When will Microsoft learn (or will it?)

I’ve been watching with interest the discussions on an ISO standard for office files.  There is a standard called ODF (Open Document Format), used by Open Office.  Microsoft clearly sees this as a threat since it removes the current dependency on their ‘Office’ products.  They responded with their own version called OOXML, which seemed designed to prevent others complying not least since it included binary ‘compatability’ modules that no-one but Microsoft could properly comply with.

They then aimed to get it ratified as an ISO standard via a fast-track process.  There was lots of push-back, but MS tried to bully their way through (absolutely not what is expected in an ISO fast-track process).  This article picks the story up, noting how they are if anything making things worse as they go forward, including the rather amazing assertion that the latest version of Office does not (and cannot) write files in OOXML. That seems so bizarre that I almost can’t believe it.  The reason that the standard is being requested is to ensure that documents are created in a format that can be archived and read in future, even if the software no longer exists or runs.   So, to fail to be able to produce the files in the standard form seems an oversight so egregious that I can’t believe it.

It leaves me wondering if Microsoft realise how little trust this will engender?  Would you prefer a standard to be well architected and vendor feature neutral, or would you prefer one laden with baggage that is as un vendor-neutral as it can be made?  Maybe no-one will notice – oh, no they are – e.g. here.  So, it leaves me wondering what their game is?  Any ideas?

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4 Responses to When will Microsoft learn (or will it?)

  1. Jim Pye says:

    Hi Greg,
    What arrogance. It makes me even more determined to NOT use MS unless absolutely necessary. However, I still export (via e-mail attachments) a document created with Open Office and send it in Word format. Is this strictly necessary? If anyone receives an ODT file in Word, is it normally readable?

  2. Greg says:

    It depends on what you are sending it for. The quick answer is that MS Office cannot natively read ODF – there may be a filter you can get, but as it stands it won’t handle them (remember there are more than just word files – it’s excel and powerpoint as well, not to mention the embedded files you can have like equation editors).

    What I do depends on the purpose I am sending things for. If it is for reading then I send a PDF file – Open Office will create PDF’s very easily, they can be read on pretty much any computer, and they should look exactly the same when opened. If I am sending something to be edited then I do export in MS format – there is no point in being dogmatic about it if the recipient can’t handle the file. Frequently I’ll send both a PDF and an MS format file, as well as the ODF format file.

  3. elek says:

    In the Netherlands Microsoft said they could support it.

  4. Greg says:

    Thats what surprised me about the story – it seemed just stupid … but, it wouldn’t shock me if it proved true. The story I linked to was pretty specific, and no-one commenting there has refuted it. Maybe they were not telling the whole truth?

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