May 5, 2006 12:46 PM PDT

Microsoft Office to get a dose of OpenDocument

(continued from previous page)

The OpenDocument Foundation's Edwards said his advocacy group intends to answer Massachusetts' request for information and recommend that it test his new software.

In a posting on the Groklaw site, Edwards said the group then intends to offer the plug-in to government customers in California and the European Union.

"Hard as it is to believe, it's completely coincidental that Massachusetts decided on the RFI (request for information) route the day before we notified them that the ODF Plugin had completed testing. It just looks like we did this overnight," he wrote.

Massachusetts last year decided that OpenDocument is one of its approved document formats. Executive branch agencies have committed to converting over to a system to make OpenDocument the default document format by January next year.

The reason for adopting OpenDocument, which was formally standardized about one year ago, was a concern with long-term document access, according to officials.

Fork in the road
Since Massachusetts' high-profile move, Microsoft launched an effort to standardize the document formats in Office 2007 through ECMA, a European standards body.

ECMA certification for the Office Open XML formats is expected next year. Microsoft also intends to seek ISO standardization, which OpenDocument achieved on Tuesday.

Microsoft's Yates said that one of the purposes of the company's standardization effort was to invite third-party developers, including open-source developers, to create products that interoperate with the Open Office XML formats.

Having not seen plug-in software, Yates was not aware of any legal problems it might pose.

"If they are simply working with the Office Open XML Formats, or the binary format information we have made available, there should be no problem," Yates said.

Edwards, meanwhile, said that the plug-in was made specifically for people who have systems closely tied to Microsoft desktop software that would make moving to an alternative, like OpenOffice, very difficult in the short term.

"Consider the ODF Plug-in as an important part of that wave of desktop, server and device applications moving to ODF everywhere, all the time, for every purpose," he said.

Because Microsoft will make XML, rather than binary, file formats be the default setting in Office 2007, many customers will need to make some decisions about file formats in the coming years, noted RedMonk's O'Grady.

"There will be a fork in the road, whatever path you choose, whether it's Microsoft, something other, or ODF," said O'Grady.

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24 comments

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Cuts both ways
Sure this allows folks to use competing suites more easily (as the article states) since they can interop in their desired format, but it also allows institutions that have decided to go ODF-only select Office as their standard suite.

For example, any financial folks (and I'm sure a state gov't has many) will always select Excel over any of the competing applications. (Can't speak for other Office apps so much...)
Posted by KTLA_knew (385 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I wouldn't knock it.
I wouldn't knock those who would choose MS Office with OpenDocument support.

They probably have a good reason to spend several hundred dollars per seat over the free alternatives that support OpenDocument.

Overall, its a good thing. If it helps OpenDocument become a default document format for Office type documents, I'm all for universal support by both free and commercial Office suites.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag
Cuts both ways
Sure this allows folks to use competing suites more easily (as the article states) since they can interop in their desired format, but it also allows institutions that have decided to go ODF-only select Office as their standard suite.

For example, any financial folks (and I'm sure a state gov't has many) will always select Excel over any of the competing applications. (Can't speak for other Office apps so much...)
Posted by KTLA_knew (385 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I wouldn't knock it.
I wouldn't knock those who would choose MS Office with OpenDocument support.

They probably have a good reason to spend several hundred dollars per seat over the free alternatives that support OpenDocument.

Overall, its a good thing. If it helps OpenDocument become a default document format for Office type documents, I'm all for universal support by both free and commercial Office suites.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Link Flag
Since....
... what was said by Edwards is that "The ODF Plugin installs on the file menu as a natural and transparent part of the 'open,' 'save,' and 'save as' sequences. As far as end users and other application add-ons are concerned, ODF Plugin renders ODF documents as if (they) were native to MS Office....."; then it will appear that we have yet a long road to travel in order to realise certain functionalities within both of these office products - Microsoft Office and Open Office; as we now know them - they both have borrowed (perhaps heavily so) from IBM Lotus SmartSuite leaving them without certain functionalities and obviously, the real possibilities of certain limitations.

As a point of reference here is an extract from a 1998 Lotus Development Corporation communication; Re: Concerning the issues with 1-2-3 that are talked about in the documentation you gave me, most of the issues are related to converting files between older and newer versions of product and converting documents between Lotus and Microsoft. Anytime a file is saved backwards or saved with an older file format than the format the file was created under, such as saving a 1-2-3 , 97 file for Windows 95 into a WK1 format for DOS, then naturally we are expected to loose certain features due to technology and features that are present now that were not present 8 - 10 years ago. Similarly, if we try to convert a file from Lotus into Excel or Excel into Lotus, due to differences in the products not every feature will be converted perfectly with the file filters that are available. Both Lotus and Microsoft create similar spreadsheet programs; however, there are several differences in both programs and these differences will remain to distinguish the products apart. We do try to design conversion filters that will allow as much of the file formats as possible to be exchanged and converted without disrupting the actual file design and format.

In one of your letters you made mention of the @IRR and @ERR functions in the 1-2-3 product. By design the @IRR (notably "absent" in Open Office) will calculate the Internal Rate of Return; where the @ERR is used in conjunction with other formulas, posted was an "ERR" showing an error was received in the calculations. As far as I can see in the program I cannot find an @ERR function that will allow us to calculate an Economic Rate of Return" and, thus the inherent limitations of Microsoft Office as well as Open Office having borrowed from IBM's Lotus SmartSuite!!!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Since....
... what was said by Edwards is that "The ODF Plugin installs on the file menu as a natural and transparent part of the 'open,' 'save,' and 'save as' sequences. As far as end users and other application add-ons are concerned, ODF Plugin renders ODF documents as if (they) were native to MS Office....."; then it will appear that we have yet a long road to travel in order to realise certain functionalities within both of these office products - Microsoft Office and Open Office; as we now know them - they both have borrowed (perhaps heavily so) from IBM Lotus SmartSuite leaving them without certain functionalities and obviously, the real possibilities of certain limitations.

As a point of reference here is an extract from a 1998 Lotus Development Corporation communication; Re: Concerning the issues with 1-2-3 that are talked about in the documentation you gave me, most of the issues are related to converting files between older and newer versions of product and converting documents between Lotus and Microsoft. Anytime a file is saved backwards or saved with an older file format than the format the file was created under, such as saving a 1-2-3 , 97 file for Windows 95 into a WK1 format for DOS, then naturally we are expected to loose certain features due to technology and features that are present now that were not present 8 - 10 years ago. Similarly, if we try to convert a file from Lotus into Excel or Excel into Lotus, due to differences in the products not every feature will be converted perfectly with the file filters that are available. Both Lotus and Microsoft create similar spreadsheet programs; however, there are several differences in both programs and these differences will remain to distinguish the products apart. We do try to design conversion filters that will allow as much of the file formats as possible to be exchanged and converted without disrupting the actual file design and format.

In one of your letters you made mention of the @IRR and @ERR functions in the 1-2-3 product. By design the @IRR (notably "absent" in Open Office) will calculate the Internal Rate of Return; where the @ERR is used in conjunction with other formulas, posted was an "ERR" showing an error was received in the calculations. As far as I can see in the program I cannot find an @ERR function that will allow us to calculate an Economic Rate of Return" and, thus the inherent limitations of Microsoft Office as well as Open Office having borrowed from IBM's Lotus SmartSuite!!!
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
may help to erode dependence on MSOffice formats
IMHO it's not so much as corporates/governments are addicted to MSOffice as much as they are addicted to MSOffice formats. Sure, training is certainly a big factor but if there is business demand for using non-MSOffice formats, businesses/governments will by necessity make the investments. It's one of those chicken and egg thing: Corporation X will standardize on format X only if everyone else has already standardized on format X. If we can get more people to adopt format X, the rate of adoption of format X will pick up. Once format X reaches critical mass, any app that has exclusive right to that format will have a very large market leverage. Example: format X = MSOffice formats, app = MSOffice. If another format Y reaches critical mass, the market leverage of format X app loses market leverage, if it does not support format Y.
Posted by thanhvn (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Addiction?
Your assumption that enterprise customers of Microsoft are "addicted" to MSOffice is a bit heavy-handed.

Microsoft has earned their place in the enterprise over time. Once upon a time Lotus was the preferred spreadsheet and WordPerfect was the preferred word processor. Their products paled in comparison to Office (as does OpenOffice, now), so they were dropped.

No addiction involved -- just market competition. Something the "Open Document" crowd doesn't seem to favor.
Posted by Betty Roper (121 comments )
Link Flag
may help to erode dependence on MSOffice formats
IMHO it's not so much as corporates/governments are addicted to MSOffice as much as they are addicted to MSOffice formats. Sure, training is certainly a big factor but if there is business demand for using non-MSOffice formats, businesses/governments will by necessity make the investments. It's one of those chicken and egg thing: Corporation X will standardize on format X only if everyone else has already standardized on format X. If we can get more people to adopt format X, the rate of adoption of format X will pick up. Once format X reaches critical mass, any app that has exclusive right to that format will have a very large market leverage. Example: format X = MSOffice formats, app = MSOffice. If another format Y reaches critical mass, the market leverage of format X app loses market leverage, if it does not support format Y.
Posted by thanhvn (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Addiction?
Your assumption that enterprise customers of Microsoft are "addicted" to MSOffice is a bit heavy-handed.

Microsoft has earned their place in the enterprise over time. Once upon a time Lotus was the preferred spreadsheet and WordPerfect was the preferred word processor. Their products paled in comparison to Office (as does OpenOffice, now), so they were dropped.

No addiction involved -- just market competition. Something the "Open Document" crowd doesn't seem to favor.
Posted by Betty Roper (121 comments )
Link Flag
 

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