March 27, 2006 8:50 AM PST

Microsoft joins OpenDocument group

Microsoft has joined a committee that has a key role in the ratification of the OpenDocument format as an international standard.

Microsoft asked to join the INCITS/V1 Technical Committee on March 15. This committee is responsible for reconciling the votes that are cast by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) over the acceptance of the OpenDocument format.

Pamela Jones, who runs legal Web site Groklaw, speculated that Microsoft may have joined the group to sabotage the ratification of ODF, hoping to give its rival standard a chance to catch up. Last year, Microsoft submitted its Office Open XML file formats to European standards body ECMA International, as a prelude to seeking ISO standardization later.

"There sits Microsoft, waiting, like a spider," Jones wrote in a posting on her site. "I am imagining ODF plodding along, with Microsoft asking questions, fine-combing through the comments, 'did you mean this or that?', getting bogged down in minutia until, lo and behold, either Microsoft's XML makes it as an ISO standard first, or they arrive neck and neck."

But Microsoft denied this accusation, saying that the only reason why Microsoft employee Jim Thatcher joined the group was to get involved in the ISO standardization of its own file format.

"In order for Jim to participate in the future Open XML File Format work he needs to have standing in JTC1 SC 34 (a committee that mirrors INCITS/V1) which mandates participation over time. His presence in this group will have no impact upon the voting process for the ODF standard. Just as we have a seat on the board of Oasis and have not participated in the ODF process there, we will not participate in the JTC1 process," Jason Matusow, Microsoft's director of standards affairs, said in a statement.

This news comes shortly after Microsoft announced the formation of a new developer effort centered around its open file formats, known as the Open XML Formats Developer Group. According to Microsoft, 39 companies have signed up already, including Intel, Apple Computer and Toshiba.

The Office Open XML file formats will be supported by the upcoming late-running version of Microsoft's office productivity suite, Office 2007. OpenDocument is already supported by a number of productivity applications including the open-source office suite OpenOffice 2.0 and Sun's StarOffice 8.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
OpenDocument Format, standardization, committee, XML, Microsoft Corp.

28 comments

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Makes Sense if you are not a paranoid person
Microsoft has been moving Office to an OPEN XML based format for three versions now. The self-important open-source community is not doing anything new.
All Microsoft really needs if for whatever format people use to properly support its features.
I suspect this is more about Microsoft making sure the OS club isn't pretending to be open while trying to lock Microsoft out with its own format play.
There is tons a great software that is OS, but there are also some really territorial egos in the OS industry that are as much about beating Microsoft as they are making great tools.
Hint: Companies that fail do so when they get MS envy and try to beat MS rather than serve the user. Novel, Corel, Lotus, and others always failed when their business model shifted from pleasing the customer to beating Microsoft.
Some of this MS we have to get OD approved first is just so much OS arrogance. If the standard is open and extensible it doesn't matter who drafted the best one, it matters which one is best.
Posted by fogfire (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OS Arrogance?
Nobody holds a candle to Microsoft when it comes to arrogance. They could have opened up their format long ago or they could have joined the ODF group from the beginning if they really wanted an open format. Now it's just FUD time to make people think they care about 'open' formats etc. If you go with theirs you will still find yourself locked in and following their rules.

Look what they did to Java, that's how they play the game. It's their way or no way. So what if it costs a few billions in lawsuit settlements, the customers will foot the bill...as long as their locked in what choice do they have.
Posted by freemarket--2008 (5058 comments )
Link Flag
Not so
It matters which standard is truly open to all, incuding Open Source.

Trusting Microsoft to provide a standard is like allowing the Mafia to look after people's money.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Link Flag
MS "open"? Not really
Microsoft has been moving Office to an XML format for which "there will be a royalty free license for anyone that wants to work with the files."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/06/01/424085.aspx" target="_newWindow">http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/06/01/424085.aspx</a>

In other words it will still be a MS proprietary format that cannot be licensed under the GPL, etc.

If MS wanted to be "open" they could adopt the OpenDocument format and contribute anything they thought of value to the group.

But if they did that then MS Office would work perfectly with files created by OpenOffice, StarOffice, etc. and Microsoft would lose their biggest advantage over competing Office packages.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
You're having a laugh surely
Thanks Ken, I had a good old belly shaking laugh after reading your comment. Ken: "I suspect this is more about Microsoft making sure the OS club isn't pretending to be open while trying to lock Microsoft out with its own format play" --&gt; Come on! I don't know what you're smoking, but I'm pretty sure it ain't legal...
Posted by canckaer (8 comments )
Link Flag
Why ?
only two possible reasons to be on a commitee that oversees something they refuse to support

they either plan to spy or sabatoge (or both)

the "we need experience" claim just doesn't cut it. oh, sure they need experience, but putting then on a steering comittee for a standard they have publicly refused to consider to use is like giving prisoners the job hiring and firing prison guards. the standards are there to strengthen the field but they will only hamstring the process until it is useless

Microsoft has publicly stated they would not support opendocument. this is consistant with their policy to snub international standards in favor of their own propriatary standard that they may change at the toss of a hat. Most notably is the fact that IE refuses to comply to the WWW standard for internet browsers.

and this is just M$ saying "pay us $400 now, and $200 every two years after this, and we will allow you exchange information with everyone else who also paid our ransom demand"

while OpenOffice says "pay no money now or ever and we will allow you to exchange information with anyone using a progran that follows an independantly overseen format... and if we don't have the features you want you can use any of those programs other compliant programs."

the only major company to consistantly refuse to cooperate with public standards is Micro$oft.

they do it because they have a monopoly and they would need to improve their final products to compete with the sea of better built and less expensive products if their program's output could be generated by a competitor on these better programs.
Posted by qazwiz (208 comments )
Link Flag
Makes Sense if you are not a paranoid person
Microsoft has been moving Office to an OPEN XML based format for three versions now. The self-important open-source community is not doing anything new.
All Microsoft really needs if for whatever format people use to properly support its features.
I suspect this is more about Microsoft making sure the OS club isn't pretending to be open while trying to lock Microsoft out with its own format play.
There is tons a great software that is OS, but there are also some really territorial egos in the OS industry that are as much about beating Microsoft as they are making great tools.
Hint: Companies that fail do so when they get MS envy and try to beat MS rather than serve the user. Novel, Corel, Lotus, and others always failed when their business model shifted from pleasing the customer to beating Microsoft.
Some of this MS we have to get OD approved first is just so much OS arrogance. If the standard is open and extensible it doesn't matter who drafted the best one, it matters which one is best.
Posted by fogfire (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
OS Arrogance?
Nobody holds a candle to Microsoft when it comes to arrogance. They could have opened up their format long ago or they could have joined the ODF group from the beginning if they really wanted an open format. Now it's just FUD time to make people think they care about 'open' formats etc. If you go with theirs you will still find yourself locked in and following their rules.

Look what they did to Java, that's how they play the game. It's their way or no way. So what if it costs a few billions in lawsuit settlements, the customers will foot the bill...as long as their locked in what choice do they have.
Posted by freemarket--2008 (5058 comments )
Link Flag
Not so
It matters which standard is truly open to all, incuding Open Source.

Trusting Microsoft to provide a standard is like allowing the Mafia to look after people's money.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Link Flag
MS "open"? Not really
Microsoft has been moving Office to an XML format for which "there will be a royalty free license for anyone that wants to work with the files."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/06/01/424085.aspx" target="_newWindow">http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/06/01/424085.aspx</a>

In other words it will still be a MS proprietary format that cannot be licensed under the GPL, etc.

If MS wanted to be "open" they could adopt the OpenDocument format and contribute anything they thought of value to the group.

But if they did that then MS Office would work perfectly with files created by OpenOffice, StarOffice, etc. and Microsoft would lose their biggest advantage over competing Office packages.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
You're having a laugh surely
Thanks Ken, I had a good old belly shaking laugh after reading your comment. Ken: "I suspect this is more about Microsoft making sure the OS club isn't pretending to be open while trying to lock Microsoft out with its own format play" --&gt; Come on! I don't know what you're smoking, but I'm pretty sure it ain't legal...
Posted by canckaer (8 comments )
Link Flag
Why ?
only two possible reasons to be on a commitee that oversees something they refuse to support

they either plan to spy or sabatoge (or both)

the "we need experience" claim just doesn't cut it. oh, sure they need experience, but putting then on a steering comittee for a standard they have publicly refused to consider to use is like giving prisoners the job hiring and firing prison guards. the standards are there to strengthen the field but they will only hamstring the process until it is useless

Microsoft has publicly stated they would not support opendocument. this is consistant with their policy to snub international standards in favor of their own propriatary standard that they may change at the toss of a hat. Most notably is the fact that IE refuses to comply to the WWW standard for internet browsers.

and this is just M$ saying "pay us $400 now, and $200 every two years after this, and we will allow you exchange information with everyone else who also paid our ransom demand"

while OpenOffice says "pay no money now or ever and we will allow you to exchange information with anyone using a progran that follows an independantly overseen format... and if we don't have the features you want you can use any of those programs other compliant programs."

the only major company to consistantly refuse to cooperate with public standards is Micro$oft.

they do it because they have a monopoly and they would need to improve their final products to compete with the sea of better built and less expensive products if their program's output could be generated by a competitor on these better programs.
Posted by qazwiz (208 comments )
Link Flag
Important news
This is, in my opinion, a very important news.

I consider this to be a big news for several reasons:

A. It is showing the first signes of Microsoft's new commitment to "open" (as recently announced in Mix '06).

B. It will hopefully boost the competition among the office software makers giving us, end users, better choice.

C. It will give others (smaller and innovative companies) more chance to create MS Office compatible tools

D. They' ve also done it because they feel the pressure of the OpenOffice and the major non-US companies looking into it as a replacement for MS Office. I think that Microsoft realized that they need to be competitive on the same turf and against the same standard.

E. Ironically, it is an indicator to me that Microsoft is moving over being solely focused on the office tools on the desktop.
I do not think they would be joining open standards that they still consider this their main, strategic software. They would keep it closed and well guarded.

Edmon Begoli
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/eai/software" target="_newWindow">http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/eai/software</a>
Posted by ebegoli (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Important news
This is, in my opinion, a very important news.

I consider this to be a big news for several reasons:

A. It is showing the first signes of Microsoft's new commitment to "open" (as recently announced in Mix '06).

B. It will hopefully boost the competition among the office software makers giving us, end users, better choice.

C. It will give others (smaller and innovative companies) more chance to create MS Office compatible tools

D. They' ve also done it because they feel the pressure of the OpenOffice and the major non-US companies looking into it as a replacement for MS Office. I think that Microsoft realized that they need to be competitive on the same turf and against the same standard.

E. Ironically, it is an indicator to me that Microsoft is moving over being solely focused on the office tools on the desktop.
I do not think they would be joining open standards that they still consider this their main, strategic software. They would keep it closed and well guarded.

Edmon Begoli
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/eai/software" target="_newWindow">http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/eai/software</a>
Posted by ebegoli (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft Has Got Game!
""There sits Microsoft, waiting, like a spider," Jones wrote in a posting on her site. "I am imagining ODF plodding along, with Microsoft asking questions, fine-combing through the comments, 'did you mean this or that?', getting bogged down in minutia until, lo and behold, either Microsoft's XML makes it as an ISO standard first, or they arrive neck and neck." As I have mentioned before, it was only time before George R. (Microsoft) arriving late (you can't say I did not tell you so) at the "Open Document Format Standards" party where the "ISO TUNE" is about to play and as Ms Jones has stated - George R. (Microsoft) may very well be looking to be crowned the WINNER OF THE OPEN DOCUMENT FORMAT STANDARDS DANCE! ;-) ;-) ;-)
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Has Got Game....
... at the "OPEN DOCUMENT FORMAT STANDARDS DANCE" like it is on the TV SHOW - "DANCING WITH THE STARS"! ;-)
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft Has Got Game!
""There sits Microsoft, waiting, like a spider," Jones wrote in a posting on her site. "I am imagining ODF plodding along, with Microsoft asking questions, fine-combing through the comments, 'did you mean this or that?', getting bogged down in minutia until, lo and behold, either Microsoft's XML makes it as an ISO standard first, or they arrive neck and neck." As I have mentioned before, it was only time before George R. (Microsoft) arriving late (you can't say I did not tell you so) at the "Open Document Format Standards" party where the "ISO TUNE" is about to play and as Ms Jones has stated - George R. (Microsoft) may very well be looking to be crowned the WINNER OF THE OPEN DOCUMENT FORMAT STANDARDS DANCE! ;-) ;-) ;-)
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Has Got Game....
... at the "OPEN DOCUMENT FORMAT STANDARDS DANCE" like it is on the TV SHOW - "DANCING WITH THE STARS"! ;-)
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
MS has talented engineers
Microsoft has very talent engineers working for them. Why should they fear an open standard for office documents? If such a vendor-agnostic came to be dominant, then Microsoft Office would have to compete based upon the merit of the software, not on its ability to simply read a format at all.
Posted by alucinor (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dancing With The Stars!
&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt; "Microsoft has very talent engineers working for them. Why should they fear an open standard for office documents? If such a vendor-agnostic came to be dominant, then Microsoft Office would have to compete......." &lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt; One might be tempted to suggest at this time now that Windows' "Half Brother" (OS/2 Warp) is practising dancing the SAMBA: "About SAMBA for OS/2 and eCS" - "Samba is a SMB/CIFS protocols file and print sharing server/client set originaly made for UNIX world to cooperate with corresponding Windows and OS/2 servers or clients.
OS/2 has native implementation of SMB/CIFS server/client set - IBM LAN Manager and IBM Peer...."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://search.netscape.com/ns/boomframe.jsp?query=os%2F2+News&#38;page=1&#38;offset=1&#38;result_url=redir%3Fsrc%3Dwebsearch%26requestId%3Dc1a1be14c9a771e7%26clickedItemRank%3D1%26userQuery%3Dos%252F2%2BNews%26clickedItemURN%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.os2bbs.com%252Fos2news%252F%26invocationType%3D-%26fromPage%3DNSCPResultsT%26amp%3BampTest%3D1&#38;remove_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.os2bbs.com%2Fos2news%2F" target="_newWindow">http://search.netscape.com/ns/boomframe.jsp?query=os%2F2+News&#38;page=1&#38;offset=1&#38;result_url=redir%3Fsrc%3Dwebsearch%26requestId%3Dc1a1be14c9a771e7%26clickedItemRank%3D1%26userQuery%3Dos%252F2%2BNews%26clickedItemURN%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.os2bbs.com%252Fos2news%252F%26invocationType%3D-%26fromPage%3DNSCPResultsT%26amp%3BampTest%3D1&#38;remove_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.os2bbs.com%2Fos2news%2F</a>

there may very well be some degree of fear at REDMOND for "an open standard for office documents".
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
Imagine that....
If MS had to compete on the merits of it's software, it would fail. Granted, Office is pretty nice for the most part, except I can open my OpenDocument files in it. Heh, it even has problems opening my old Word files. I've pretty well converted all of my old docs to the OpenDocument format, and some to PDF via OpenOffice.org. It's all about choice.

Now talk about the Windows OS, and it's just as buggy as ever. Marketing and OEM lock-in agreements got them on to most desktops in the world. Swiftly, Mac OSX and Linux (mostly the Ubuntu family, and maybe Linspire and Mandriva) are begining to eat at the market share. Windows in the server market is still way behind even Linux. We will probably see something significant in the desktop market in the next couple of years, as things mature further.
Posted by fireball74 (80 comments )
Link Flag
MS has talented engineers
Microsoft has very talent engineers working for them. Why should they fear an open standard for office documents? If such a vendor-agnostic came to be dominant, then Microsoft Office would have to compete based upon the merit of the software, not on its ability to simply read a format at all.
Posted by alucinor (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dancing With The Stars!
&gt;&gt;&gt;&gt; "Microsoft has very talent engineers working for them. Why should they fear an open standard for office documents? If such a vendor-agnostic came to be dominant, then Microsoft Office would have to compete......." &lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt;&lt; One might be tempted to suggest at this time now that Windows' "Half Brother" (OS/2 Warp) is practising dancing the SAMBA: "About SAMBA for OS/2 and eCS" - "Samba is a SMB/CIFS protocols file and print sharing server/client set originaly made for UNIX world to cooperate with corresponding Windows and OS/2 servers or clients.
OS/2 has native implementation of SMB/CIFS server/client set - IBM LAN Manager and IBM Peer...."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://search.netscape.com/ns/boomframe.jsp?query=os%2F2+News&#38;page=1&#38;offset=1&#38;result_url=redir%3Fsrc%3Dwebsearch%26requestId%3Dc1a1be14c9a771e7%26clickedItemRank%3D1%26userQuery%3Dos%252F2%2BNews%26clickedItemURN%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.os2bbs.com%252Fos2news%252F%26invocationType%3D-%26fromPage%3DNSCPResultsT%26amp%3BampTest%3D1&#38;remove_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.os2bbs.com%2Fos2news%2F" target="_newWindow">http://search.netscape.com/ns/boomframe.jsp?query=os%2F2+News&#38;page=1&#38;offset=1&#38;result_url=redir%3Fsrc%3Dwebsearch%26requestId%3Dc1a1be14c9a771e7%26clickedItemRank%3D1%26userQuery%3Dos%252F2%2BNews%26clickedItemURN%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.os2bbs.com%252Fos2news%252F%26invocationType%3D-%26fromPage%3DNSCPResultsT%26amp%3BampTest%3D1&#38;remove_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.os2bbs.com%2Fos2news%2F</a>

there may very well be some degree of fear at REDMOND for "an open standard for office documents".
Posted by Captain_Spock (894 comments )
Link Flag
Imagine that....
If MS had to compete on the merits of it's software, it would fail. Granted, Office is pretty nice for the most part, except I can open my OpenDocument files in it. Heh, it even has problems opening my old Word files. I've pretty well converted all of my old docs to the OpenDocument format, and some to PDF via OpenOffice.org. It's all about choice.

Now talk about the Windows OS, and it's just as buggy as ever. Marketing and OEM lock-in agreements got them on to most desktops in the world. Swiftly, Mac OSX and Linux (mostly the Ubuntu family, and maybe Linspire and Mandriva) are begining to eat at the market share. Windows in the server market is still way behind even Linux. We will probably see something significant in the desktop market in the next couple of years, as things mature further.
Posted by fireball74 (80 comments )
Link Flag
 

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