ISO takes full control – SC34 now moving forward on maintenance and evolution of Open XML


I’m heading home from Norway in the morning, but wanted to give a quick update on the progress made over the past few days. I was attending the SC34 meetings in Oslo and there was a good amount of focus on document format standards (SC34, as designated by JTC1, is the maintenance body for Open XML). In the meetings, we had some great discussions around the next steps for ISO/IEC IS29500 (Open XML), as well as 26300 (ODF), and the topic of interoperability/harmonization. Today was the day that all the resolutions were accepted, and they are now public: http://www.itscj.ipsj.or.jp/sc34/open/1025.htm

I think Alex Brown covers it best, as he declared on his blog: ISO committee takes full control of OOXML

Three new working groups

SC34 was thinking about how to best handle the evolution of document format standards, and intends to create three new working groups to be created within SC34. The first working group would work on Open XML; the second would work on ODF; and the third would work on interoperability/harmonization between document format standards: http://www.itscj.ipsj.or.jp/sc34/open/1025.htm#Res4

I think that a number of folks have been interested in how the work will be handled now that Open XML has been transferred from Ecma to SC34, and I think you’ll be pleased to see the public resolutions made at the meeting.

SC34 decided to start by first organizing the working group for Open XML, and in order to do so the following two ad hoc groups will be established:

Ad Hoc Group 1

This group will be led by Alex Brown, and the goal will be to create the official working group for the Open XML formats. There will be regular phone meetings over the next 6 months as well as a face to face meeting in the summer. It is expected that the structure of the working group they establish will also serve as a template for a working group to manage the ODF formats (should OASIS agree to pass maintenance on to ISO). Here’s some background on the creation of Ad Hoc Group 1:

“SC 34 is the JTC 1 designated maintenance body for ISO/IEC 29500 (Office Open XML file formats).

The passage of ISO/IEC 29500 has instituted a new era of standards activity in SC 34 related to document formats. ISO/IEC 29500 does not represent an isolated phenomenon, since SC 34 is also responsible for ISO/IEC 26300 and for interoperability between these and other projects.

SC 34 envisages the creation of three distinct working groups that meet the needs of:

  1. ISO/IEC 29500
  2. ISO/IEC 26300
  3. Work on interoperability/harmonization between document format standards and wishes to incorporate existing expertise on these standards.

For these reasons, SC 34 hereby establishes an ad hoc group pursuant to the JTC 1 Directives, clause 2.6.2, for investigating how the first of these groups may be set up most effectively.”

Ad Hoc Group 2

This group will be led by Murata Makoto, and will try to quickly set up an infrastructure for collecting feedback on the Open XML standard. There has been a lot of progress made over the past year, and since there are still open issues that have not been fully addressed, they don’t want to lose any of that information. The goal is also to use these same tools for allow for public comments to be submitted, and for the public to follow along with the comment resolution process. This work will then feed directly into the working group established by ad hoc group 1. Here’s a bit more info on this group:

  • Definition of the task:
    • To define and put into operation a mechanism to compile a list of comments on ISO/IEC 29500 received from NBs, liaisons, and the general public.
    • To publish the on-going list as an open document on the SC 34 website.
  • Time frame: The collection mechanism is to become operational within 90 days from the end of the April 2008 ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 plenary. Once this is operational, collection will continue until a long-term maintenance process is operational.
  • Membership: Open to ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 P and O members, liaison organizations, and subgroup representatives.
  • Convener: Makoto Murata (JP).
  • Meeting arrangements: Work will be handled primarily by email, with optional telephone conference calls at dates and times to be announced.”

Ecma’s participation

Another important decision was that SC34 will seek to preserve the knowledge from TC45 members and will invite TC45 to fully participate in both Ad Hoc Group 1, Ad Hoc Group 2, and any future working group that is involved in the maintenance of IS29500:

“ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (Office Open XML file formats) has received the necessary number of votes for approval as an ISO/IEC International Standard. SC34 recognizes that Ecma TC45 members have in-depth knowledge, technical expertise on ISO/IEC 29500 and will seek to preserve and allow for inclusion of this existing body of technical expertise in SC34. SC34 therefore invite Ecma TC45 members to attend and fully participate in ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 34 Ad Hoc Group 1, ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 34 Ad Hoc Group 2 as well as in any future working group that will be dedicated to the maintenance of ISO/IEC 29500. SC34 intends to organize an efficient and timely process for maintaining and handling new work items to insure the evolution of the standard in following the JTC 1 Directives.”

Interoperability/Harmonization

The DIN Delegate (DIN is the German national standards body) presented an update on the work that they have been doing around translation between the Open XML formats and ODF. I’ve discussed this a number
of
times before as being a key piece of the harmonization work.

DIN presented this to SC34 because they are going to propose a new work item within SC34 and are currently in the process of asking other countries to join them in this work. We were informed that AFNOR (France’s national standards body) already told DIN that they will work together. It really seems to me that we are seeing some great movement and momentum on interop between formats led both by the thinking within SC34 of creating a new WG on interop and also clearly by this latest initiative of DIN and AFNOR.

Busy Week

As you can see it was a busy week, but we continue to make great progress. I said in my last post how much I was looking forward to working with the folks in SC34, and this meeting just reaffirmed those beliefs.

-Brian

Comments (72)

  1. Alex Brown’s post "ISO committee takes full control of OOXML" is the first report I’ve seen from the

  2. hAl says:

    Why would OASIS agree to pass ODF maintenance over to ISO ?

  3. I think this is amazing – this really shows SC34 stepping up to the task at hand!

    About OASIS handing control of ODF to ISO, I don’t really think they have any choice now. For two years they have been trying to paint a piture of ODF being the only "true" standard (since it is in ISO) but now the game has flipped. If they don’t hand over control of ODF to ISO, ODF will be conceived as the document format that only wanted the ISO-stamp and nothing else … and ODF will eventually, slowly die.

    How do you like them apples?

    :o)

  4. După ce a fost aprobat ca standard internațional (ISO/IEC 29500), Open XML a fost încredințat săptămâna

  5. pcpartfinder says:

    The ISO has taken over control of the Open XML specification and started a committee to consider harmonization

  6. voice/from/the/dark says:

    I find it amazing how anti-OOXML crowd stays mum, it must be hard to spin this news. Could it be that OOXML reached the point where it is finally perceived as an Open standard that is from now on under control of ISO?

  7. cybervegan says:

    OOXML is not now, and has never been "open", and MS has not even promised to implement it themselves in MS Office. It will never be anything more than a pretend standard until there’s at least one Free Software (i.e. GPL compatible) implementation out there that fully supports the standard, and can be freely distributed by both commercial and non-commercial entities without fear of legal consequences from MS or any other third party for patent infringements.  The way it stands at the moment, MS is effectively barring their only major competitor from fully implementing the standard. With MS it’s always "one way interoperability" – interoperability as long as it’s *towards* MS products.

    The only reason it got to this stage is because the result was bought by Microsoft, changing ISO rules as they pleased to make sure of the result they needed. It’s a sham standard.

    -cybervegan

  8. Ian Easson says:

    cybervegan,

    We are well beyond such silly statements as yours now, thank goodness.  I don’t think anybody will spend any more energy trying to rebut such stupidity again.

    There’s work to be done, building more than the 350 OOXML applications, building a better set of tools, getting set up to do standards maintainence, rolling out the changes to MS Office 2007 to support IS 29500, etc.

  9. hAl says:

    @cyberbegan

    I find it interesting that your ‘requirements’ similarly applied to ODF would actually exclude ODF from being called open and would qualify ODF as a pretend standard.

  10. eduardo says:

    Brian, I wouldn’t be so confident that it is all smooth sailing for OOXML from here on out. The EU Competition Commission is looking into the approval process, and look what it has done to Microsoft in previous cases.

  11. Reggie says:

    The EU has no authority over the ISO.

    Secondly, the EU was one of those that demanded that Microsoft submit its formats to ISO.  Now, I know that the EC has been one of the most hypocritical government organizations in recent memory, but for them to demand that Microsoft standardize its formats then investigate them for it (resulting in the inevitable fine) would be a new low for even them.

  12. Anonymous says:

    @Reggie

    "EU was one of those that demanded that Microsoft submit its formats to ISO"

    Please cite proof of that. thank you

  13. eduardo says:

    @Reggie

    "The EU has no authority over the ISO."

    Not directly, but if it rules that the approval process was improper, then it could decide that EU governments be forbidden from implimenting OOXML for public documents. The EU software market is almost as large as that of the US, so this would turn ISV’s from implimenting OOXML.

    Also, the EU Competition Commission might order Microsoft to disclose all the parts of the OOXML specs that are at present undisclosed. Also it might order Microsoft to change its use agreement to make it friendlier to  open source software, like revealing all the patents that might be relevant.

    Also, it might begin an investigation to see if any illegal activities were involved, such as bribing members. Microsoft has a long history of illegal activity, so it is quite possible that this occurred in the case of OOXML.

    There is a broader issue here. Microsoft has engaged in so much illegal activity in the past because it was essential for its agenda of dominating markets, and because the courts were both very restricted in what they could do, and very late to act. The EU, in contrast, has far broader powers and it is becoming increasingly proactive. This is very bad news for Microsoft.

  14. Ian Easson says:

    Anonymous said:

    "Please cite proof of that. thank you"

    The specifics are given in the archives of this blog.  Or you can just search for it online yourself.  (It’s very well-known.)

  15. Ian Easson says:

    Eduardo said:

    "EU Competition Commission might order Microsoft to disclose all the parts of the OOXML specs that are at present undisclosed"

    Don’t be silly. It’s a standard — nothing is undisclosed.  (Ask any of the hundreds of organizations who have built OOXML applications so far, or any of the thousands of people who examined the spec in detail over the last three years.)

    Honestly, let’s get beyond all the stupidity of the anti-OOXML war.

  16. eduardo says:

    Good point. What I should have said was it would be required to specify Office protocols, binaries and so on that OOXML refers to but does not specify.

    In any case, it is clear that the EU can do a number of things regarding OOXML that Microsoft would not like.

  17. eduardo,

    > Please cite proof of that. thank you

    http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/2592/5588

    (it’s not a demand, though, but a recommendation just as the one to include "Custom XML" features in ODF)

    > specify Office protocols, binaries and so on

    > that OOXML refers to but does not specify.

    Just to let everybody clear what we are talking about, could you qualify which parts you are talking about above?

  18. Ian Easson says:

    eduardo,

    You probably are unaware that about two months ago, at the time Microsoft re-released the detailed documentation on the old binary formats for Microsoft Office, they also released detailed documentation on several common binary file formats used and Windows and often embedded in Microsoft Office files.  One I recall is the Windows Metafile Format (WMF).

    If you look in the archives to this blog, you will find the announcement and a pointer to the detailed documentation.

    Is this the sort of thing you are looking for?

  19. Ian Easson says:

    eduardo said:

    "In any case, it is clear that the EU can do a number of things regarding OOXML that Microsoft would not like."

    Yes, like fining it a billion or so dollars for doing what the EU "suggested" they do — submit the document to an international standards organization, and disclose everything.

    Honestly, Microsoft is really stupid in Europe.  Microsoft clearly doesn’t know how the game is played in Europe.  They should do the same things that their competitors like IBM and Sun are doing — complain like hell to the competition commisioner, and then sit back while Microsoft’s competitors themselves get the billion dollar fines.  

  20. Ian Easson says:

    eduardo,

    I just noticed that you asked about Office protocols as well.

    Microsoft released those about a month ago, and then added more last week.  There is about 44,000 pages of documentation so far on these and other protocols.  Just download them from the Microsoft website.

    The documents include, as I recall, the detailed protocols for interfacing Office with Exchange and SharePoint.

  21. Ian,

    > The documents include, as I recall, the detailed protocols for interfacing Office with Exchange and SharePoint.

    They do – but isn’t the problem with the license that the information is only to be used for non-commercial purposes?

  22. Ian Easson says:

    He Jesper,

    Yes.

    But that’s not what he was asking for.  

    I suspect eduardo was just trying to make the usual anti-OOXML point that Microsoft keeps everything secret if it can.

    P.S.  Whoever thought we would be using blogs as real-time chats?

  23. eduardo says:

    Ian Easson:

    >I just noticed that you asked about Office protocols as well.

    >Microsoft released those about a month ago, and then added more last week.  There is about 44,000 pages of documentation so far on these and other protocols.  Just download them from the Microsoft website.

    >The documents include, as I recall, the detailed protocols for interfacing Office with Exchange and SharePoint.

    Yes, that is true. As to whether Microsoft has now released enough information to make it possible to fully impliment OOXML, I am not knowledgable enough on this topic and so will leave it to others.

    However, I think my other points still stand.

    The question here is whether the EU is going to do something that will undercut Microsoft and OOXML.  Now I am sure that Microsoft and its defenders will say, "Yes, we are being investigated, but everything we did was entirely legitimate, so we are quite sure that the EU will decide we are innocent and not take any unfriendly actions"

    However, that is what Microsoft said in previous EU cases — multimedia players and server protocols — and they were wrong. The same was true for some other major legal cases, such as Stacker, dr-dos, the first anti-trust trial, the second anti-trust trial, and the java lawsuit.  In each case there were major complaints, Microsoft said it would prevail in court or before the EU, and it was mistaken. I think the present case with OOXML is similar enough that we can be pretty sure Microsoft is going to lose again.

  24. voice/from/the/dark says:

    eduardo, why would EU do anything to "undercut" OOXML now that it is an ISO standard and is under ISO control?

  25. Gerd says:

    "eduardo, why would EU do anything to "undercut" OOXML now that it is an ISO standard and is under ISO control?"

    Why does it matter that OOXML is under ISO control when the Committee is just Microsoft. SC34 is stuffed and now you even create a subcommittee.

    Not to mention Alex Brown, who consults the British Library, a key Microsoft proxy for the standard and who made the UK approve the broken standard.

  26. Ian Easson says:

    Gerd says, apparently in all seriousness:

    "Not to mention Alex Brown, who consults the British Library, a key Microsoft proxy for the standard and who made the UK approve the broken standard."

    No, I think the British Library association with IS 29500 is all a communist plot.  After all, it is well-known that Karl Marx spent many years there writing Das Kapital.

  27. eduardo says:

    voice/from/the/dark

    >eduardo, why would EU do anything to "undercut" OOXML now that it is an ISO standard and is under ISO control?

    Because the EU may come to the conclusion that the process by which it was approved was corrupt, and that OOXML is an illegitimate standard that should not have been approved by ISO.

  28. Ian Easson says:

    eduardo,

    So all you are down to is your opinion that "I think the present case with OOXML is similar enough that we can be pretty sure Microsoft is going to lose again".

    I wonder what the EU commision will do when it asks the NBs of those EU countries where the anti-OOXML folks cried "foul", and they just refer the EU commsioner to their formal public statements to the effect that there was nothing wrong with the process, which was all in accordance to the ISO rules?

  29. Reggie says:

    I still don’t see that the EU has any providence in this matter.  The ISO is a private organization, not a government one.  And the nations that choose to participate in the ISO do so outside of the authorization of the EU.  The ISO can do whatever it and the participating nations want, and the EU can do nothing about it.  There are no international or EU laws that pertain to the ISO.

    I could see that each member nation may have laws petaining to its own participation in non-governmental international bodies like the ISO, and if any particular nation wanted to investigate itself as to whether its own laws were broken, then fine, but I don’t see how the EU has any authority here.

    That being said, I’m sure they’ll find some excuse to levy a hefty fine for no reason.

  30. hAl says:

    @Gerd,

    Alex Brown is not contracted by the Britisch library.

    What dubious sources are you using for your information ?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Alex Brown elected to the panel to advise the British Library on how to handle digital submission: http://www.sourcewire.com/releases/rel_display.php?relid=37533&hilite=

    Francis Cave, Chairman of IST/41 for BSI,  a partner of Mr. Brown: http://www.franciscave.com/ consults the British Library also.

    The BSI Wiki Page promoting OOXML…hmmm http://www.xmlopen.org/ooxml-wiki/resources/BSI_OOXML_2007_05.pdf

    Microsoft has contracts with the British Library.. hmmmm

  32. Ian Easson says:

    It now appears (see above) we have a new attempt to smear someone’s name who was involved in the passage of ISO/IEC.

    The most appropriate response is to repeat the text of the recent open letter from the SC34 commitee:

    "We the undersigned participants at this SC 34 meeting wish to make it clear that we deplore the personal attacks that have been made during the DIS 29500 standardisation project in recent months. We believe standards debate should always be carried out with respect for all parties, even when they strongly disagree.

    We call on all organisations and individuals involved in SC 34 standardisation to support this view, and to refrain from initiating or engaging in any such personal attacks."

  33. Olivier says:

    I have a couple of questions I would like to ask to Microsoft, and maybe people here will have answers. First, while Microsoft could have developed a support for ODF in Office a long time ago, they did not. However, they now claim to be in favour of open standards and interoperability. Why should I trust them?

    Second, Microsoft claims to have opened the specs of its formats in order to give choice to its customers. The interest of the customers (especially governments) is to be able to write an office suite from scratch which has full support for the files produced by MS Office, so that they have a guarantee that the files can be archived and used for centuries. This would require that (1) MS Office files strictly conform to OOXSML and (maybe) other standards and (2) OOXML and said standards are publicly and fully specified. But then, any competitor could write a fully compatible free software product. Microsoft has been fighting for years to ensure that this does not happen. So why should I trust Microsoft’s claims to serve the interest of its customers?

  34. voice/from/the/dark says:

    Olivier, I see it as a common courtesy that people read the blog before posting. Your concerns were addressed here many time before.

  35. hAl says:

    Ah, I see now. It is the noooxml info source.

    Sad little people over there.

    http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/comment.php?mode=view&cid=19128

  36. eduardo says:

    I agree with voice/from/the/dark. It would seem that what would benefit Microsoft the most would be to produce a standard that appears to be open, but actually is not, and so I assume that this is what Microsoft is trying to do.

    If there are previous posts that convincingly argue that it would not be in Microsoft’s best interest to do this, then perhaps you could give us some links.

  37. eduardo says:

    Reggie: "I still don’t see that the EU has any providence in this matter.  The ISO is a private organization, not a government one."

    The EU Competition Commision has providence because it is tasked with ensuring that competition is legal and healthy. A true open standard facilitates competition, but a standard that is under the control of a single corporation can undermine competition, and that is why the EU CC is investigating OOXML.

  38. voice/from/the/dark says:

    eduardo, you seem to agree with me on something I do not believe is true.

    I believe there are two sides to every file format: the competitors who might be discouraged by a more cryptic format and the partners who will be encouraged by a more open format. I am guessing that with OOXML the second part far outweighed the first one as various government agencies started to climb on the scales 🙂 And OOXML ended up much more open than old binary formats.

    I might be mistaken in my conclusions, so feel free to read Brian’s blog and get yours.

  39. Olivier says:

    voice/from/the/dark,

    I have only been reading this blog for a short time, and I never got any satisfactory answer to these questions.

    I do believe that Microsoft’s move towards the new formats originated from concerns by customers (probably raised by a fair amount of lobbying from IBM). As usual, Microsoft presents this move as though they really wanted it to happen, claiming that all they ever wished was to give choice to their customers. Now, do you really believe that a company with such a high market share — to the point that their format is the de facto industry standard — will actively encourage compatibility with competing products?

    Pro-MS people tend to use arguments that apply to ordinary markets with sound competition. Those are just not convincing in a quasi-monopolistic situation.

  40. Len Bullard says:

    Don’t engage the anti-OOXML forces with explanations.  Their tactic now is to accuse ISO of corruption, thus making it even more difficult to create international standards by negotiated consensus.

    These are not reasonable people.  They were full of fury before the vote, and frustration will drive them to be even more furious.   You won’t win them over with logical arguments or appeals professional behavior.

    The answer is simple:

    "You lost.  Get over it."

  41. Doug Mahugh says:

    Like a few other people, I’ve been taking a break from blogging since the Open XML vote was final, to

  42. Ian Easson says:

    Oliver writes:

    "I do believe that Microsoft’s move towards the new formats originated from concerns by customers "

    The work on OOXML began over 10 years ago, after some extensive consulting with large customers.  

    I was part of a Nortel Networks group in 1997 that was visited by three Microsoft reps, who came specifically to get feedback on changing the binary MS Office document format to an open standards-based one.  Their thought at that time was to use HTML, but I felt that they should use XML.  (Which they started doing, about a year later.)

  43. Ian Easson says:

    Further to my note to Oliver.

    I should also have mentioned that the following DID NOT EXIST in 1997 when I know from my own personal experience that Microsoft was floating the idea of going to an open standards-based document format:

    – OpenOffice

    – ODF

    – IBM pressure

    – Government purchasing pressure

  44. eduardo says:

    voice/from/the/dark:

    "I believe there are two sides to every file format: the competitors who might be discouraged by a more cryptic format and the partners who will be encouraged by a more open format.I am guessing that with OOXML the second part far outweighed the first one as various government agencies started to climb on the scales 🙂 And OOXML ended up much more open than old binary formats."

    Governmental agencies are not partners, they are users. The difference between a partner and a user is that there is a more natural confluence of interests between partners than there is between a seller and its customers.

    You are right that the demand by governmental agencies pushed Microsoft to produce OOXML. The problem is that a truly open format would be countrary to Microsoft’s interests because it would undermine its monopoly which is based partly on format lock-in, so it has responded to governmental demands by producing a standard that appears to be open but is actually still under Microsoft’s control.

  45. eduardo says:

    Len Bullard,

    "Don’t engage the anti-OOXML forces with explanations.  Their tactic now is to accuse ISO of corruption, thus making it even more difficult to create international standards by bnegotiated consensus."

    But was it truly a negotiated consensus? That is what the EU Competition Commision is going to investigate, and nothing you and the other OOXML worshipers say can stop it.

  46. voice/from/the/dark says:

    eduardo, OOXML is now much more independent from Microsoft than ODF from Sun and IBM. This is what Brian was saying and this is why usual anti-OOXML crowd is so curiously silent 🙂

  47. eduardo says:

    Ian Easson:

    "I was part of a Nortel Networks group in 1997 that was visited by three Microsoft reps, who came specifically to get feedback on changing the binary MS Office document format to an open standards-based one."

    voice/in/the/dark says it was recently in response to govermental demands, you say it was a decade earlier in response to corporate wishes. If OOXML defenders are going to be persuasive, perhaps they should agree on the story.

    As to your claim, if OOXML was always intended to be an open standard approved by the ISO, then why was this not announced at the time, instead putting it off until a couple of years ago? And when ODF started selling itself as an approved (or submitted) open standard, like back during the Massachusets controversy, why didn’t Microsoft immediately say "we are going to be open, too"?

    There is a broader issue here. Microsoft lies. It also often tells the truth, but lies are not uncommon — think of Kerebos or the Java licence. Perhaps it did tell you ten years ago it was planning on making OOXML an open standard, but was lieing, and then a few years ago was forced to do what it had promised.

    Ian, where do you stand on this question of Microsoft and the truth? Do you think Microsoft always tells the truth, or do you think it lies sometimes, and if so, how do you go about deciding if it is telling the truth or not?

  48. voice/from/the/dark says:

    eduardo, I was talking about OOXML and Ian was talking about Microsoft ventures into open formats that started with HTML formats in 1998. Again please read Brian’s blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2007/07/09/open-xml-timeline.aspx

  49. Ian Easson says:

    Yes, eduardo, get your timeline straight.  

    Microsoft had decided to move to an open, standards-based document format in 1997.  It was at the time trying to figure out which standards to base it upon.  And that decision had NOTHING to do with OpennOffice, ODF, or whatever.  It was just a sound business decision for them.

    Much later, after several iterations of a solution which produced OOXML, they were then persuaded by the EU, by the ECMA, and by others to submit the OOXML file formats for standardization, first as an industry standard (ECMA) and then as an international standard (ISO/IEC).

  50. eduardo says:

    Ian, voice/in/the/dark

    Thank you for the timeline. I see I was wrong and you two agree on the history.

    However, Ian, the deeper issue still stands. Microsoft says its intention with OOXML is that it be a truly open standard. I say it is lieing and that its intention is to keep it under its own control, and use it to prevent competitors such as open office from gaining market share.

    Which leads back to my questions about Microsoft and lieing, namely whether or not it lies, and if it does so some of the time, how you tell when it is and when it is telling the truth.  

    I can understand why you would avoid answering the questions. If you say if never lies, then you sound like a Microsoft FUDmeister. If you say it does and lay out some criteria for telling when, then you make Microsoft look bad and give people some conceptual tools that could be used to cast doubt on OOXML, things which you clearly don’t want to do. If you say it doesn’t matter whether Microsoft is lieing or telling the truth, then you sound like a complete fool.

    Well, maybe I am wrong about this. How about answering the lieing questions?

  51. Dave S. says:

    I downloaded and read the Word binary documentation. While it names the elements and gives the offsets, it does a limited job of describing their behavior and no noticeable job of describing the expected graphical result.

    Considering that all these formats are really descriptions of programming languages that are to be run on an interpreter, it just seems as if there is not enough there to do the job.

    I will probably have a second read through it, but I can’t see where anyone except MS could write a program that could convert the binary format documents into anything else (except for text extraction) if all they had was the format spec.

    I do have the rest of the Office binary specs, but the files seem smaller than I would expect them to be.

    I’ve read the Adobe Postscript reference a few times, so I have a feeling for what it takes to get a good description and get it down on paper. Writing Postscript required only the Blue and Red books to produce suitably interesting results.

    I am still wondering what the word and figure counts are for MSO-XML.

  52. voice/from/the/dark says:

    eduardo, did you mean "lying" not "lieing"? 🙂

    Dave S., check this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_word_processors Many word processors can interpret  binary Word documents far beyond simple text extraction.

  53. Ian Easson says:

    eduardo says:

    "Microsoft says its intention with OOXML is that it be a truly open standard. I say it is lieing and that its intention is to keep it under its own control, and use it to prevent competitors such as open office from gaining market share."

    You can believe whatever you want.  It certainly sounds like you have made up your mind, and nothing will ever change it.  Too bad.

    Your entire perspective on the matter of OOXML flows from your assumption, quoted above.  When facts conflict with your perceptions, you and others like you dismiss them with accusations of lies, corruptions, bribes, conspiracies, etc.  You also display a general ignorance of the technical aspects and history of document formats.  My guess (and I could be wrong) is that you avoid learning about these things because to know them in more detail would bring out facts that are in increasing conflict with your views on the matter, and are thus emotionally painful to you.

    I find it very sad that there are people like you, being prisoners of their own closed minds.

    What you and others just can’t appreciate is that the following two things are not at all in conflict from a business perspective:

    – The use of an open, standards-based file format for MS Office

    – The continuing (and improving) revenue from sales of MS Office.

    You also don’t understand that with its increased exposure to enterprise customers in the 1990’s, Microsoft had changed its whole approach by the time they talked to me in 1997.  You are stuck in the distant past, unable to face up to reality.

    (P.S.: I teach business management at the MBA level in a university, including subjects like how technology and corporate strategy intermix, so I do have quite a bit of knowledge in these matters.)

  54. eduardo says:

    Ian,

    As to my assumptions, I assume that Microsoft always does what it believes is most beneficial to its profits and market share. I look at its situation and come to the conclusion that in this case it would be to present a fake open standard. You don’t really argue against my reasoning, you just tell me that they told you something different. And that leads us back to the question you keep avoiding, namely whether or not Microsoft is lying on this matter.

    You seem to assume that it is not. Is this because you think Microsoft never lies, or that it lies sometimes but not in this case, and if so, why do you think it is honest in this case and not in some others, and in general how do you go about determining when Microsoft — or any other corporation, for that matter — is lying and when it is not?

    This is an important set of issues and you surely have a position on it (and surely it is something you deal with in teaching MBA’s). The fact that you won’t address it seems to indicate that you realize that anything you would say would be embarrassing and unconvincing.

  55. voice/from/the/dark says:

    eduardo, I got it: you believe that corporate interest and openness are incompatible, is that right? I say if it is more beneficial to create an open standard than it is corporate interest to create it. OOXML fits this bill.

  56. Ian Easson says:

    voice/from/the/dark,

    You have indeed captured the essence of eduardo’s position.  That is what I meant when I said he felt the following two things were incompatible:

    – The use of an open, standards-based file format for MS Office

    – The continuing (and improving) revenue from sales of MS Office.

    By moving ownership and control of OOXML to ECMA and then to ISO/IEC, it has been removed from the direct "corporate interest" of Microsoft.  They will of course be the passive indirect recipient of many of the benefits of this transfer (which is what they intended all along).  

    Of course, people like eduardo will deny that Microsoft is incapable of any strategy so subtle, seeing as these people believe that MS is only capable of crude strategies and tactics like conspiracies, lies, bribery, corruption, etc.

  57. Dave S. says:

    @voice/from/the/dark:

    A more careful reading of my post would reveal that the spec for the binary format was insufficient to get much more than text.

    The other software developers would have bought copies of Office and made sample documents and then examined the binary files to see the correlation between what they saw and what got stored.

    @ Ian

    Since when have conspiracies, lies, bribery, and corruption been necessarily crude strategies? Usually they are the more sophisticated, requiring attention to detail to avoid discovery.

  58. voice/from/the/dark says:

    Dave S., you appear to overestimate your technical skill 🙂 File format documentation is expected to be used by person with proper training and skills. Those who created software on Wikipedia page appear to have what is needed. You say your skill ends at text extraction.

    I also do not see wrong in using examples, sample files and reference application. You?

  59. John says:

    The chairman of the Norway mirror committee gives an account of what happened with the Norway vote.  He has resigned in disgust:

    http://topicmaps.wordpress.com/2008/04/18/the-norway-vote-what-really-happened/

    Of the Microsoft peeps will ignore such things, and think the anti-mooxml crowd are just making things up 😀

  60. len says:

    @eduardo:

    I don’t use OOXML or ODF so I’m hardly a worshipper.  I dislike thug tactics in business or politics.  The extremes of the anti-OOXML forces have become the thing they say they are against.  It’a a classic Devil and Daniel Webster outcome.  This pattern was set in the browser wars (really, the HTML Wars) and has continued to this day.  It’s time to say NO to thugs.

    Nothing will change your mind; so the point is to stop the reverberations of anger and offense that ripple across the web inciting other offenses and damaging productive relationships that have nothing to do with document formats.  It isn’t worth it just to keep you going which it will.

    Someday you may discover the people around you are worth far more than the machines or the documents.  When you do, you’ll find that as analog systems, their memories are sticky and their personalities are plastic.  The more useless stress you feed them, the more warped they become.  The longer you do it, the more that shape becomes permanent.  Caveat vendor.

  61. Olivier says:

    @Ian Easson,

    I am not surprised to learn that Microsoft started working on a text-based format for Office a long time ago. I have a few colleagues at Microsoft Research — although in a different domain — and I can tell they do an excellent work. Microsoft clearly invests a lot in long-term research and development. That is also why I believe that OOXML has great technical merits — probably more than ODF.

    However, why I am not comfortable with the ultimate motives of Microsoft. On which criteria do the managers decide when and how a given technology or product will be released? In the case of OOXML, although the foundations were laid a long time ago as you mentioned, the end users waited until very recently to see it happen. Of course, these things take a lot of time to polish, but it looks like Microsoft delayed the actual release until competition and customer pressure made it necessary. Another example: according to the timeline linked to by voice/from/the/dark, Microsoft had no plans to support ODF in Office at the beginning of 2006 due to lack of customer demand, but they announced that they sponsored a OOXML/ODF translator 6 months later! I believe that this half-measure is used as an excuse: Microsoft can claim that they do not ignore a newly ISO-approved format, while ensuring that people cannot use it in Office in practice — at least not before OOXML is well established as the new de facto standard. Note that I think that IBM tries its best to do the same with ODF. The only difference lies in the market share.

    I agree that it is profitable for Office to use an open and standards-based file format, but I also believe that it is only the case if competing products are not fully compatible. The only reason for which I think so is that Office has a market share of about 95% (correct me if I’m wrong).

    To sum it up, I am not questioning Microsoft’s ability to innovate and make valuable contributions, but rather the motives of the managers who decide how and when to release their products. I wish I shared your confidence in the convergence of Microsoft’s interests and its customers’. As a user of an operating system for which Microsoft has not released a version of Office, I have to cope with far from satisfactory support of the binary formats in alternative products, and I do not expect the situation to get much better with OOXML. Let’s hope I am wrong.

  62. voice/from/the/dark says:

    Office 2007 fails to pass OOXML validation suite, Groklaw thinks it is bad:

    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20080421091129596

    Is it? I can see many validation failures as indication that OOXML was substantially changed during ECMA and ISO standardization processes. What does everyone say?

  63. voice/from/the/dark says:

    Olivier, this is what I said on Jason Matusow blog:

    "Luc, get your facts straight: ODF became ISO/IEC 26300:2006 on November 30, 2006 – on precisely the same day Microsoft Office 2007 was released to enterprises. Office 2007 was in development for more than three years by that time. There is no way to add something as big as ODF support to something as huge as Office 2007 in zero time.

    Are you saying that Microsoft should have implemented ODF as it was rubber stamped by Sun and IBM in OASIS? It was a very raw and OOo/SO centric standard at this point, not yet scrutinized by ISO. Not that it ever were anyway. Implementing ODF fresh out of OASIS oven, less than a year and half from the release date would be insanity. No, suicide."

    http://blogs.msdn.com/jasonmatusow/archive/2008/04/08/texas-legislature-electronic-documents-hearing.aspx#8379048

    Do you object? Please explain.

  64. John says:

    Does MS intend on supporting ODF out-of-the-box in MS Office?

  65. Ian Easson says:

    Oliver said:

    "In the case of OOXML, although the foundations were laid a long time ago as you mentioned, the end users waited until very recently to see it happen."

    Actually, no.  They received various iterations of what became OOXML in Office 2000, XP, and 2003.  The difference in 2007 was that the XML-based format became the default one, not just an optional one.

    As for your other point about (non)-support for the ISO version of ODF 1.0 in Office 2007, voice/from/the/dark has shown in their response how this was not possible (even if they had wanted to do it.)

  66. Ian Easson says:

    John said:

    "Does MS intend on supporting ODF out-of-the-box in MS Office?"

    I have no answer.  But, you may remember the hue and cry from Adobe and a few others others when Office 2007 was going to support XPS (their own format!!) and PDF out of the box.  Microsoft backed down, and made the support an optional plug-in.  

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if Microsoft at some point proposed to support ODF out of the box, and Sun and IBM objected, just like Adobe did for PDF?  Just a thought.

  67. Ian Easson says:

    Oliver said:

    "I agree that it is profitable for Office to use an open and standards-based file format, but I also believe that it is only the case if competing products are not fully compatible."

    I happen to agree with you for a change.  

    However, the world is the way it is.  Business managers are supposed to make decisions based on the way the world is, not on how someone believes the way it ought to be. Otherwise, the shareholders will revolt and replace those managers with some other group who will do their product strategies based on the reality of the situation.

    Do you have a problem with this?

  68. Ian,

    "I have no answer. "

    Well, you are, as a customer, holder on parts of the answer, anyways. If you ask me, we need ODF in Microsoft Office 2007++ from the beginning or at least an automatic way of installing the add-on from e.g. SourceForge (much like Office 2003 prompts you to download the compatibility-pack when opening OOXML-files the first time.

    Microsoft has a long record of not moving until critical mass of its customer base demands it, so we need to keep the pressure on Microsoft to support ODF out of the box.

    … and when I talk about "customers" I mean the big ones in the public sectors and government agencies.

  69. LatDev says:

    Hi Brian,

    I am developer and I am exploring OpenXML. I have an important question about OpenXMl App implementations and licenses, I have a customer that ask me for an .NET Service that create a Document on a server based on an XML Word Template+SQL Data in order to extend his legacy system functionality returning it as a full word document to the client just for print it.

    In this scenario, Can you confirm me that the server doesnt need an Office License? if the returned document is just readed and printed using the WordViewer or a PDF, neither Office Licenses is needed in the PC, Its that right?

    There is any kind of license needed when I sell this solution to my customer.

    Thanks in Advance

    know010[at]gmail.com

  70. Olivier says:

    voice/from/the/dark, Ian,

    While I certainly understand that Microsoft should take precautions before adding support for ODF in Office, I don’t believe that having done so would have been a "suicide". The Office applications would have kept their native formats as the default ones, and ODF would be nothing more than another entry in the list of supported formats. Nobody is asking Microsoft to have perfect built-in support of ODF in Office overnight. What I would like to see is some announcement that they will eventually do it. And I am afraid it will take more than sponsoring a project on Sourceforge. I know Microsoft can do much better. Are they actively working on this support or are they just trying to buy time? That is the question.

    Ian, you are right about the XML-based formats being in Office for some time. You mention Office 2000. I thought these formats first appeared in Office XP, but I trust you on this. What about the specifications of these formats? When were they first released to the public?

    Ian wrote:

    "However, the world is the way it is.  Business managers are supposed to make decisions based on the way the world is, not on how someone believes the way it ought to be. Otherwise, the shareholders will revolt and replace those managers with some other group who will do their product strategies based on the reality of the situation.

    Do you have a problem with this?"

    I just find it to be a sad state of affairs, but, as you put it, the world is the way it is. One of the problems I see with competing products being kept from being fully compatible with Office is long-term electronic archiving of documents. Who can tell how long Office will be around? I do not know whether OOXML will make it easier for competing products to achieve some level of interoperability with Office or not, but I believe it won’t make full interoperability possible. That’s why I think the only way to trust archives in OOXML format on the long term is to have access to the source code of Office.

    Now, I hope you understand the reasons for my concerns about Microsoft’s "bring choice to the customers" claims. OOXML might bring some choice as far as partial compatiblity is concerned, but in practice people needing a reliable tool will have no alternative to Office. That maintains a situation which is bad for the market and for the users of office applications.

    On a side note, I do not have the option to install Office on my operating system, therefore I have no hope of seeing the end of compatibility issues with OOXML. Too bad for a brand new standard.

  71. Ian Easson says:

    Oliver, in response to your questions and comments,

    "What about the specifications of these formats? When were they first released to the public?"

    – Brian is the one to answer.  I have a vague recollection that around the Office 2000/XP time frame, Micrsoft did not update its documentation, but that changed with Office 2003

    About long-term access to archived OOXML documents:

    – There are actually three separate scenarios, which I think it is very important to distinguish: read-only (render), read-edit (render, edit, and save in non-OOXML format), and read-edit-write (render, edit, and save in OOXML format).  There are OK solutions even now for read-only (e.g., Windows Word Viewer) and read-edit (e.g., iWorks’08, ScanSoft)that don’t require a copy of Microsoft Office.  Also note that if you are concerned about long-term viability of OOXML archives, then you probably don’t WANT the full read-edit-write capabilities; you will likely WANT to save your archived OOXML document in another format that you do trust.  So, it seems to me that when you look at the different archive scenarious in more detail, your concerns are lessened.

  72. Weddings says:

    I’m heading home from Norway in the morning, but wanted to give a quick update on the progress made over the past few days. I was attending the SC34 meetings in Oslo and there was a good amount of focus on document format standards (SC34, as designate

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