April 5, 2007 8:06 AM PDT

Microsoft criticized for Open XML petition

An online petition posted by Microsoft to fast-track the standardization of its Office Open XML document format masks the company's concern over the procedure, according to a leading open-source advocate.

The petition is an attempt to make it appear that Open XML has "pseudo-grassroots" support, argues Mark Taylor, the founder of the Open Source Consortium.

"In the open-source world, there's clearly a massive grassroots thing," Taylor told ZDNet UK on Thursday. "One of the lessons Microsoft has been trying to learn from open source is that--but they have to fake it. If there was any grassroots support behind it, the time to have done (the petition) would have been ages ago."

The petition, which was uploaded to Microsoft's U.K. site on March 29, asks businesses to show their support for the Open XML format being fast-tracked through the standardization process at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The format is integral to Office 2007, but Microsoft is pushing it as an international open standard for documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

"We already have an international standard, the OpenDocument format, and governments are increasingly adopting it," said Taylor on Thursday. "Having a second standard is utterly unnecessary."

Taylor also speculated that the timing of the release of the petition--which was shortly before the Easter and Passover holidays--was intended to make resistance to the campaign less likely. Despite the recent advancement of Open XML onto a new stage of the standardization process, Taylor also suggested that Microsoft was "in major trouble trying to get Open XML pushed through" and the petition "shows their worry."

That view was echoed by Rufus Pollock, the director of the Foundation for Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), who told ZDNet UK that Microsoft was pushing for the fast-track because it feared the spread of the OpenDocument Format through the popular OpenOffice package. Pointing out that the specifications for Open XML run to 6,000 pages, he suggested that fast-track standardization would be inappropriate because there were "a lot of concerns about what might be in there," such as patents.

"An over-complex proposal being pushed through is not going to be good for anyone, other than perhaps Microsoft," Pollock said.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
petition, standardization, OpenDocument Format, open source, Microsoft Office

41 comments

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what's grassroot !!!
Is that the people who use a productivity suite. Over 90% of the "grassroot" use MS Office, so much for "massive support" for open source office suites.
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Reply Link Flag
M$ is obviously worried about open office
It may be true that M$ has 90% of the productivity software market. However, most businesses and individuals use it because they feel they have no choice as they want their documents to be compatibile with other users and they need to be able to read M$'s proprietary format. It is far from "grassroots"!! Open office could change all that, especially for small businesses, if more people become aware that it exists and that it works perfectly well (and is basically free).
Posted by C_G_K (169 comments )
Link Flag
Who needs OpenXML?
It will likely be polluted and tainted by Microsoft, as they have done with other standards in the past. OpenDocument is here and now.
Posted by real_bgiel (46 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Damned if you do and damned if you don't
If Microsoft uses a proprietary format, that is bad because it is proprietary (even if 90% of the world uses it...); if Microsoft creates a new format that wants to standardize - and therefore it is not proprietary anymore - is also bad...

Some people are never happy with anything!

BTW: If OpenOffice is that good - AND FREE! - how come no one cares about it? Most people I know prefer to use a pirated copy of MS Office than a legal copy of Open Office...
Posted by aemarques (162 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Historical Track Record
The problem is the historical track record of Microsoft regarding the 'openness' of technologies - especially ones they 'create.'

I use OpenOffice here at my place of business while everyone uses MS Office - which goes without saying that I use Linux more than Windows. The only time I go to MS Office is when I need to work with the Access database they use for some manufacturing program - and even when I do, it's in a Virtual Machine - and guess what the host for that VM is.

No, Microsoft's motives are purely selfish with regards to creating an open specification, they're not to be trusted in any way, shape or form.

This is the same company that sued a guy named Mike Rowe for having a consulting company named Mike Rowe Soft.

I'm surprised they haven't sued people for using the term 'Windows' that aren't even software related...
Posted by `WarpKat (275 comments )
Link Flag
Good and Free doesn't = instant adoption
Most people I know have and are migrating to open office. It is that good. MS does have some nice features and all but the biggest issue is that .doc has been common place for quite some time. People use it cause business uses it and though OOo is good, you will still see formating issues opending MS doc in OOo. Business won't go right to OOo due to being GPL. Support is a big issues along with IP etc etc.

I myself try to use OOo when ever I can. I will even export to PDF if the I'm worried about formatting or the like but sometimes doc is the only way to go and if its for a job or for work sometimes you have use a MS product so most will just say "Ehh, why download another office product when I bought/leeched this one".
Posted by Atari05 (45 comments )
Link Flag
It is the Anti-Microsoft movement
in the open source community. If Microsoft even tries open source anything they will get nailed for it.

Microsoft actually <a href="http://www.codeplex.com/">hosts some open source projects</a> that they sponsor and contribute code to them.

<a href="http://www.codeplex.com/Project/ProjectDirectory.aspx?ProjectSearchText=open%20xml">They already have a few open source Open XML projects</a> in work.

The C# language was open source by the EMCA and there exists the Mono and DotGNU projects that have their own C# compilers. Visual C# is not the only C# language in town you know.

The open source community needs to eat some crow and decide to work with Microsoft instead of against it. Few already have, but the majority refuse to saying Microsoft burned their bridges long ago with them.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Link Flag
Damned if they (appear to) do, damned if they don't
The OpenXML specification contains over 6000+ pages. Are you sure you want to fast-track all that through?
Posted by quirK (53 comments )
Link Flag
WHY WORRY!
[Office Open XML (Code-Base Lotus SmartSuite) + Open Office(Code-Base Lotus SmartSuite)] = IBM LOTUS NOTES 8.0's PRODUCTIVITY SUITE!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Of course you know
that Lotus stole all of the code from the Visicorp company and the Visicalc and Vision technology?

Lotus Notes was stolen from PLATO Notes, and PLATO Notes was written created by David Woolley at the University of Illinois in 1973 before Lotus was even formed.

Lotus got hit with a lot of lawsuits, and eventually struggled and tried to mess with IBM in a last ditch effort to become profitable again. IBM was a sleeping giant that Lotus woke up, and IBM bought out Lotus to take its IP because IBM could not develop that type of software by itself. If not for IBM, Lotus would have gone the way of many Dotcom companies.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Link Flag
Commander_Spock is a talkbot
Not human.
Posted by lesfilip (496 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft Haters UNITE!
I'm convinced that if Microsoft gave away Office and/or Windows for free and donated 90% of their profits to charity that the [Linux/Open Sores/Apple/Insert Your Reason To Hate Microsoft] fanboys would still complain about any Micorsoft action even if it is EXACTLY WHAT THEY'VE ASKED MIRCROSOFT TO DO. OMG! Those bastards are still keeping 10% of their profits!!!

Haters Path to Profit:
1. Compain about Microsoft Office binary file formats are not propritary and unpublished.
2. Microsoft changes default Office file format to XML and publishes the spec.
3. Complain about Microsoft's intentions being evil and untrue.
4. Haters look retarded.

I don't see how the Haters profit here. No wonder why they are so upset! :)
Posted by kojacked (1129 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey
Why is Microsoft opening up its new document format? Is it really to benefit all computer user? Or is it to squash the ODF?

History says that Microsoft intentions are to do bad and not good. Maybe their intent is to offer a robust office format that is open, but because it's Microsoft most people who care aren't going to see it as a good will gesture. Microsoft has screwed a lot of people to get where it's at today. It would take years and years of good will to make Microsoft perceived as a "good" company again. Maybe not everybody who ******* about Microsoft has a real genuine reason to, but then again not everybody who defends them has that right either.

And in response to number four. Those who think Microsoft's intentions are anything other than profit or power driven are either misguided, blind, or just plain stupid.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
Missing the Point
It's not just about hating Microsoft. Microsoft wrote the "Open XML" standard in such a way that the only application that will ever be able to fully support it is Microsoft Word. It's full of weird options whose effects are not clearly defined.

A standard that can't be implemented is not a standard. There's multiple implementations of the existing ODF format -- who besides MS has implemented "Open XML"?

Given the technical aspects of the standard, one has to wonder why Microsoft bothered. It's easy to ascribe nefarious motives when the specification isn't what they say it is.
Posted by alflanagan (115 comments )
Link Flag
Support
MS-Office is the de facto standard for companies that want a large corporation available to provide support and upgrades.

MS-Office is the de facto standard for companies and individuals who need to transfer documents without knowing what the recipient can receive.

Microsoft Office by design does not support the current Open Document Standard. Translators exist, but this is not a Microsoft supported document format.

Microsoft's answer to the need to support an Open Document Standard is to tell the world that they need to switch to Microsoft Office document format and forget that other format supported by almost everyone else.

So much easier this way. By getting Microsoft Office Document Format recognized as an Open Standard, Microsoft is free to declare their support for Open Standards while expressing sadness over the inability of many of their competitors to properly support this new standard.

Microsoft was banned from producing an MS Java for similar reasons. Their version conformed to industry standards only after you carefully weeded out all the presets designed to ensure MS Java code ran only on an MS Java VM. Most users never did this &#38; took advantage of the so many useful extensions MS thoughtfully provided in a manner designed not to work in a non-MS VM.

Why does MS need to declare all of their various document formats to be the new Open Standard that users must use if they wish to trade documents with MS users. Wouldn't it be much more compatible if MS simply added the existing cross platform format to their stable. They could easily extend it &#38; then complain at lack of non-MS support for this new version of the standard they so kindly support :P

To Kojacked. It's not the program or even the company that is the problem. It is the attitude at MS that our way is THE way, conform or perish. They have the market share &#38; platform control to allow them to be the 800lb gorilla. Should they ever start working with international standards rather than "embrace and extend" with proprietary extensions, then most of the "Haters" would fade away.
Posted by Fritzr_gc (19 comments )
Link Flag
Who cares if it is grass roots or not?
I thought the whole idea of open source is to allow the source code to be open, but protect the IP rights of the people or organization that wrote it?

Microsoft is too big to be a grassroots movement, well duh. There are users like me, and small organizations such as mine that are part of a smaller grassroots effort. I am not working for Microsoft and my organization is not owed or connected with Microsoft in any way.

I don't see why Microsoft would get upset that OpenOffice.org uses the new open format, I mean the whole idea of an open format is to share it with the world. The only thing I can think of is that Microsoft might be afraid that OpenOffice.org will take away marketshare from MS-Office if people use it for the Open XLS document format that MS-Office shares with it. Well duh, if you open up a standard, you are sharing it with the community. I am guessing AbiWord will use it as well as maybe Lotus AmiPro, Corel Wordperfect, etc. Now notice that none of these other competitors to MS-Office can use the Word 2007 format and that you'd normally have to convert the document to rich text format or Word 2002 or earlier to get it to work with the other word processors.

Microsoft already let the genie out of the bottle and they cannot put it back yet.

This actually benefits Microsoft because it means that MS-Office users can benefit from the Open XML document format being used on competitor's products so that they can use it to send a document in email or over a network to a MS-Office 2007 user and they can open it up. If the document is in OOO format, Wordperfect format, AbiWord format, or AmiPro format chances are the MS-Office user would have to buy a copy of the software the document was written in and might actually leave MS-Office in favor of something else that most of their documents are formatted in. In having a common open standard, there is no need to leave MS-Office for something else, and also no need to buy a different word processor to read a different format if everyone adopts the open standard. Microsoft wins, and competitors don't gain more marketshare selling to MS-Office owners and it actually strengthens MS-Office.

I am guessing that the default save format in MS-Office is still the Word format for documents. Then the user has to do a "Save As" to pick the open standard.

I mean MS-Outlook already uses open standards like the iCalendar and vCalendar standards for importing and exporting calendar events.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Interoperability
Unless something has changed, MS Office does not save to ODF. This has caused Microsoft to start damage control in those US states that are requiring gov't documents be saved in open formats. For now that means that if using MS Office you save to the older formats that are supported by competitors or buy a translator to change the proprietary MS format to an Open Format that IS supported by multiple providers.

Declaring MS Office's proprietary document format to be the new Open Standard does not automatically add it to all the software that currently supports ODF out of the box. That is 6000 pages of specification that includes support for multiple MS proprietary formats that have been reserved for use only by Microsoft until they asked for the standard to be declared an "open" standard.

When done MS will still be the only one supporting this non-proprietary standard. Of course they will insist on everyone else adopting the MS Open Standard because it is to difficult for MS to support the existing standard that everyone else uses :P
Posted by Fritzr_gc (19 comments )
Link Flag
Sounds Like Another IBM Influenced Story
Give me a break. The organization that is attempting to control the standards process is IBM. Only one organization voted NO for Open XML and guess who that was ? If you guessed IBM ? congratulations. IBM is a large monolithic company that hides behind the ?promise? of open standards. The question shouldn?t be why is Microsoft pushing for a vote but rather why is IBM fighting the vote. Isn?t Open XML open? I think the main reason is that IBM wants to control the process. That?s what large consulting firms do (over 50% of their revenue comes from services so yes they are a consulting company). My guess is that IBM has a host of lawyers and lobbyist working day and night on this issue simply to have it killed. I bet they spend their days lobbying the EU for software sanctions because the US courts have taken a position that they disagree with. Face it ? in terms of technical innovation - they are has beens.

Why does everyone think IBM is so friendly to the standards and open source movement? If they were, then why do they continue to make billions (with a B) on patents? The ones they gave away to the community were basically meaningless (good PR stunt). IBM talks about how cool Linux is and how strategically important it is to their business but still continues to actively sale AIX and OS390 (why haven?t they open sourced these OS?s like sun did). If they are onboard with open movement then why not simply support JBOSS instead of websphere, mySQL instead of DB2, Linux instead of AIX and so on. If you are buying into this BS then I have a nice piece of oceanfront property in Whiner, West Virginia just for you.

If you want to beat Microsoft - build a better mousetrap and beat them in the market place. There is a lot of great innovation in the market today from companies Google, SalesForce.com, EC2 from Amazon, and a host of others. Companies like Oracle are redefining the playing field but acquiring companies like Siebel, Peoplesoft and JDE. Adobe is doing cool stuff around Apollo. What has IBM done ? made a couple of acquisitions like rational and filenet (yawn).

At the end of day Open XML will have to stand on its own merits. The vote should happen and be free of the negative influences of companies that are pushing a secret agenda. I?m amazed that the standards organizations and the open community are buying into this BS but at the end of the day I guess with the right amount of marketing and legal wrangling by large consulting firms anything is possible.
Posted by GetALifePlease (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who Says Elephants Can't Dance!
If nothing else--history is a great teacher and in case you missed reading an interesting earlier post this was what was stated in part; "Lotus got hit with a lot of lawsuits, and eventually struggled and tried to mess with IBM in a last ditch effort to become profitable again. IBM was a sleeping giant that Lotus woke up, and IBM bought out Lotus to take its IP because IBM could not develop that type of software by itself. If not for IBM, Lotus would have gone the way of many Dotcom companies."; Question One: which company was the Lotus Development Company running from; and, if you said the Microsoft Corporation then you have answered correctly. Question Two: Since when the OASIS Group that proposed the Open Document Format Standards to the ISO is one and same as IBM--if you answered yes then your have answered incorrectly and need to take a journey back in history that will inform your judgement about what took place when the ODF Parties were being held; what happened to the Microsoft Corporation that it was not present at the Parties; perhaps it couldn't find a proper pair of dancing shoes! Your post appear to be nothing more than Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). Recent United States Supreme Courts Laws have upheld the "rights" (then why do they continue to make billions (with a B) on patents?) of software companies as "Software Patents for Methods of Doing Business?A Second Class Citizen No More":

<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>
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Link Flag
Where's the Petition?
All we get is interpretations from ODF-advocacy groups and nothing from Microsoft or even a link to the petition.

I would like to see it and fact check it for myself. Where is it?
Posted by orcmid (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The first Stone
Also, I seem to recall that there were concerted petition drives and advocacy operations during the 30-day review of ECMA-376. Just prior to the hearings in Texas, there was also a pro-ODF on-line petition. I don't recall much on-line press interest in that case.

I don't think it is smart for Microsoft to do the same thing in an effort to influence the ISO National Bodies, but I understand the provocation and the need to get perspective on how many people rely on Office System formats as their de facto standards.
Posted by orcmid (6 comments )
Link Flag
Any petitions against Microsoft ?
I'd like to vote against MS, does anyone know of any ? or where to start one ?
Posted by tygrus (9 comments )
Link Flag
Get over it
It's just another proprietary standard moving to at least some form of open standard. Adobe did it with pdf, and now MS is doing pretty much the same.
At least, they are opening the format to outside scrutiny and use. It is a step in the right direction.
Considering how freaking slow these standards committees move(Just look at 802.11n), I don't blame MS for trying to fast track. This way at least it will be completed this decade.
Posted by adlyb1 (123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Do You Really Know What Is It You Are Talking About!
"Considering how freaking slow these standards committees move(Just look at 802.11n), I don't blame MS for trying to fast track. This way at least it will be completed this decade." Re: "This way at least it will be completed this decade". The fact that the Open Document Format Standards (ODF) are here today; and, in the fast-paced internet age in which we now live--by the end of "this decade" the world could very well be seeing the remnants of the "EMPIRE" that once was! You could very well be correct in not blaming "MS for trying to fast track"!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Link Flag
"Microsoft, IBM set aside rivalry to create XML standards"!
Oh How Situations Change With Time!

"IBM and Microsoft battled over a well-publicized split in the development of IBM's OS/2 operating system before Microsoft ditched OS/2 efforts to make Windows dominant. The pair continue to compete in e-commerce and database software technology that allows businesses to create e-commerce Web sites.

But for now, Taking sides on XML analysts said, the two will work together for the common good of creating XML standards. "It's good news (for the industry) that they'll get together sooner rather than later," Gartner analyst David Smith said."

So, from this "Year 2000"--can one now say that this is how things have worked out as was stated in the past. Read the rest of this historical article here:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/Microsoft%2C+IBM+set+aside+rivalry+to+create+XML+standards/2100-1001_3-244091.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/Microsoft%2C+IBM+set+aside+rivalry+to+create+XML+standards/2100-1001_3-244091.html</a>
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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