market abuse. A free competitive market is what an international standard needs to provide.

    Your visions of business is similar to what i hear from communists. One the one hand the private evil business, on the other hand the good commons. This is utterly wrong.

    Who cares about a single company that makes its money on the word processor market? The market is larger. Our governments have absolutely no desire to lock them in to a platform controlled by a single American company. Sure it is the business interest of that company that it stays like this, but ultimately governments need to promote a free market and offer access to it. Same to businesses. They want to have full access to the spec to develop their business solutions.

    Microsoft depends on electronic hierarchies as their business model. But there is no free lunch in software. The monopoly rent Microsoft consumes is taken from the rest of the market.

    "… whereas the public are happy to ignore this for a simple life."

    Free markets need to be actively promoted and public procurement needs to keep a close eye on them. The fact that Microsoft compromises our international standard process shows that we need to develop counter-strategies. We woke up too late. We should already have done so in 1992.

    As long as Brian Jones pollutes the international standard organization reasonable people need to defend themselves and close their ranks. Enough is enough. They must be told a lesson.

  9. Rui Seabra says:

    <blockquote>That’s just crazy. Rob, which format floated through ISO with zero resistance? Yours!</blockquote>

    Hi Brian,

    I’d say that usually happens when you really have multiple people working and agreeing with each other, instead of one monopoly-abuse thrice convicted company bullying a format it itself does not support over to ISO.

    Nobody is that blind, so yeah, it has met unexpected resistance.

    You do know the borg don’t really exist right? "Resistance is futile, prepare to be assimilated" is just a joke, not something to make Microsoft’s unwritten moto out of it 🙂

  10. Rui Seabra says:

    <blockquote>That’s just crazy. Rob, which format floated through ISO with zero resistance? Yours!</blockquote>

    Hi Brian,

    I’d say that usually happens when you really have multiple people working and agreeing with each other, instead of one monopoly-abuse thrice convicted company bullying a format it itself does not support over to ISO.

    Nobody is that blind, so yeah, it has met unexpected resistance.

    You do know the borg don’t really exist right? "Resistance is futile, prepare to be assimilated" is just a joke, not something to make Microsoft’s unwritten moto out of it 🙂

  11. And here it goes again. Brian Jones wrote:

    "It was odd to me, because ODF is now a year removed from their ISO standardization, and they currently allow no involvement at all from ISO in the development of ODF."

    After promising that the standard would be developed through ISO! The nerve! Right? I mean, right?

    Not right? They never said that? They are consistent and open in their actions? Unlike Microsoft, who promised e.g. here[0] and here[1] that ISO would have total control over OOXML, but now submitted a proposal where ISO wouldn’t? Notice the second link where Microsoft *specifically* stated: "Would the maintenance of the standard be carried out by Ecma (assuming OpenXML became an ISO/IEC standard) or would it be carried out by JTC1? No question, JTC1. But would the detail be delegated to Ecma? No, it would all be beyond MS’ control in JTC1."

    Brian, you keep ignoring this. You keep misrepresenting IBM’s position on this. Why are you doing this? Don’t you see that you are discrediting your whole position with behaviour like this? How are people supposed to take you seriously when you pull stuff like that?

    [0] http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2007/01/19/passing-the-openxml-standard-over-to-iso.aspx

    [1] http://doyoulovems.com/archives/33

  12. carlos says:

    brian said:

    >Microsoft owns ISO and should be feared?

    having seen:

    . Microsoft employees becoming NB chairs

    . Microsoft certified partners stuffing NBs

    . influenced NBs suddenly ( and a couple of days before ballot closing ) upgrading to P-Members and voting "inconditional yes" to +6000 pages of a specification with lot of errors and omissions.

    . some INCITS members changing 180 degrees its vote, after misterious lobbying at White house level

    . etc, etc

    i will say:

    Yes, Microsoft owns ISO and must be feared.

    People, keep the quality in standardization. We ( final users ) don’t want "standardization by corporations" ( read the SC34 convenor report: http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0940.htm )

    We are the ones who "suffer" the result of your games ( the ISO stamp game, funny for you but nor for us ).

    Grow up people, grow up Microsoft, and Brian, wake up!

     –carlos

  13. Gavin Beckett says:

    @ Jeffrey – you really shouldn’t make such claims without clear evidence to back them up. People making claims about MS influencing NB’s are doing so with real hard evidence – e.g. letters written by MS employees to MS partners about joining NB sub-committees and voting pro-OOXML.

    I’ve been involved with a sub-committee of a No voting NB, and have seen absolutely no evidence of IBM influencing neutral experts, apart from through rational debates, in which MS were an active participant too. I don’t have any figures on relative spend on IBM and MS in the public sector economy of my country, but I’ll bet you both companies have massive income streams. To imply that MS is that much smaller than IBM in developed countries, and that it’s the size of IBM accounts that made NB’s vote No is simply FUD. Unless you can show us direct evidence…?

    @Brian, you ask if you’re being naive… well perhaps you are, or else disingenuous.

    Rob doesn’t say he "wants" a war, he just says it "is" a war, and of course he’s right. But just because he works for IBM doesn’t make it an IBM vs MS war – although of course that’s one front in it. You and other MS bloggers find it useful to characterise this as purely about IBM, but that’s simply untrue.

    The conflict we’re seeing played out here is about customers and users wanting a different relationship with their suppliers, and more control over their data. I’m a customer, and I know many other customers, and without exception we all want our data to be fully accessible by us for as long as possible. In real practical terms this equates to full and open rights to access our data via any means we want, without penalties or restrictions. Some of us have made moves to ODF to try to achieve that, others have stuck with MS binaries because the cost of exit is higher for them, others are hoping OOXML will help them out.

    One point to recognise is that most of these customers don’t have time to blog or express their views publicly. We’re mostly too busy doing our day jobs. Rob, yourself and many other bloggers are employed to work directly on these issues, so you can take the time to express yourself. If mostly IBM, Sun and MS employees are blogging, it’s easy (but cheap) to characterise it as a vendor spat. But not true.

    All IT managers I know would prefer to have one single standard format, which embraced the best of both ODF and OOXML. Lots of people find OpenOffice.org has all the features they need. Lots of other people will be willing to pay for the additional features of MS Office. We’d all rather not have to deal with the pain of document conversion and interchange, but by refusing to implement ODF, and by making OOXML so opaque and difficult to implement by others, you are blocking us from achieving what we want.

    If OOXML simply existed to provide a conversion to XML for the old binary formats, I would support it – but it wouldn’t need to be an ISO format for this purpose. ECMA 376 would do fine.   But MS clearly wants to compete with ODF in international procurements where ISO standards are the only option. There’s no sense in knocking ODF for its shortcomings and trying to make it look like its route through ISO was flawed, when you chose to let both things happen without shouting about it at the time. If you truly are an engineer who simply wants to see a good format defined, why didn’t you fight to get into the OASIS ODF TC and argue loudly (in the public mailing lists) about the things you felt ODF should include?

    Please don’t tell me Sun would have blocked you. I don’t believe that if MS had wanted to be a part of the TC, you would have let Sun block you. We would have seen as much heat and light from Jason Matusow and others as we see now, and for better reason. In fact, if customers like me had seen MS being blocked from OASIS, we would have gladly given Sun a piece of our mind, and supported your efforts.

    Strangely, none of that happened did it?

  14. Simon Phipps says:

    Brian: I attended the NCC meeting in London that Rob refers to in his blog and remember hearing Stephen and Stijn neutralise dissent on maintenance by asserting OOXML would be maintained at ISO (as John Scholes reported at the time). I thought that was a great thing and I’m very disappointed Microsoft is reneging on the commitment. While it’s a fun technique to criticise Rob’s rhetorical flourishes and focus on a sub-issue in the posting, the substantive point he makes remains unanswered.

    @mgm: Actually, I don’t believe IBM has ever been convicted as a monopolist – I think they settled and agreed to a "consent decree" after years of stalemate. There could be some other incident I’m overlooking, though.

  15. Rob Weir says:

    I’m sorry, Brian. I didn’t realize that you were not familiar with the term "standards war" before.  It is a common term in use in the analysis of competition.  See for example, Shapiro and Varian, "The Art of Standards Wars" in California Management Review, Vol. 42, No. 2.  See also the Wikipedia page on "Format Wars".   So my statement was not intended to be a "declaration of war", but an observation of a competitive condition which exists and has existed for several years now.  This condition has a name and I used it properly.  However, you appear to taken a wild interpretation of the phrase, akin to claiming that a skyscraper is used as a toothpick for clouds.

    You make an interesting observation about IBM and its consulting arm and Microsoft with its partner community.  This is an important distinction, but it is entirely to Microsoft’s benefit.  Participation at the national level is almost always one-company = one-vote.  So IBM and all of its 300,000 employees get only one vote in any country where we participate.  But as we saw in the US, and in many other places, MS partners can be rounded up and asked to join standards committees, where they get one vote per partner.  This was key to Microsoft winning in many countries.  

    You complain that I am "trying to confuse people and not allow them to focus on those positives." You’re kidding, right?  Let’s see… you have you, Doug Mahugh, Jason Matusow, Oliver Bell, Craig Kitterman, Jerry Fishenden and Stephen McGibbon blogging on pro OOXML topics, just to mention those off the top of my head.  And here there is little ol’ me preventing seven big Microsoft bloggers from focusing on the positives?  This is what I call "whining".

    As for Murata-san’s error report, you remark that it is "not even clear how these will be dealt with."  You might note that this error report was submitted exactly one day ago, so the ODF TC has not had the opportunity even of a single day to read or act upon it.  Like any other error report from OASIS members, from the public or from SC34, we will add it to our agenda and discuss at our weekly meetings.  As always, the meeting agenda and minutes are open for anyone to read.  And as aways, SC34 has a liaison to OASIS who is welcome to attend any or all meetings.

    In any case we have been fortunate to have recent Russian and now Japanese translations of the ODF ISO standard.  This kind of close reading finds many editorial errors that a native speaker will miss.  

    Think of the old line:

    PARIS

    IN THE

    THE SPRING

    where a native speaker will usually miss the duplicate "THE".

  16. Jeffrey says:

    @Gavin

    You yourself even spend time even with those IBM consultants. Like IBM’s Chris Francis of IBM’s Government Programmes.

    Mayby you are unaware of the number of IBM employees in UK geovernment service but it is probably a factor 10 times more than the UK government has people hired from Microsoft. IBM has consultancy as a core business and governments as their main points of sale. In every western governments ICT organisation you are run over with IBM employees and see only limited MS employees.

    I am certain you can’t have missed that. IBM has 200,000 international employees and MS only 30,000.  

    Also IBM has strategive partnerships with large accountancy/consultancy firms that advise most governments and that also sit in tons of governments committees.

    Micrsoft works more trough software service and integration companies which can provide extra service with their software products and has not nearly as much consultancy power than a company like IBM.

  17. skc says:

    Not to nitpick, but people seem to like throwing around the term "convicted". Correct me if I’m wrong, but you can only ever be "convicted" in a criminal case.

    I don’t believe MS’ case was ever considered a criminal case.

    Any lawyers in the house feel free to correct me.

  18. Jeffrey says:

    @Rob

    You said "But as we saw in the US, and in many other places, MS partners can be rounded up and asked to join standards committees, where they get one vote per partn"

    In the US it was the INCITS executive board that voted 12-3 for approval of Office Open XML and that board is not a place where MS partners can just join.

    What Rob also does not mention is that most old p-member countries had already seen Sun and IBM and even in some cases other pro-ODF companies/organisations already sitting in the committies from the time that ODF was passed trough those committees. So it is pretty reasonable to asume that the sitting NB committees were fairly pro-ODF to begin with from the time that ODF was passed a year earlier. In your own US INCITS committee the chairman was even in the OASIS ODF TC.

    Looking at the NB’s the membership lists of the Office document committees (the public ones at least) prior to the OOXML seemed to represent a lot more IBM, Sun and OSS organisations than Microsoft partners.

    Rather strange as Microsoft and it’s partners seem to produce more than 90% of the worlds Office documents…

    New members countries did not have the pre-stacked pro-ODF voting members and were mainly driven by supporting the OOXML format.

    It is also easy to notice that committees that were very pro-ODF in an earlier voted a lot more negativly on OOXML than the average committee that had not voted before against the standard. That seems to show that influence created for an earlier pro-ODF vote can travel a long way to the future.

  19. Gavin Beckett says:

    @Jeffrey

    Yes, I do indeed know Chris Francis – scary what people can find out about you these days! But I can’t have spent more than a few hours with him over the past year, so I don’t think that really gives him much influence on me… I have no personal contracts, consultancy arrangements or other financial incentives from IBM to say what I say, or think what I think. I could get offended about your implication, but I choose not to.

    Your numbers on global employees are about right too, but it still doesn’t translate to the direct influence you seem to impute. UK Government certainly does have lots of contracts with IBM, but the biggest IT programme in the world – the NHS NPfIT – includes the rollout of huge amounts of MS software too. I just don’t think these things have the influence you suggest on standards bodies.

    I know things are very heated in these blogs, but my point to you is that just because one side accuses the other of corruption, doesn’t make it right to do the same back without direct evidence.

    I don’t know about other countries, but the UK NB wasn’t "pro-ODF" as such. My understanding is that it reviewed ODF and made technical comments, just as it has with OOXML. However they, and all the other voting NBs voted "Yes" or "Yes with Comments" – which is why there was no BRM.

    My contacts with many of the UK NB members has shown me that they are true professionals, with a real desire to see quality standards available to the international community. They take pride in checking specs for errors that matter. Most of them do not work for IBM, Sun or MS.

    Despite all the accusations and counter-accusations, I think that a large core of active reviewers in many NBs have been working in good-faith, and have independently identified many important problems with OOXML. I agree that there have been many duplicates, lots of which came from the Groklaw sources. One of the reasons many NBs submitted the Groklaw comments is that people feared that somehow they would get "lost", because what appeared to be a clear cut outcome to the contradictions phase – a majority of votes that there were contradictions – then moved on to the next period.

    People are being repeatedly told that only technical comments are allowed to be addressed within the ISO process – this makes them feel that the wider concerns are being pushed aside, and so of course they get more intransigent about their technical comments.

    I still haven’t seen a decent, technical, discussion of what features of the MS Office binary formats cannot be implemented in an extended ODF. I now believe that this is because the assertion is unsupportable. Otherwise, we would have seen some key examples that the ODF camp would be unable to refute. I’m not trying to pretend that ODF can support all MS Office binary format features today – it can’t. (Although it really does do most of them.) I’m saying, it’s an eXtensible Markup Language format… so tell us why it couldn’t be extended?

  20. RobertLilly says:

    @Jeffrey

    Just because MS produces 90% of the office documents, does not give it carte blanche for the ratification of their defacto formats as an ISO. Perhaps it is this arrogance, why MS fails to understand what “Open” is and for that matter why OOXML is not.

    All the conjecture means nothing; it won’t make the square peg fit in the round hole. The fact still remains that OOXML does not represent a common ground for the majority. Is represented by one company and a few entities aligned to that company financially for the sole purpose of keeping the “playing field” lopsided.

    So MS and their friend ECMA (who does not mind MS’s vision of standards) are now finding that the ISO process is definitely not friendly. This is not because of any bias against Microsoft, but because the “standard” MS is proposing flies in the face of everything ISO has attempted to do in its long history. What is hard not to understand.

  21. Rob Weir says:

    @Jeffrey

    A "pro-ODF" leaning in a NB is not something that you can effectively argue merely by the fact that they voted in favor of ODF and against OOXML.

    When I claim an NB has a pro-Microsoft bias, I offer some evidence. For example, if a country that has never before participated in JTC1 activities joins JTC1 as a P-member just two days before the OOXML ballot concludes, then votes an unqualified Yes, without comments on a 6,000 page standard, without an industry or public consultation in their country, and then goes on to ignore every other ballot that comes before JTC1, then I call that suspicious.  When this happens 20 times then I call it committee stuffing.

    You can go back to the ODF ballot and you will see no such JTC1 membership surge. You will see no such surge in NB committee membership. The members in the US who voted in favor of ODF were long-term members of SC34, as long as 20 years.  

    Is IBM as a company more involved in standards committees world-wide than Microsoft is?  Certainly. Our interest in standards was not invented last year.  We’re in it for the long haul.  We were working on standards when Bill Gates’s great grandfather was still wetting his bed.  But so what?  Should this fact allow Microsoft to special treatment so they can "catch up"?  Should we lower the bar for them?    Should we ignore it when they promise something and then don’t deliver?  What additional accommodation do you think Microsoft is entitled to in order to make up for their long neglect of standards?

  22. BigAl says:

    Sigh. As long as the "standard" contains this sort of thing, there will always be a fight to kill it off:

    "[t]o faithfully replicate this behavior, applications must imitate the behavior of that application, which involves many possible behaviors and cannot be faithfully placed into narrative for this Office Open XML Standard.

    OOXML, ECMA-376 Part 4, Page 1384, 2.15.3.6"

  23. Dave S. says:

    "Sigh. As long as the "standard" contains this sort of thing, there will always be a fight to kill it off:"

    Kudzu-XML? http://www.yahoolavista.com/kudzu/

  24. Alan Bell says:

    knowing IBM reasonably well, the idea of them being able to mobilize their 300,000 plus workforce into anything concerted is laughable.

    By my calculations IBM’s entire development project for Symphony and the productivity editors paid for itself in Microsoft license savings *within IBM*. The project was a success before it was released.

    IBM have released Symphony for free, they are not charging extra for the productivity editors in Notes.

    IBM are not going to make money from ODF, they have little to win. Microsoft on the other hand has lots to lose because their monopoly position has allowed them to overcharge the world for years for the Office suite.

    I don’t really know why it has turned into a Microsoft vs IBM mudfight to be honest. It is in everyone’s interest that the monopoly on Office suites is broken and a free market is restored.

    At this point Microsoft would be best off looking for a graceful exit strategy from the ISO mess, deprecate OOXML and get on with the job of implementing ODF as a native format.

  25. hAl says:

    <blcokquote>IBM are not going to make money from ODF, they have little to win.</blockquote>

    @Alan

    Your must have missed that IBM have launched Notes 8 in 2007 which uses ODF as it main Office document format. If ODF does not gain ground fast Notes 8 might become a big turd.

    Many organisations have switched to the MS Office environment in the past five years and if an upgrade to a new version of Notes also means that the format used is not very popular very fast IBM Notes customers wil not upgrade or consider upgrading to and MS Office environment in stead. On the other hand if ODF is an ISO standard and OOXML isn’t it could actually see Notes make up ground on MS Office.

    Symphony is just a way to spread/support ODF but the application generating the income is of course the Notes 8 suite which wants to compete with MS Office groupware. That is a multi billion dollar marketplace.

    The descision on OOXML could generate hundreds of millions for IBM as it might well be descisive on the future of their Notes division which as an applicationsuite on it’s own does not seem to compete against MS groupware

    Btw, I think Rob within IBM actually originates from Lotus Notes.

  26. "Your must have missed that IBM have launched Notes 8 in 2007 which uses ODF as it main Office document format."

    You can rest assured that Alan, who gave a presentation on integrating Notes 8 with both Symphony and MS Office at last year’s Lotusphere, is quite clear on what kind of support for ODF is built into Notes 8.

    "If ODF does not gain ground fast Notes 8 might become a big turd."

    The success or failure of Notes 8 has absolutely nothing to do with the success of the productivity editor format.  Notes 8 is perceived by the vast majority of the market as an email client, and it is in that realm that it’s make-or-break.

    Yes, it’s the case that Notes 8 & Symphony are specifically designed to use ISO standard formats because they’re ISO standard formats.  They also can both work with the old Office BIFF formats.  Notes has a LONG history of interoperability with the MS Office suite.

    I’m not really sure how you figure that Notes "does not seem to compete against MS groupware."  Notes defined the category, and even if you take MS’s own marketshare numbers for granted, Notes is a strong competitor in the global messaging & collaboration space.

  27. Hans says:

    "When two new incompatible technologies struggle to become a de facto standard, we say that they are engaged in a standards war. These wars can end in a truce (as happened in modems), a duopoly (as in video games today), or in a fight to the death (as with VCRs)."

    – Shapiro/Varian, "Information Rules", p.261

    My interpretation of the text would be that Brian Jones is making a case for the truce/duopoly variation. Rob’s explanation seems to target the ‘fight to the death’ ending which is not in the interest of the market.

  28. Bruno says:

    Rob Weir again being disingenuous.

    Rob, these are the fact (and I list them not for you to read, but for your sycophants to read):

    1. Microsoft voted YES for ODF ISO ratification.

    2. Microsoft voted YES for ODF ANSI cerification.

    3. Microsoft has not lobbied any government to not use ODF.

    4. IBM voted NO for OOXML ECMA ratification.

    5. IBM leads the fight to block OOXML ISO ratification.

    6. IBM has been lobbying governments to mandate the use of ODF to the exclusion of alternative formats.

    Do you see the pattern here?  Microsoft has done NOTHING to try to block/kill ODF, while IBM has been doing everything in its power to do block/kill OOXML.  This "war" didn’t just happen, it’s a one-way war that YOU wanted, YOU started, and YOU waged.

    You have failed to answer a simple question:

    IBM has no interest in using an ISO OOXML standard, but many others do.  Why is IBM trying to kill this standard?  If your criticisms were designed to improve OOXML, that would be one thing, but they are designed to kill it so nobody else can use it under the ISO umbrella.  Why?  Your company isn’t going to use OOXML anyway, so why are you making it your business to kill it for those that *are* interested in using it?

  29. Rob Weir says:

    @Bruno,

    Let me answer you by an analogy.  Suppose I was selling organic cheddar cheese and my customers liked organic cheese.  Making organic cheese is more difficult and more expensive than making your average mass-market industrial cheese, but the extra effort makes a difference and customers are starting to demand this extra quality.

    Along comes another, much bigger cheese company and they get worried that they may lose sales because they do not have an organic cheese to sell.  But instead of learning to make organic cheese, they attack the organic certifying authority itself, and via lobbying, committee stacking, bribery, and other such activities, they manage to get their GMO grain fed, bovine hormone injected, bright orange cheese certified as organic.

    Even though I have no desire to eat their cheese, wouldn’t I still have a strong reason to be concerned over the destruction of the organic cheese standards?

    The point is that the dumbing down of ISO standards hurts everyone who takes ISO standardization seriously.  If fast track standards are handed out to every large company that has the political and financial clout to stack committees at the national and international level, then why would anyone ever bother to do a good standard?  Why bother?

  30. jones206@hotmail.com says:

    Rob,

    On top of the 10 or so years of development and testing that Microsoft had spent on the OpenXML formats, the following companies spent an enormous amount of time within Ecma improving the specification and readying it for version 1.0:

    – Apple Computers

    – Barclay’s Capital

    – BP

    – British Library

    – Ecma international

    – Essilor

    – Intel Corporation

    – Microsoft

    – NexPage

    – Novell

    – StatOil

    – Toshiba

    – U.S. Library of Congress

    "Dumbing down" ISO standards? Please don’t insult their hard work.

    -Brian

  31. Mike Brown says:

    @Brian

    >> the following companies spent an enormous amount of time within Ecma

    >> improving the specification … Please don’t insult their hard work

    Their hard work resulted in a spec that:

    * thinks 1900 was a leap year

    * can’t reliably handle dates before 1904

    * indicates paper sizes via arbitrary numbers pulled out of the Windows registry, instead of re-using an existing ISO standard that has abbreviations that people can actually understand, such as A4

    and so on, and so on.

    If that was "hard work", then Lord only knows what the result would have been if they’d been slacking off on the job!

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  32. Alex says:

    Rob, your analogy is really bizzare: in the real world people are free to eat organic cheese if they can afford the related expenses. Or they can eat conventional cheese if they don’t see that extra special value in organic products. What you are trying to push with your NOOOXML agenda equates to a government mandate that everyone must eat organic and pay a conversion tariff for the producer’s inability to compete on the overall value of their organic product.

  33. Rob,

    Your analogy is ludicrous.  This is not a case of organic cheddar cheese vs evil cheese, a more apt analogy would be a fight between Nike and Adidas over the best kind of shoe.

    Both standards were created by large companies with large budgets.    

    Just the cost of attending any real-life meetings is high.   Anywhere from 600 to 1,000 dollars (airfare, car rental, hotel).  Who in the "organic" community is dumping 1,000 dollars on attending meetings over ODF?   Nobody is.

    Software developers that will end up reading and writing those files had little say on it.   And I do not mean those three software companies that are writing office suites with their multi billion dollar budgets.   I mean the little guys: those guys that will generate spreadsheet reports on the flight, documents for mail merge, those that will do some PHP/Perl/VB/Ruby processing on the file and output something else, the screen-scrappers and everyone else that will have to deal with these formats.

    Those guys will probably start by saving a file close to what they need and then muck around with it.

    Those guys were neither present or represented.

    We do not get to choose the sirloin steak vs the ramen noodle soup.  We are being given a choice between ‘ramen pork’ and ‘ramen chicken’.

  34. Alex says:

    Mike, what part of "compatibility with legacy binary documents" don’t you understand? Dates in MSO binary formats were made to be compatible with Lotus 1-2-3, OOXML was made to be compatible with MSO binary formats.

    You can thank Lotus for this little gem. Oh, wait, you’d have to thank IBM now. Ironic, isn’t it? 🙂

  35. Mike Brown says:

    @Alex,

    Oh I understand it completely, Alex.  Unfortunately for you and Microsoft, ISO standards are not designed to perpetuate the long standing bugs of a single vendor.  And therein lies your problem, doesn’t it?

    Yes, I know where the date problems originated, and why Lotus (and then Microsoft, later on) made that design choice.  (It was largely down to memory constraints in the PCs of the time).

    The fact that the date problems originated with Lotus 1-2-3 (long before IBM bought Lotus, by the way) may, indeed, be "ironic" to you.  It is also completely irrelevant.  Because Lotus 1-2-3 itself is now irrelevant, and has been for what, five years?  Probably more like ten years.

    Whichever figure you choose, Microsoft has had an awful long time to fix such problems, free from the burden of Lotus 1-2-3 compatibility, and simply didn’t do it.  Instead, they’re trying to perpetuate them in OOXML, and it won’t wash.

    The fact that bazillions of such error-strewn documents have been created over the last 10+ years is no excuse for carrying on creating them.  There comes a point where such nonsense has to stop.

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  36. Bruce says:

    Brian: "’Dumbing down’ ISO standards? Please don’t insult their hard work."

    The real question is, under what conditions did the organizations you mention contribute their "hard work"?

    Did any of them have any role whatsoever in shaping the requirements analysis, or the subsequent design, or the language of the original spec? Did they have any rolee in shaping the TC charter, which of course provides tight constraints on the kind of work the TC can even do? Or did they simply help with essentially editorial cleanup?

    Did any of them happen to say when they first looked at OOXML "it makes no sense to be defining new vector graphics and math formats; let’s instead use existing standards like SVG and MathML?" If they did, how did MS respond? And where is the public record of that discussion?

    Ditto with all the other cases where OOXML invents new ways of doing things that could have been done with existing standards (including ODF), and which then lead to a larger spec, with more room for editorial and other problems.

    So again, you’re conveniently missing the forest for the trees.

  37. marc says:

    @Brian

    >> the following companies spent an enormous amount of time within Ecma

    >> improving the specification … Please don’t insult their hard work

    mmm.. with "hard work" like this, who needs "easy work" ! 😉

    the next time, at least check the XML of your "hard work" , it was plagued of errors and omissions.

  38. Rob Weir says:

    @Alex, Doesn’t a government have the right to make the choice to use open standards if they determine that this in their best interests?  Would you deny them such a choice?  I find the concept bizarre that a government would be obligated to run multiple operating systems, multiple phone systems, or multiple file formats, in the misguided belief that only by doing so would they have choice. Remember, choice is an abstraction unless you have the ability to finally make a choice among the alternatives.  There is value in choice, certainly, but there is also value in standardizing on your choice.  

  39. luke says:

    Brian, I am anxiously awaiting an answer to the above question somebody posted:

    > Why is MS Office 2007 still not able to natively use ODF files?  If Microsoft fixes that, maybe I’ll believe that MS doesn’t want to fight a war itself.

    Office can natively use Wordperfect and RTF files, so why not ODF?

    Thanks in advance!

  40. Alex says:

    Luke, Office can load and save many file formats. However, any native file format must support all Office features with full fidelity. As Brian explained it many times, ODF 1.0 (current ISO standard) does not support even basic Office features, such as formulas in spreadsheets, localized lists and tables in presentations. I’ll refer you to this blog archive for more research on this topic.

  41. Alex says:

    Rob, there is a clear advantage in standartizing US on SI metric system and Euro. However, it doesn’t carry clear benefits for "legacy users" – US population 😉

    Of course, the government should have the ability to pick standards for their people, since the government is the representative of the people. However, the interests of those same people are paramaunt. I’d refer you to the Mike’s statement above:

    "The fact that bazillions of such error-strewn documents have been created over the last 10+ years is no excuse for carrying on creating them.  There comes a point where such nonsense has to stop."

    Well, here you have a champion of the people 🙂 "Nonesense has to stop" and we don’t care what’s the cost to those who’d have to change their document libraries to our new cool (and, mind you, incompatible) file formats.

    Working on a smooth and robust transitional path from the binary legacy formats to new open formats is great for those who currently use legacy formats. Promoting an incompatible solution over a compatible one benefits only one party – consultants and solution specialists.

  42. luke says:

    Thanks for that answer, Alex, but it is not satisfactory.

    Microsoft Office natively can open and save to TXT, and we all know that’s not a so-called complete format.

    Why can’t it support opening and saving ODF in the same fashion it does RTF, Wordperfect, CSV, HTML, and so on?

  43. Alex says:

    Luke, I misunderstood your question: do you mean why ODF is not listed among the "Save As" file formats? I don’t know, perhaps, because there is no code to save and load ODF inside Office.

  44. luke says:

    Exactly.

    ODF is one of the most common file formats these days. The fact that MS Office can’t open or save to this format is ridiculous.

    Microsoft Office is a great piece of software, yet this incomparability seems to be intentional. I haven’t gotten an explanation for this missing feature after asking it here and elsewhere many many times.

  45. Alex says:

    Luke, as I understand it, it is a classical damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation:

    1. If Office implements ODF as approved by ISO, none of the currently circulating documents (well, spreadsheets anyway) would load and save correctly.

    2. If Office implements ODF as implemented by the current version of OOo or StarOffice, the documents will load and save fine. But the implemented format will not become ISO standard for some time, and certainly not in the current form. That is, unless ISO rubber-stamps Sun’s new submission once again.

    3. If Office implements ODF with proprietary extensions like OOo and StarOffice presently do, hey, here comes you favorite Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

    4. If Office doesn’t implement ODF… well, that’s the present situation. Is it the worst case? Is it the best? You decide 🙂

  46. hAl says:

    @Nathan

    You seem to contradict yourself

    "Notes 8 is perceived by the vast majority of the market as an email client, and it is in that realm that it’s make-or-break."

    or

    "Notes is a strong competitor in the global messaging & collaboration space."

    If the market sees Notes just as a email cliens it has little future against integrated office solutions.

    And it is also amusing that if Alan was actually presenting at the Lotussphere he suggests that IBM does not have a finacial stake in making ODF and Notes a success by in his comments leaving out the Notes office software suite that IBM actually earn money with but only mentions the free Symphony suite which is basically just an old OOo version with some Notes integration.

  47. hAl says:

    [quote]ODF is one of the most common file formats these days.[/quote]

    Certainly you mean one of the most rarest file formats.

    In a week more PDF files are produced than there are ODF files in existance

  48. Carlos,

    "People, keep the quality in standardization. We ( final users ) don’t want "standardization by corporations" ( read the SC34 convenor report: http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0940.htm )"

    Isn’t it funny how two people can interpret the same sentence differently? What he said, amongst other things, was:

    "The influx of P members whose only interest is the fast-tracking of ECMA 376 as ISO 29500 has led to the failure of a number of key ballots."

    It is clear to me that you think, that he was referring directly to those corporations supporting OOXML-acceptance in ISO, but my impression was, that he was speaking in general terms of both "sides", that is OOXML-supportes as well as OOXML-opposers.

    You could naturally say that your interpretation is as good as mine (which is true), but I actually had the advantage of actually being in the room when he made his final remarks. I tried to find you in the attendance list at http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0969.htm to see, if you were also there – but I couldn’t find your name.

    BTW: Rob, I missed you at the Kyoto opening plenary. I’d have liked to finally meet you :o)

  49. Bruno says:

    Rob, your answer to my question as to why you are trying to kill a format that others are interested in was absurd, as others pointed out above.

    But you didn’t bother to address my larger point, that Microsoft has done nothing to block ODF (voting YES for ODF ISO and ANSI certification and not lobbying governments to ban use of ODF), while you have done everything in your power to block OOXML (voting NO for OOXML ECMA and ISO certification and lobbying governments to mandate exclusive use of ODF and ban use of alternatives).  You didn’t address that because you can’t refute it.  Brian’s point stands that you, not Microsoft, wanted this war.  

    Let’s just call this like it is:

    IBM is too scared to let ODF try to win on merit in the marketplace, so you’re doing anything you can to kill OOXML before the marketplace gets a chance to decide.

    That IBM is trying to kill OOXML and Microsoft is not trying to kill ODF speaks volumes about the confidence that both sides have in their respective formats.

    One last thing:

    IBM wanted to kill MS Office (why, I don’t know, it’s not like you guys are bothering to support your Lotus Smartsuite customers), and joined with Sun/OO.o to accomplish this by creating a standard format based on of OO.o 1.0’s XML format, then lobbying governments to switch from MS Office to OO.o, not based on functionality (where MS Office blows away the competition), but based on "Our format is open but there’s isn’t, so the long term readability of your document archives is only safe with us".  But Microsoft countered by submitting their own format as a standard, something you thought they would never do, which undercut your "our format is open but their’s isn’t" argument.  That scared you to death because it shifts the competition back to functionality where you know you are outgunned.  You were caught off guard and killing OOXML is the only way for your original strategy to succeed.  I just wish you would admit the truth for once.

  50. David Lane says:

    Hi again, Brian,

    Wow, it’s amazing to see people are asking very similar questions here to those I was asking in the comments to one of your previous posts.  

    You still haven’t answered a fundamental question:  Why can’t Microsoft simply accept the fact that the standard for office documents is ODF?

    That is a statement of fact.  

    In every other industry in the world with a technical component, businesses adhere to external standards, like those supported by ISO certification.  In very few is one corporation in a position to oppose those standards and "go it alone", because no one company has sufficient market share and influence.  Yet, the "productivity" market isn’t like that.  

    Microsoft perhaps has the influence (not based on technical merit, though, that’s for sure) to ram its "standard" through ISO – but everyone in *the world* sees it for the farce it is.  Why bother even standardising?  Why go to the trouble?   Why not offer ODF functionality natively in MS Office 2007 as many previous commenters have suggested, complete with grave warnings about "loss of data", etc. when not using Microsoft’s anointed OOXML.  (by the way, do us all a favour and just start calling it MSOXML, which is what it really is – Microsoft Office XML – it’s not about openness, and we all know it).

    That way, you a) still have your file format in massive use planet-wide, b) the ODF folks are happy, and c) you can give the ISO a break, and stop making a mockery out of its outdated processes.

    I know that would make me happier than the thought of two separate "standards" for the same thing.  

    Dave

  51. David Lane says:

    A point made in the comments of one of your previous posts on Rob Weir’s activities is worth repeating in this context:

    ODF is *the* ISO standard for office documents. OOXML comes too late – suggesting that the world would be a better place with *two* separate incompatible standards is wrong on pretty much every level.

    Multiple implementations of one standard = choice.  The market wins.

    Multiple standards = chaos – everybody but the monopolist loses.

    If Microsoft insists on pissing in the pool (damn 1st graders), then the rest of community will simply have to shut you down.

  52. Luc Bollen says:

    @ Bruno

    "That IBM is trying to kill OOXML and Microsoft is not trying to kill ODF speaks volumes […]"

    It is ridiculous to hope killing either OOXML or MS Office, given the near monopoly of Microsoft, and IBM knows this perfectly.

    However, it is essential for Microsoft to kill ODF, to preserve their monopoly.

    MS did not opposed ODF standardisation by ISO.  True, but this is not because of their goodwill, it is simply because they were at the time disregarding ISO and official standards.

    Once they understood the threat to their monopoly, their hurried to assemble a description of the format they were developing  and tried to ram it through ISO.

    If "save as ODF" is not yet supported by MS Office, it is simply because this would not be a good move for preserving their monopoly.

    MS still hopes to kill ODF, and the best ammunition for this is getting OOXML approved by ISO.  This is why they are fighting so much.

    Sad.

  53. skc says:

    >>Multiple implementations of one standard = choice.  The market wins.

    Multiple standards = chaos – everybody but the monopolist loses.<<

    Thats only a good argument if that one standard solves everybody’s (often wildly divergent) problems. Hence we have .gif, .jpeg, .png.

  54. carlos says:

    @jesper

    "The influx of P members whose only interest is the fast-tracking of ECMA 376 as ISO 29500 has led to the failure of a number of key ballots."

    the flamant new P members were mostly pro-OOXML

    but you are right: we can’t read the convenor’s mind, and no, i was not on *the* list, sorry 🙂

    ( i’m a standards user, i’m one of the people who suffer the result of this rushed and money-driven processes )

    Thank God DIS 29500 isn’t about food or toxic material… i have lost my faith in standards in general ( and i’m not talking about ODF nor OOXML , Microsoft, IBM … i’m talking about good-practices, good engineering, rigourosuly reviewed, reproducible and implementable standards ).

  55. Luc Bollen says:

    @Jesper

    "I actually had the advantage of actually being in the room"

    I would also have been happy to be there with you, but I cannot afford to spend the money of my own, and I have no generous sponsor to pay for me.

    I’m, like Carlos, a simple user of office software, not affiliated with any big company, suffering to see the mess created since ECMA 376 arrived in the ISO arena.

  56. Sour Grapes says:

    Reading through these comments, it sounds like a case of sour grapes.

    The word in these comments that stick out in my mind is "monopoly". I am so tired of hearing the tired phrases like "If Microsoft wasn’t a monopoly, maybe the world would be a better place", "If it wasn’t for the Microsoft monopoly, world peace would arise and world hunger would be solved."

    Please. I can hear the fiddle now feeling sorry for all those poor souls who have suffered because of the Microsoft monopoly.

    I guarantee you IBM and every other software company wishes they were in the position that Microsoft was in from a software perspective; and it is because they are not that we hear these whinings and ramblings. Ask yourself this question and try to answer it honestly…if your company was in the same position that Microsoft was in, would you be on this forum complaining that your own company was a monopoly. Of course not, and that is why this is all a case of jealously and sour grapes.

    And it is important to remember, even if you don’t want to admit it, that companies like IBM and many other technology companies in the world would not be as successful as they are if it wasn’t for Microsoft. Period. You may not like it that they own the desktop and are strong in the server market, but I guarantee that many of you would not have jobs if that wasn’t the case.

    Instead of whining and coming up with absurd cheese analogies, how about focusing your energies on innovating, marketing and convincing the 99% of the world that runs Windows and Office to convert to your solution.

    Because in the end, all this standards stuff means diddly squat if products that don’t provide added value to the consumer (both individual and business) aren’t developed. Because it is the the consumer that pays the money, and, in turn, your salary.

  57. Luc,

    "I would also have been happy to be there with you, but I cannot afford to spend the money of my own, and I have no generous sponsor to pay for me."

    What are you implying? I work at a relatively small software company and we decided to play a role in the process in Denmark since it was our opinion, that we needed DIS29500 to go through ISO – but also that it needed improvement. We have throughout the process engaged in a constructive dialogue with ECMA and have consitently pointed out to them where we would like to see the format improved or changed. We have recieved absolutely no funding what so ever with regards to the work we have done in Denmark in our national body, and I actually resent you for implying otherwise.

    The work we have done in this process is not done for Microsoft – it is done for our customers, and God (and Microsoft, btw) knows that I do not agree with everything Microsoft says and does, and I have had my share of battles with them to make them understand our objections. The notion that each and every party supporting approval of DIS29500 are Microsoft’s puppets is ridiculous and the insane rethoric applyed by the anti-OOXML campaign led by Rob only seems to enlighten that.

    /Jesper-san

  58. Luc Bollen says:

    @Jesper

    I’m not implying anything else than what I’ve written : I would have be happy to attend the meeting in Japan, because it is a subject I’m interested in, but I cannot pay for it.  You were lucky that your company sponsored you.

    Please don’t take this as a personal attack, it was not.  We often disagree, but I have no reason for attacking you.

    @Sour Grapes

    FYI, I’m not in the Office software business, and my salary doesn’t depend at all on OOXML nor ODF, in any way.

  59. Sour Grapes says:

    @Luc

    I bet though, whether directly or indirectly, your job or life is impacted in a positive fashion by Microsoft. Whether it is you running Windows at work or home; whether you are motivated by what Microsoft has and you push yourself to do it better. Whatever.

    My point is, that Microsoft’s existence, and what they do, have made the technology sector the robust entity that it is and has been for the last 20 years, whether you or anyone likes it or not. Everyone wishes they had what Microsoft had; everyone wishes they were the ones who developed and marketed Windows. I don’t buy for one minute the facade from many of these "anti-Microsoft" folks that Microsoft has caused the whole world harm. If these people were put in a time machine, knowing what they know now, and able to go back 20 years, and work for or buy Microsoft stock, they would without hesitation.

  60. Luc Bollen says:

    @Sour Grapes

    I was unhappy with IBM’s behaviour in the ’80, when they were a monopoly.  Microsoft did a lot of good work in the ’90, notably breaking the IBM monopoly, but unfortunately they are now the problem.  Because they enjoy a monopoly, they are limiting innovation and preventing a lot of new products that would benefit users like me.

    Even with a time machine, I will not buy shares of an abusive monopoly, be it IBM or Microsoft.

    And by the way, please stop pretending this is IBM alone (worst, Rob alone) against Microsoft, it is not.  This is a lot more like the Free World against Any Monopoly.

  61. Sour Grapes says:

    @Luc

    > And by the way, please stop pretending this > is IBM alone (worst, Rob alone) against

    > Microsoft, it is not.

    I am not pretending it is IBM alone — hence my words "and many other technology companies in the world" in my original post. However, Brian’s post here is as a result of an IBM-based post, so they are the front runner in this conversation.

    > Because they enjoy a monopoly, they are

    > limiting innovation and preventing a lot of

    > new products that would benefit users like

    > me.

    Are they? You see that is the very argument that makes my point about whining and sour grapes. Microsoft is not limiting innovation. Other companies are limiting themselves by not being able to innovate enough to make consumers switch from Microsoft products. Instead, they would rather complain about how Microsoft is an "abusive monopoly", bring them to court and try to get money that way. The undisputable fact is that 90+% of the world runs Windows and near that percentage run Office. That is set in stone. The question to other companies is — what are they going to do about it? Whine, complain and hope a judge stops Microsoft? Or develop, innovate and market their ass off to bring that percentage down. There is nothing that Microsoft is doing that is stopping the latter because as I have said before and I will say it again, the consumer will have the final say. You just need to provide compelling value and reason to switch.  No standard, whether it is OOXML or ODF will change the mantra of consumer capitalism — supply and demand. Give the consumer something they want to have. Period. End of Story.

    > Even with a time machine, I will not buy

    > shares of an abusive monopoly, be it IBM or

    > Microsoft.

    You may indeed be telling the truth, but please forgive me if I don’t believe you. I think it would be hard to believe you could leave millions of dollars on the table.

  62. Luc Bollen says:

    I would not leave millions of dollars on the table.  But I would play last week numbers at EuroMillion or another lottery rather than enjoying to be part of an abusive monopoly  🙂

  63. Luc,

    I apparently misunderstood you – I appologize for that.

    :o)

  64. Luc Bollen says:

    Without somebody suing IBM in the ’80s, Microsoft probably would have been crushed by IBM, and nobody would have had a chance to benefit from any Microsoft product.

    Are you sure that without being unfairly driven out of business by MS (MS has been convicted in court for this), Netscape would not have produced better products than MS ?

  65. hAl says:

    @Gavin

    You said:

    [quote]I still haven’t seen a decent, technical, discussion of what features of the MS Office binary formats cannot be implemented in an extended ODF. I now believe that this is because the assertion is unsupportable.[/quote]

    If you were to extend ODF with wordprocceing ML , SpreadsheetML, Presentations ML and drawingML and some minor custom shit you might come a lot way.

    It might actually be possible to it as wel.

    I wonder however if ODF would benifit from extension that exceed it’s original specifcations. Also MS is not required to give any IP rights on their extensions to ODF so actually opensource companies would probably not be able to use them.

    In fact MS could even make just some minor but vital extensions to ODF in an early support of ODF in their office suite and completly immobilize interoperability between ODF files.

    As people as desperate for MS to be forced into using ODF and this will at the current moment certainly require extending the ODF spec in some ways there will be a lot of controversy to come over ODF support in future.

    I wonder why you would come up with preffering a Micrsoft to use a MS extended ODF that could have mixed IP rights to an Office Open XML that is an open standard.

  66. Christian says:

    Hi!

    I need the file format of NSF-files. I want to decrypt properitary encap2.ond attachments (they are tiny NSF-databases and the equivalent of TNEF for MS-Office which has been reverse engineered very well) on an embedded linux system and I cannot place notes.dll or the whole Notes client onto that appliance because of licensing issues.

    Because I can read everywhere that IBM is so open I want to ask if someone knows to read the NSF-file format?

    Many thanks, especially for Rob if he makes this properitary file format available, I really need it.

    Christian

  67. Mike Brown says:

    @Christian,

    Your point is that the Lotus Notes file format is "properitary" (sic).  Well, point scored mate, because yes, it is!  And so are the file formats for:

    * DB2

    * Oracle

    * Sybase

    * MS SQL Server

    * MS Access

    and about a zillion other database systems.

    None of those formats is currently up for ISO standardisation, by the way.

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  68. Gavin Beckett says:

    @hAl

    That’s a strange angle you’ve taken – you’re basically saying that all the anti-MS posters are correct, MS would indeed embrace, extend, extinguish ODF. You imply that it can’t be trusted, and wonder why we would want it to have anything to do with the spec.

    Nobody is asking for MS to extend ODF in a direct way, or for them to muddy the IP waters.

    What we’re talking about is the concept that the gaps in the ODF specification could be targeted and plugged, by work within the ODF TC, in a way that conformed to the OASIS rules on IP assignment and collaborative, open standards development. MS would clearly be involved, but within the TC process, and could choose to be an honest and active contributor.

    Your comment about adding in all the various *ML’s was a bit glib. I imagine you know very well that ODF already specifies a huge amount of office software functionality. The debates around OOXML vs ODF polarise us, but the basic reality is that StarOffice/OpenOffice etc. are decent pieces of software that already do thousands of the things users need them to do. I’m trying to make a serious and focused point here – what exactly are the things they can’t do, but OOXML can, that would need to be fixed so ODF can represent an MS Office 2007 document?

    In fact, I’ve just realised that courtesy of the work done on the OpenXML/ODF Translator Add-in, we have a list of items in each spec that can’t be represented in the other. A useful starting point – MS just needs to turn up at the OASIS TC with that list, ask to be part of the process, and start discussions…

  69. Luc Bollen says:

    Gavin, Thanks for this post.  I think it is a nice summary of the whole point, and of the obvious solution.

    Microsoft claim that they want to offer choice. I would applaud them if they put actions behind their words, and allow users to choose between OOXML and ODF in MS Office, via a "save as ODF" option.

  70. Christian says:

    I don’t want to make an argument about NSF, I just want to get this file format description, I don’t care about any standardization. Of course this is off-topic!

  71. Rick Jelliffe says:

    Jesper: Congratulations. You now join the enormous list of people slandered by these bullies. It happens to anyone who disagrees with them.

    Unfortunately, now their enthusiasm for the mud bucket has lead them to the logical position where almost the entire world is corrupt: ISO, every NB who disagrees with IBM, every NB who change their vote to yes after a successful BRM, and so on.

    So why are they so keen to alienate participants in the process if they want their position to prevail? The only answer I can come up with is that the bullies have little real interest in standards or the actual result. Their thing is all about marketing their brand (whether the brand is Open Source or IBM) and blackening the other guy’s brand. If ISO’s process is fair and allows through an MS-derived technology as a standard regardless of its source, just as with other standards, then ISO needs to be mauled as part of this attack-dog marketing. Attack dogs only see things in black and white, and they want everyone else to do so too.

    So don’t be resentful, it isn’t personal: these guys don’t care about people. Just as anyone who comes to a different conclusion to them is ipso facto corrupt, anyone who complains about being attacked by them is "bleating."

    When I get death wishes, it clearly shows the kind of environment that Weir and co have been happy to foster.

    (I am fortunate to have friends in the ODF camp who are utterly dismayed by this kind of behaviour, by the way.)

  72. Rick,

    Thanks – it must be like joining a – not so secret – lodge :o).

    Slandering aside – it’s kindda fun … otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. I am also happy to take "the Christian approach" and turning the other cheek, since it fosters humbleness towards the process.

    It is also comforting to me to know, that not the entire OSS-community is as rabbit and aggressive as the most prominent members of the anti-OOXML-lobby. I have been so lucky to work with quite a few of them in the work I have been doing for the Danish National IT- and Telecom Agency and they have all – even though we might differ in opinion when it comes to the "one-or-two-formats"-discussion – been interested in taking the pragmatic approach and trying to deal with how to fix the problems of our customers.

    It has been a really good experience.

    :o)

  73. Mike Brown says:

    @Jesper,

    Yet again, I say to you that lobbying and rallying allies, and offering up a large number of comments on a spec are perfectly legitimate tactics, however much you don’t like them.  (You offer no evidence for IBM "packing the NBs with their allies").

    How can you possibly compare that to Microsoft’s behaviour in, for example,  Sweden, where they had 20+ of their business partners sign up to the MOOXML committee at the last minute, so turning the Swedish vote into a farce?

    Microsoft even admitted the attempted bribery – a strong word, but really, what else can you call it? – of their Swedish partners to do this, after being exposed by a leaked email.  (The company explained this away as the fault of a single local employee, who had contravened the company’s policy).  And yes, they also told the Swedish committee of the mistake, at the time.  But they didn’t ask any of their allies to resign from their new voting positions, did they?

    Cheers,

    -Mike

  74. Mike,

    "You offer no evidence for IBM "packing the NBs with their allies""

    Well – I didn’t think that it was necessary … what you are referring to as facts is also just hearsay.

    "How can you possibly compare that to Microsoft’s behaviour in, for example,  Sweden where they had 20+ of their business partners sign up to the MOOXML committee at the last minute"

    It is interesting that you say this – because what would you consider "appropriate effort" when joining an NB and voting? When joining on the last day is – in your view – not sufficient … what is sufficient?

    Btw: Please check out http://idippedut.dk/post/2007/08/Ja%2c-man-tager-sig-jo-til-hovedet.aspx where I wrote about the incident in Sweden. It is in Danish (sorry) but the last sentence says:

    "Microsoft Sweden, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves"

    Maybe you can have someone translate the article … somone like Leif Lodahl, perhaps.

    http://lodahl.blogspot.com/

    /Jesper

    :o)

  75. First of all Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this blog and happy upcoming New 2008 from me and

  76. Owner Blog says:

    First of all Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this blog and happy upcoming New 2008 from me and

  77. Earlier today the Burton Group released a free (registration required) report authored by Guy Creese

  78. When you tell a lie often enough, it takes on a patina of truth each time it is uttered, and after a

  79. When you tell a lie often enough, it takes on a patina of truth each time it is uttered, and after a