February 14, 2007 8:45 AM PST

Microsoft calls IBM hypocritical on document standards

Microsoft is accusing rival IBM of orchestrating a campaign to block efforts to standardize Office document formats.

In an open letter released Wednesday, Microsoft executives contend that IBM is trying to influence the standards process to limit choice. It also said that IBM is encouraging governments to mandate a document format that IBM favors.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is in the process of evaluating Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML)--the default document formats in Microsoft Office 2007--as a standard. Such a ratification would be significant, particularly to governments that favor ISO certification for digital documents.

IBM and other Microsoft competitors favor OpenDocument Format (ODF), a format that has been standardized at the ISO. Government customers, including Massachusetts and some European countries, back ODF.

Microsoft contends that IBM is trying "to force ODF on users through public procurement mandates," which would have a negative effect on customers and the marketplace.

The open letter is signed by Tom Robertson, Microsoft's general manager for interoperability and standards, and by Jean Paoli, the company's general manager of interoperability and XML architecture.

In an interview with CNET News.com, Robertson said that IBM is "orchestrating a broad-based campaign" to prevent the ISO from even considering OOXML for standardization.

"We see a level of hypocrisy in IBM's activities...They have long called on us to standardize formats, make the IP (intellectual property) freely available to the broader community, and we've done it. Now that that is done, they are putting a lot of resources to block standardization" of OOXML, Robertson said. "IBM is fundamentally on the wrong side of the industry."

Contacted on Tuesday, an IBM representative declined to comment via phone or e-mail.

In the past, IBM representatives--and other Microsoft foes--have called OOXML technically flawed and not fully "open" because it is controlled by Microsoft.

Robertson said that Microsoft chose to publish the letter to "shine a light" on IBM's activities. He noted that IBM was the only representative to vote against making OOXML a standard at Ecma International, another Europe-based standards body.

He declined to offer more details on IBM's activities because the ISO standardization process is closed.

"Part of (the open letter) is to highlight what IBM is doing and its fundamentally negative implications for customers and the industry as a whole," Robertson said.

Following standardization late last year at Ecma, Microsoft submitted Open XML to ISO through its "fast-track" process, which takes several months.

During an initial 30-day comment period, which ended earlier this month, there were 20 country representatives at ISO that made "contradictions," or comments, on the Open XML specification, according to people familiar with the proceedings. The comments, which could be minor, came from nearly one-third of the total 66 country representatives at the ISO, according to Andrew Updegrove, an attorney at Gesmer Updegrove and a standards expert.

Comments on the ISO submission are expected to be made public by the end of February.

See more CNET content tagged:
standardization, OpenDocument Format, IBM Corp., procurement, standards


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It is ironic that Microsoft is accusing IBM of forcing specific standards on people. Granted IBM has its own business reasons for standing up to Microsoft, but I believe the industry also benefits from it. Without such a big dog willing stand as a counterbalance to Microsoft, I fear MS would steamroll consumers and we would be left without competing standards.
Just my 2 cents...
Posted by _chad_ (12 comments )
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I agree
Microsoft is two-faced, like from the Batmat comics, I do not trust them, they lack ethics and can totally come around and do a 360 on you, even Bill Gates said it him self, be careful what you tell me, because I might use it against you.

Just my 420 cents.
Posted by RompStar_420 (772 comments )
Link Flag
Look who's talking...
In an open letter released Wednesday, Microsoft executives contend that IBM is trying to influence the standards process to limit choice.

Limiting choice is M$'s business model. That and violating every anti-trust law they can lay their hands on. Look, if an American soldier put a bullet in a nazi during WWII, does anyone care if was fair? No, because we deal with evil in the way evil needs to be dealt with. No one has done more to deny Americans jobs through lobbying for increased H1Bs, denied full-time workers full0-time status, destroyed more market value by putting small and more able competitors out of business via illegal tactics over the years than M$. The list of crimes this dirty company has committed is long and shameful. They really represent the worst practices in American business. Why shoudl society be burdened with having to pass law after law and watch watch watch to see what the next way M$ has found to circumvent, elude and otherwise defy both the law and just common nmorality? We shouldn't. They're just a bunch of criminals- we all know that's true, even if you like them (because you love power and 'success' no matter what... or you work for them...), and they're a drag on the economy and on innovation. The sooner M$ is put out of business, the sooner IT will bring more value to the market place. Who cares how we get rid of M$? As long as it's legal, I say "pour the battery acid straight down their throat".

Dirt bags. Speed freaks.
Posted by asdf (241 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually, Microsoft is right on this one
What they say is correct. People choose Microsoft Office more than all text editors with ODF combined. The reason for this may be debated, but it's true.

So by making ODF the standard through government intervention over something already common-place through consumer demand, you really are "limiting consumer choice" by not going with the one the consumers already have chosen.
Posted by airwalkery2k (117 comments )
Link Flag
Double damned if they do
Good gosh, let the company compete. They're damned if they don't and double damned if they do.

Give it a rest, and then vote with your pocketbooks.

They're here to stay - the competitive dynamic in the marketplace makes theirs and our products better.
Posted by mwendy (64 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ODF Standards Not An IBM Issue Alone!...
... but an issue for the entire world. The fundamental question is: why on Earth did these folks from the Redmond Campus not attend the Open Document Format Standards (ODF) parties which were sponsored by the OASIS GROUP when they were invited to; but, nah! time and sea change will always be on their side or so they thought and the world must always wait on them. So, as the story goes, it appears that HUGO the playing field bully that has been allowed to get away with his previous actions felt that it would have been business as usual and after years and years of being on the receiving side Lou, Sam, et al have come to a decision that there are no more time-outs left for Hugo as stipulated by the referees (The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)) So now, with the entire galaxy watching the matches so that there will be fair play (international competition)... HUGO sensing that the spectators are beginning to see disruptive changes on the score boards is now asking for the rules of the game to be changed. The question is: Why concern oneself with two standards (sets of rules) when one will do just fine! It is either you lead (compete fairly), follow or drop out of the competition altogether! The waiting is all over and there are no more time-outs; so, get on with the game!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
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IBM will have an agenda... But
It's obvious that many people are unhappy with the idea of what is called an "Office Open XML" format rather than repeat the vast numbers of issues found visit: "http://www.grokdoc.net/index.php/EOOXML_objections" for a list compiled by a variety people on numerous issues they've discovered with the new format, it gives compelling reasons not to consider giving the OOXML an ISO standard. More importantly, it's not affiliated to IBM so it shows there's motivations here outside business, like integrity and clarity.
Posted by jr_tyrrell (10 comments )
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Integrity = FUD-talk
C'mon, man. It's nothing more than a tussel between two competitors. Why d'ya' go and add a moral/ethical dimension to this. That's FUD, pure and simple.
Posted by mwendy (64 comments )
Link Flag
Unattributed authorship ...
Went there - found nothing to indicate that it was truly non-anyone affiliated.

Grok and Wiki are about as valued authorities as you'll get from anyone with a keyboard and the time to assemble the data. And no one to prove there isn't a conflict of interest in what's written.

The whole point of having a standards board - is that it's supposed to be fair and unbiased. I find it notable that the ONLY vote against Microsoft - came from IBM.
Posted by rjakobson (2 comments )
Link Flag
Sounds like MS fears a level playing field
Microsoft has used proprietary formats to lock users into MS Office since day 1 which, IMO, they don't want to use ODF.

Since they hold copyright on their "standard", they could make sure it could not be used with competing software (GPL/Open Source, etc.) if they choose.

If business and government continue to migrate to ODF, then eventually many will start using non-Microsoft products and/or MS will have to drastically discount their products across the board.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
if IBM is advicating the use of an open standard, what's the issue?
Now, if IBM is deciding to borrow from MS and embrace/extend ODF then there's an issue but a company recomending to it's clients that they chose a file format which does not lock them to a single vendor is just good business sence.

I think the real issue here is that someone is doing something that MS can't easily "cut off at the pass" or profit from. Now that's just plain unexceptable to MS.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
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Open is best.
Making MS a standard is going to benefit MS more than the consumer, especially in the long-term.

HTML is open and look at the innovation on the Web.
Imagine if there was an open (with no royalties) standard for documents that was not owned by one company.
The end result would be innovation for documents. These docs could be embedded into blogs, wikis, etc.

Anyone who advocates that MS own the standard for docs is as shortsighted as a person who advocates that HTML belong to one company.

We need open standards that are not owned by any commercial entity. This way we all have a level playing field and all the politics of power goes away.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
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Innovation usually happen as proprietary extension of a known format or protocol or language. Like it or not. AJAX is an example.
Posted by alegr (1590 comments )
Link Flag
MSFT = Bad Motives.
When something/someone whines about standards, one must look at their motives for whining. So, let's look at MSFT's...

Is it because ODF doesn't work in MS Office? Nope - there is already an ODF plugin for MS Office (made by Microsoft no less), so it isn't as if Microsoft is applying because they somehow cannot use ODF in their products.

Is it because of some hidden "innovation" that their standard has which ODF does not? Nope - read both specs - no real discernible differencec in technical capability at all.

This leaves us with checking MSFT's own history with standards to determine motive. Given MSFT's history of "embrace, extend, extinguish" (evidenced by their forays into "Microsoft Java", "C#", HTML bastardizations in IE, et al...), I suspect that MSFT's big fat motive for trying to get their particular standard ISO-certified lies in a desire to shut the whole thing down, forcing everyone back to .doc, where they have a complete monopoly on apps that handle said formats.

Note that nothing is stopping MSFT from simply creating and releasing their little format as their own private standard. They want (no, they crave) ISO certification because it would bolster their preferred format in sales and allow them to ignore ODF entirely, eventually allowing them to introduce incompatibilities into their own standard (as they would be the holder and maintainer of that standard).

They can no longer get into many government procurement programs because of said governments' demand for an open and ISO-certified documentation standard. Otherwise they would've never even bothered.

As it is, the clock is ticking against MS Office and the .doc format in these cases, because a separate plugin ain't going to cut it, and they would lose one of their two biggest moneymakers outright if they had to compete on a level playing field. The only reason OpenOffice hasn't slammed them outright by now is because OO has to constantly spend time and resources towards hitting a shifting, half-hidden, and proprietary target... the .doc format.

Take that away, and MS Office would be toast in less than five years.

Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft wilfully misleading
Most people working in IT know that Microsoft does everything within its powers to make it hard for others to making compatible products, when trying connect to MS-products. There are too many examples.

The same is happening at the so-called Microsoft open xml data format. Everyone concerned about the matter (including Microsoft) know their format is NOT REALLY OPEN. Let me qualify: The actual xml structure they use is open, so much is true, but not the binary information Microsoft places inside the XML, and with that the whole data format is NOT OPEN, useless to the public.

A data format that is NOT REALLY OPEN should not be a standard.
The masses of people out there/the world needs ONE standard that is TRULY OPEN AND ACCESSIBLE TO ALL, not just the software of one proprietary vendor.

Posted by jtjt145 (245 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Waah -- IBM blocks the rubber stamp..., err standar
It seems awfully disingenuous of Microsoft to be talking about Open Standards while trying to railroad their document format through standardization without discussion or possible revision. ODF wasn't much better, but at least it was transparent.
Posted by rdean (119 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can't Blame MS for Protesting
MS is just trying to stay in business. I don't blame them for complaining. Who wouldn't do the same if they were in MS's position. The people to blame are the ones who will inevitably go along with MS and support their (proprietary) standards because it's more convenient to do whatever MS says. Most businesses are locked into MS products. They tremble at the thought of having to actually think about what they're doing. They just want somebody to spoon feed technology to them. Most MS customers have "technical support" staff that aren't very technical. They need someone to lead them by the hand.
Posted by km4hr (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh man, that hurt!
"In an open letter released Wednesday, Microsoft executives contend that IBM is trying to influence the standards process to limit choice."

It took me a half-hour to get up off the floor and stop laughing long enough to read the rest of the article. Microsoft is good for some great comedy these days!

Say what you will about their software, hardware and web sites, but their executives come up with the funniest stuff. Limiting choice and exercising hypocrisy? Oh, stop it, please, you guys are killing me!
Posted by ogman (150 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is the "hypocrisy" really limited to the Redmond Campus!
Since by law "Software Patents for Methods of Doing Business?A Second Class Citizen No More" Follow the attached link and see where it says; "For many years, anyone seeking to patent the use of a computer for functions that were previously performed manually had double trouble if the invention related to a ?way of doing business.? First, the Patent and Trademark Office decided that mathematical algorithms were not a statutory category of subject matter that could be protected by patent. Second, ?business methods? were held to be unpatentable. These two objections have been eroded over the years.

Recently, software inventions involving algorithms have been eligible for United States patents as long as tangible results are produced. Also, in the mid-1980s, Merrill Lynch won a court ruling that it was entitled to have a patent on its Cash Management System, which involved various types of processing of financial data by computer.":

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/matters/matters-0012.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/matters/matters-0012.html</a>

Now, with "the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)" certification in place for the world over to confirm... will it not appear then that the "hypocrisy" really is limited to the Redmond Campus!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rigged Working Together
Posted by trueview (29 comments )
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Er... What about Sun?
IBM is hardly the only influential corporation which is supporting the ODF effort, and they're doing it both formally and informally:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/" target="_newWindow">http://blogs.sun.com/jonathan/</a>
Posted by rcsteiner (48 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft has no credibility with standards and interoperability
After transparently attempting to derail HTML standards, javascript standards, java standards and XML standards, Microsoft has absolutely no credibility when it comes to standards and interoperability. Microsoft has pursued a strategy of closed proprietary formats and diversionary tactics with standards organizations for many years, and this should be taken into account any time they try to influence an ISO process.
Posted by fcekuahd (244 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Right on the money
Posted by Mark Greene (163 comments )
Link Flag
Popular month for open letters
First Steve Jobs with his:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/" target="_newWindow">http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/</a>

And now this.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
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