Links Feb 8, 2008


A few interesting links today:   

Have a great weekend everyone.

-Brian


Comments (17)

  1. Eduardo says:

    My view is that Microsoft presents Open XLM as interoperable, but actually intends to keep it as uninteroperable as possible. This is because Microsoft always acts in its own interests, and it believes, with good reason, that true interoperability would undermine its near-monopoly  in basic office applications.  

  2. Ian Easson says:

    Eduardo,

    You believe that Microsoft always acts in its own interests.  You are right, because it is a profit-making company.  (But so are IBM, Sun, Apple, etc.). But almost everything else you wrote is wrong.  Let me give you my explanation why.

    MS Office has always interoperated, to one degree or another, with other software.  (For example, despite what you may have read elsewhere, the specifcation for its binary file formats has been freely available.)  The difference now is that OOXML makes the interoperability far, far easier to accomplish, and Microsoft has eliminated all legal restrictions on its use.  

    Anyone, whether they be an individual software developer, a large corporation that wishes to extract information from its existing Office documents, or a software development company, can now write software that reads and writes information from Microsoft Office files, without a copy of Microsoft Office in sight — that is what interoperability is about.  That is what OOXML is intended in fact to do.  

    Many parties have begun using these interoperating capabilities.  See this blog for updated lists.

    In the future, it will be even easier as Microsoft and other parties write software libraries/tools that make this interoperability a truly trivial matter to accomplish.

    Where you have gone wrong is in thinking that easy interoperability will undermine Microsoft Office’s domination.  On the contrary, Microsoft intends to promote interoperability precisely because it:

    1) Makes current users of Microsoft Office stay with it, and

    2) Makes it more likely that *more* copies of Microsoft Office will be sold as a result (not less!!!).

    To put Microsoft’s message in a simple form:

    EASY INTEROPERABILITY INCREASES THE VALUE OF MICROSOFT OFFICE FOR THE CUSTOMER.

    So, yes, this is all about bolstering Microsoft Office.  But the means of doing so is by enabling interoperability in the easiest possible fashion.  That is why Microsoft has, whether you believe it or not, created a truly open specification and handed control over it to external standards bodies.

    There is no hidden agenda here. Microsoft has been absolutely clear that this is why it has created OOXML.  You can read statements from it to that effect in past posts to this blog, for example.

  3. S says:

    "EASY INTEROPERABILITY INCREASES THE VALUE OF MICROSOFT OFFICE FOR THE CUSTOMER."

    In those days where Office suites are given away for free, this is not going to work anymore.

    Not for consumers, that’s for sure, but not even for corporate people, and that spells death of Microsoft’s biggest cash cow.

    Get real, Microsoft Office formats are not things you cannot live without, and they are not either some kind of thing worth a billion dollar which launch rockets in the sky.

    Microsoft is dead.

  4. eduardo says:

    Ian,

    "Anyone, whether they be an individual software developer, a large corporation that wishes to extract information from its existing Office documents, or a software development company, can now write software that reads and writes information from Microsoft Office files, without a copy of Microsoft Office in sight — that is what interoperability is about.  That is what OOXML is intended in fact to do."

    I am saying that this is what Microsoft wants you to believe, but it is not true. The reason it is not true is that Microsoft believes it is against its interest to make OOXML truly interoperable. And this is because if it was, then corporations could replace it with other office suites, at least for that large proportion of employees who do not need Office’s unique features.

    Ian, I am accusing Microsoft of lieing, and so I would like to ask you a couple of questions about this. Is it your position that Microsoft never lies, at least about anything important? Or is it your position that Microsoft does at least occsionally lie on important matters, but that on this particular one it is being truthful?

  5. Miguel de Icaza says:

    Am glad you posted that link to Lessig’s video.

    Miguel.

  6. Ian Easson says:

    Eduardo,

    You don’t need to believe Microsoft or me on this,  It is easily verifiable independently.  Check it out yourself — go to the web sites of developers who are doing just that.

    As for your questions to me, I have no position on the subject of Microsoft lieing.  I believe in what I can confirm the truth of myself.  I have gone to the trouble of checking out their statements.

    As for your belief that people would flock to OpenOffice if OOXML were truly interoperable, you’re just plain mistaken.  It isn’t happening, and it’s highly likely to happen for reasons that have nothing to do with interoperability.

  7. Eduardo,

    You are free to believe what ever you want and you are free to express what you belive. But you have to remember that your beliefs are not necessarily the one and only truth.

  8. Christian says:

    Ecuardo,

    "Anyone, whether they be an individual software developer, a large corporation that wishes to extract information from its existing Office documents, or a software development company, can now write software that reads and writes information from Microsoft Office files, without a copy of Microsoft Office in sight — that is what interoperability is about.  That is what OOXML is intended in fact to do."

    vs.

    "And this is because if it was, then corporations could replace it with other office suites, at least for that large proportion of employees who do not need Office’s unique features."

    What do these two things have to do with each other???

    wishes to extract information from its

             ^^^^^^^

    existing Office documents, or a software

    development company, can now

    write software that reads and writes

                       ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    information from Microsoft Office files, without a copy of Microsoft Office in sight

    OOXML is just about doing cool stuff with documents and being free to do so. OOXML is not a way from Microsoft to render them obsolete! Why would OOXML be intendet to create a new office appliaction that is

    1) not MS Office

    2) has different feature

    3) be FULLY interoperable

    4) can be written by anyone

    (or something like this…)

    People always want MS/Office/OOXML to be something that dumbs down MS’ innovation, their cool Office product and their features and file format into this grotesque Office97-like Open Office j*nk clone!

  9. Ian Easson says:

    Typo correction.  I missed out the "UN" in

    " It isn’t happening, and it’s highly UNlikely to happen for reasons that have nothing to do with interoperability."

  10. Ian Easson says:

    Eduardo,

    I suspect that you may be confused about the word "interoperability".  If so, let me clarify what I and everyone else her means by it.  

    It means the ability to easily programatically read and write parts or all of a document (e.g., one according to the OOXML standard), and then programatically use that data in other ways (e.g., to put some of it into another application or document).

    I suspect what you think interoperability means is to faithly transform a document from one standard (e.g., OOXML) to another (e.g., ODF).

    The problems with this second view of interoperability include:

    – It is an extremely restricted view of interoperability

    – Depending on the choice of the two document standards (e.g., OOXML and ODF), it may not be possible to faithfully transfer all document information between them.  This is in fact the case for the the two I mentioned.

  11. Ian Easson,

    I couldn’t agree more. Interop is not as such (now that’s some Miss South Carolina reference!) defined as the ability to convert one format to another. Interop is normally referred to as meaning something along

    http://www.computer-dictionary-online.org/interoperability.htm?q=interoperability

    "The ability of software and hardware on multiple machines from multiple vendors to communicate. "

    IEEE defines it as

    "the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged"

    http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?tp=&isnumber=4683&arnumber=182763&punumber=2267

    and US e-Government Act of 2002:

    "ability of different operating and software systems, applications, and services to communicate and exchange data in an accurate, effective, and consistent manner."

    http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=107_cong_public_laws&docid=f:publ347.107.pdf

    The future I foresee is implementation of both ODF and OOXML in most major office productivity suites and exchange of documents will not require conversion between ODF and OOXML. There will be no need since both formats is implemented by all applications.

  12. Andre says:

    "and Microsoft has eliminated all legal restrictions on its use."

    Wrong, it was explained to me that the OSP does cover Open Source but not Free Software. Yes, it is not sublicensable, which you also find in the FAQ. Thus it is designed to make GPL implementations impossible.

  13. Andre,

    > Wrong, it was explained to me that the OSP does cover Open Source but not Free Software.

    By whom?

  14. hAl says:

    [quote]Yes, it is not sublicensable, which you also find in the FAQ. Thus it is designed to make GPL implementations impossible.[/quote]

    GPL is a copyright related license. It deals with copyrights on the sourcecode. Sourcecode based on the OOXML format spec has its own copyrights an is therefore sublicensable. Te OSP is about patent rights. GPL does not grant you 3rd party patent rights.

    However as Microsoft trough the OSP grants the patentrights tot anybody that implements or uses technology required for OOXML there is no need for sublicensing of patent rights trough GPL. That mean that OSS users an implementers therefore also get those rights automatically.

    So for an OSS user that uses GPL software which implements OOXML het has copyrights trough his GPL license and he may use Micrsoft patented OOXML related technology trough rights trough the OSP.

    Anybody that suggest sublicensing of the OSP patentrights is needed for GPL licensing of OOXML software is incorrect. This fall in the FUD category.

  15. hAl,

    Good explanation. Brian – shouldn’t this go into the FAQ at http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/pages/faq.aspx ?