Microsoft Spits Dummy : World Yawns

Posted on: February 17, 2007 - 08:54 By: Feynmanfan

There was no loving feelings between Microsoft and IBM in a recent open letter published by Microsoft. IBM has been encouraging Governments to reject the Microsoft "Open XML" format currently under consideration by ISO. Microsoft are very upset, and threw a tantrum by releasing an open letter telling the world how fair they have been, and how bad IBM have been.

In its open letter Microsoft say that "In document formats, customers have said loud and clear that they want interoperability, choice and innovation." By choice we mean choice of word processing application so we are not locked into using Microsoft Office at all. In the very next sentence they try to limit the scope of what customers are asking for to mean "... to unlock data in documents and to help integrate front and back office processes"

The truth of the matter is that "Open XML" is anything but open. The openness extends only to the extent Microsoft have used XML. In every other regard they have tied the format such that only Microsoft could ever implement it. They have deliberatly limited the scope such that people have no choice, are not able to interoperate and are locked in.

For example, in the specification there are sections which explicitly state that functionality in old versions of Word should be implemented, but fail to specify what that functionality is. Microsofts format also fails to recognise standards that ISO have already determined.

There were 19 contradictions to "Open XML", which might have come as a surprise to Brian Jones, a program Manager for Office at Miceosoft. In a blog post on January 19 Brian says that "OpenXML most likely won't have any contradictions, because with file formats, two can very easily co-exist". By this logic any file format can become a standard even if it substantially duplicates the domain of another standard. Both ODF and OOXML are word processing formats. They are both designed to be the preferred means of editing content, unlike PDF, and they are aimed at paper documents rather than dynamic online content.

However, this is allowing Microsoft to frame the issue. The fact is that even without ODF the Microsoft format fails the most basic smoke test for ISO standards. It cannot be reasonably implemented by anyone but Microsoft. It is full of secret sauce and backwards compatibility exceptions for old versions of Word. There is no reason at all to accept OOXML as a standard and a huge number of reasons to reject it.