Microsoft gets it right...

...finally. And no, I'm not talking about their dealings with Novell.

Last month Microsoft finally figured out how to work with open standards:

Microsoft enhances Interoperability with Ecma Office Open XML Formats

(Oct 25, 2006) Microsoft is applying the Open Specification Promise (OSP) to Ecma Office Open XML to further enable the
implementation of these document formats, by anyone, forever. Microsoft already offered an irrevocable covenant not to
sue (CNS) to anyone wishing to implement the formats, and now implementers have the option to use the OSP or the CNS.

See the OSP FAQ for details.

Critics are raving :-)

“Red Hat believes that the text of the OSP gives sufficient flexibility to implement the listed specifications in software
licensed under free and open source licenses. We commend Microsoft’s efforts to reach out to representatives from the open
source community and solicit their feedback on this text, and Microsoft's willingness to make modifications in response to
our comments.


So Microsoft is making people feel good about using their standards? I thought so ;-).

It really depends on whether any of this stuff is implementable outside of Microsoft Office, and whether Office will actually stick to it. For some reason, I find myself not being optimistic.

By segedunum at Sun, 11/12/2006 - 01:25

"Interoperability with Ecma Office Open XML Formats" does not mean "Interoperability between office software".

MS, as a member of OASIS was silent (even did not complain, AFAIK) until the very end when jumped in with its (then- unfinished) format, trying to compete with OpenDocument. And of course the whole message so far means it's the outside developers who are forced to develop and maintain (what a pain) converters between standards and MSOOXML - exactly like with the old "DOC to's sxw" never ending story.

The actual situation with MSOOXML (a dump of MSOffice's internals) as reminds me the old "GIF versus PNG" burlesque but scaled up.
Oddly enough, the MSOOXML specification even contains MS' artwork (e.g. bullets, cliparts) - intelectual property that can affect the software you're writing.

Sometimes I feel sorry we have not that many trademark protection set up in the FOSS world. Firefox does it well IMHO, but not Open Office. So MS appears to come with a series of doubtfully innovative terms like "Office Open" (versus Open Office) or "Interoperability". Also a new meaning of "exclusive" word:

''Then Ballmer, speaking a few days later with an Indian IT publication, offered to do the same sort of deal with ANY Linux distributor, even Red Hat, much to the surprise of Novell, which thought the term "exclusive" meant, well, exclusive. The ink was barely dry and Microsoft was apparently re-interpreting the terms of the agreement.''

And "Open License" (sic!), and "Open Solution Centre for e-Government" (recently in Poland!).

Yeah, it's allowed for MS to distort the meaning of well defined terms.

MS, if you want a piece of real interoperability, you can stop hardcoding the list of supported formats of the MSO 2007's Open/Save dialogs. Is this so hard? For now, OpenDocument is not listed there even if a plugin is installed. It's not true that's because the format is not native. You have RTF listed there as well, so why not so-much-more-powerfull OpenDocument? Oh, right, I should have guessed that - such a move would make using standards far too easy, while your axiom is to make MSOOXML much "easier to use".

Summing up, even having MSOOXML under the public domain license (it's not the case now) does not mean too much for me. It's too late to consider it as a standard. MS is (again) 5+ years too late. Two standards can be worse than none.

By Jarosław Staniek at Mon, 11/13/2006 - 16:41