The Standards Blog

OpenDocument and OOXML

Portuguese Government Adopts ODF as Sole Editable Document Format

OpenDocument and OOXML

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

According to a press release issued today by the Portuguese Open Source Business Association (reproduced in full at the end of this blog entry), the government of Portugal has decided to approve a single editable, XML-based document format for use by government, and in public procurement.  And that format is not OOXML.

Instead, the Portuguese government has opted for ODF, the OpenDocument Format, as well as PDF and a number of other formats and protocols, including XML, XMPP, IMAP, SMTP, CALDAV and LDAP. The announcement is in furtherance of a law passed by the Portuguese Parliament on June 21 of last year requiring compliance with open standards (as defined in the same legislation) in the procurement of government information systems and when exchanging documents at citizen-facing government Web sites (an unofficial English translation is here).

Office to Become Fully Open XML Compliant (at last)

OpenDocument and OOXML

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

Yesterday, Microsoft made an unobtrusive announcement that brings a degree of closure to a seven year long epic battle between some of the largest technology companies in the world.  The same saga pitted open source advocates against proprietary vendors, and for the first time brought the importance of technical standards to the attention of millions of people around the world, and at the center of the action were Microsoft and IBM, the latter supported by Google and Oracle, among other allies.    The standards in question described the format specifications that can allow documents created by one proprietary software product to be opened, edited and saved in another. 

The Future of OpenOffice.org: How Not to Write a Press Release

OpenDocument and OOXML

Since 2005, I see that I have written over 227 blog entries about ODF (I say more than, because the very earliest got lost in an earlier platform migration).  Throughout the greatest part of this six year period, OpenOffice was the poster child ODF implementation - the one with the most users, the most press attention, the most corporate support - tens of millions of dollars of it, from Sun Microsystems.  Of course, there were other impressive implementations, both open source and proprietary alike.  OpenOffice, though, was always the default ODF implementation referenced by the press.

OpenOffice: Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

OpenDocument and OOXML

Poor OpenOffice. It’s been open source for so long, and yet its adoption and market importance has always lagged far behind that of peer software like Linux – despite the fact that it’s free and implements a standard (ODF) aggressively promoted by some of the most powerful technology countries in the world. Can this ever change?

If yesterday’s announcement by IBM is any indication, the answer is “not likely,” despite the fact that Big Blue’s latest commitment to OpenOffice, on its surface, sounds like good news. The reason? It’s too little, and too late. Here’s why.  

W3C Accepted as an ISO/IEC PAS Submitter on a “Take it or Leave it” Basis

OpenDocument and OOXML

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

After sixteen years of working in parallel to the traditional standards infrastructure, the World Wide Web Consortium has taken an interesting decision: to begin submitting selected W3C Recommendations to that same system for endorsement. In doing so, it joins the small handful of consortia (seven, to be exact) that have applied for this option out of the hundreds of consortia currently active in the information and communications (ICT) to apply for that option.   

If this process sounds vaguely familiar, that’s likely because this is the same process that OASIS used to gain global endorsement of its OpenDocument Format (ODF).  Microsoft took a similar, but procedurally distinct, route with OOXML, its competing document format, when it offered it to ECMA, which enjoys a special “Fast Track” relationship with JTC1.  What won't sound familiar is the conditions that the W3C has successfully included in its application to make submissions, on which more below. 

Oracle's ODF Plug-in Pricing: What's up with That?

OpenDocument and OOXML

 

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?   When news of Oracle's intended acquisition of Sun Microsystems broke long ago, many people wondered what that would mean for OpenOffice, the most widely adopted full desktop implementation of ODF. But Oracle immediately imposed a company-wide "no comment" policy on that topic, so everyone has been wondering what the answer might be ever since.   So like many others, I expect, I’m trying to get my brain around Oracle’s reasoning in deciding to charge $90 for a formerly free ODF conversion plug-in developed by Sun Microsystems.  That downloadable plug-in was intended for Microsoft Office users who wanted to import ODF-compliant documents created, most obviously, by users of the free, open source OpenOffice.org (OOo) version, or of Sun’s StarOffice, the for-sale, supported productivity suite based on the free OOo code.    Moreover, it’s not just $90 you’ll need to fork over – the plug-in is only available in packages of 100.

 

Alex Brown:"Without action, the entire OOXML project is now surely heading for failure"

OpenDocument and OOXML

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

In reviewing my RSS feed this morning, I found this interesting blog entry by Alex Brown, titled Microsoft Fails the Standards Test.  In it, Alex makes a number of statements, and reaches a number of conclusions, that are likely to startle those that followed the ODF-OOXML saga. The bottom line? Alex thinks that Microsoft has failed to fulfill crucial promises upon which the approval of OOXML was based. He concludes that unless Microsoft reverses course promptly, “the entire OOXML project is now surely heading for failure.”

Wow.

So What About Those XML Patents, Anyway?

OpenDocument and OOXML

Mea Culpa.  I am uncharacteristically late in commenting on the XML Wars of August, 2009, which have already received so much attention in the press and in the blogs of the technology world.  The wars to which I refer, of course, broke out with the announcement early in the month that Microsoft had been granted an XML-related patent.  The opening of that front gave rise to contentions that patenting anything to do with XML was, in effect, an anti-community effort to carve a piece out of a public commons and claim it as one's own.

The second front opened when a small Canadian company, named i4i, won a stunning and unexpected remedy (note that I specifically said "remedy" and not "victory," on which more below) in an ongoing case before a judge in Texas, a jurisdiction beloved of patent owners for its staunch, Red State dedication to protecting property rights - including those of the intangible, intellectual kind.

So if this is war, why have I been so derelict in offering my comments, as quite a few people have emailed me to tell me they are waiting to hear?  Here's why.

Parsing the Microsoft - EU Interoperability Commitment

OpenDocument and OOXML

Last week, Microsoft and the European Commission each announced that Microsoft had  proposed certain concessions in response to a "Statement of Objections" sent to Microsoft by the EC on January 15 of this year relating to Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.  If you've been reading the reams of articles that have been written since then, you may have noticed that the vast majority of the virtual ink spent on the story has been directed at the terms relating to browser choice.  Typically, and as an afterthought, most of these stories have added a brief mention that Microsoft also proposed commitments relating to "another" dispute, this one relating to interoperability.

While the browser question is certainly important, in many ways it is far less important than the interoperability issue.  After all - the primary benefit for consumers under the browser settlement is that they can choose their favorite browser when they first boot up their new computer, as compared to investing a few extra clicks to download it from the site of its developer - as they can already do now.  Interoperability, of course, goes far deeper.  There's no way that you can make one program work the way you really want it to with another unless it comes out of the box that way, or unless you have not only the ability, but also the proprietary information, to hack it yourself.  And if both programs don't support the same standards, well, good luck with that.

So what exactly did Microsoft promise to the EC, regarding interoperability?  Let's use ODF as a reference point and see.

Software SmackDown: SoftMaker Comes Out on Top

OpenDocument and OOXML

 

The dominance of Microsoft's Office in the marketplace would be logical (if frustrating, to those that think that competition breeds better products), if it was simply a matter of developer seats.  After all, Microsoft deployed  hundreds, and then thousands of engineers to develop and evolve its flagship app over the last 25 years. How could anyone expect a less well funded commercial competitor, much less an open source project, to equal Office for features, performance and interoperability with other office suites?

At the same time, people keep trying - a lot of them.  Not just long-established competitors, like Corel, with the venerable and estimable WordPerfect office suite it bought from Novell, open source projects like OpenOffice and KOffice, as well as projects launched by much larger players, such as IBM (Lotus Symphony) and Google (Docs).

WordPerfect aside, most of these offerings disappoint when it comes to round tripping documents with Office users, although many provide perfectly fine alternatives for stand-alone use, particularly by those that don't need to create the most complex business document.

The funny thing is, though, that the quality of the result, and even the ability to interoperate in a world dominated by Microsoft's Office, doesn't necessarily equate to the depth of the resources of the developer.  Now isn't that an interesting observation?

Subscribe to OpenDocument and OOXML