Stephen McGibbon's Web Journal

Digging for the truth?

I saw a quote from one of my colleagues, Microsoft Australia's National Technology Officer, highlighted on Groklaw's "News Picks" with the following annotation from the diva herself:-

[PJ: MS FUD-o-meter off the scale here. ODF can be structured to do anything you want. Microsoft didn't do that. Instead it offers a competing standard and unencumbered would mean it works freely and without restrictions and for one and all, including the GPL.]

Knowing Greg I don't think he'd go off the scale with FUD, so I thought I'd take a look at the story being referred to. It starts with an interesting quote attributed to IBM Australia's Government Program Executive:-

IBM has been particularly outspoken about the issue, but local government programs executive Kaaren Koomen insists it's not simply a battle between two multinationals.

"ISO has a policy that, wherever possible, there should only be one standard to maximise interoperability and functionality," she says. "We have an international standard for digital documentation, ODF, which was developed by Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Oracle and the open-source community some years back.

"Microsoft pulled out of that process and decided to develop its own standard, OOXML. Now Microsoft is trying to convince the rest of the ICT community to adopt its standard."

It is totally untrue that "ODF [was] developed by Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Oracle and the open-source community some years back".

It is also totally untrue that "Microsoft pulled out of that process and decided to develop its own standard, OOXML.""

Groklaw's tagline is "digging for the truth". Perhaps they've lost their spade?


Greg Stone said:

Endorsing the kind of shameless mis-information in the article’s Karen Kooman(IBM) quote should be beneath Groklaw.  It’s a shame really because Australia has enjoyed a generally good level of mature debate about OpenXML from all sides. A little context then for this:  I don’t usually do media interviews, preferring instead the richer benefits of on-to-one dialogue but the journo – Karen Dearne – is well regarded and the progress of the JTC-1 process for OpenXML has entered the important pre-BRM phase guaranteed to swell public interest.  So I was happy to answer the questions Karen put to me and my colleague Sarah Bond.  I think a full reading of the article will confirm that Karen Dearne represented a broad set of opinion in an unbiased way.

Karen Kooman(IBM) seems however, particularly shrill in her attempt to portray Microsoft as a playground loner who prefers its own toys.  This is all the more striking when the arguments for why Microsoft elected to develop OpenXML have been widely discussed and at least tacitly endorsed by many opponents of the spec – including IBM’ers. No one I have heard disputes that the lack of formula syntax/semantics, accessibility support, user-defined schema, and backwards compatibility of the current ODF spec, render it inconsistent with OpenXML design goals of “backwards compatibility”, interoperability, and “accommodation of structured data”.

So lets explore this issue of “why didn’t Microsoft huddle in with the ODF folks” Just to recap for those interested, ODF maintained from the outset a strict focus on delivering an XML-based version of the file format supporting implementations of Sun’s OpenOffice/StarOffice and publicly available OASIS threads confirm this – often steered by Michael Brauer (Sun).  You can check it out here:  So if you spend a bit of time mining these threads you will see that that each time there was an attempt to introduce support for capability that was not directly coupled with OpenOffce it was pushed back out of scope.  

Lets take a good – and topical – example:

Formula support was called out early in OASIS as a shortfall for the spec – not only in describing the formulas in spreadsheets and the like but also in facilitating their interoperability with other file formats and implementations – especially Microsoft office.  A review of David Wheeler’s attempts to address this shortfall is conveniently provided in section 1.5 of his proposed OpenFormula spec which you can read in full here.  Here is a précis-

On 2004-11-01 David A. Wheeler recommended that the Open Document's specification of

formulas be strengthened to allow exchange of formulas.   This was subsequently rejected with the reply including the interesting snippet .. “.... While we think that having interoperability on that level would be of great benefit to users, we do not believe that this is in the scope of the current specification.”

David A. Wheeler noted that “without such a specification of the formulas, implementations would

not have a standard way to exchange spreadsheet formulas, rendering the entire specification

incomplete with respect to spreadsheets.”

Dont get me wrong Im not suggesting there is anything wrong with ODF as a format per se, but its fairly clear from those intimately involved with that the ODF spec from its inception that not only were specific functional areas of support identified as missing and consciously excluded from scope,  but the actually philosophical drivers were at variance with those Microsoft required – interoperability being a major one.  This reflects the world we live in.  The right to choose based on alignment and merit – basically what the OpenXML file format is all about 

# January 29, 2008 11:03 PM

Doug Mahugh said:

Open XML and XSLT with XMLSpy. Alex Falk has a great post on how to create a simple XSLT that transforms

# January 30, 2008 4:34 PM

Noticias externas said:

Open XML and XSLT with XMLSpy. Alex Falk has a great post on how to create a simple XSLT that transforms

# January 30, 2008 4:57 PM