Only a short time ago Corel and Microsoft each said "no way" to supporting OpenDocument. Now they're both saying something different -- and they're both hoping that you're not paying too close attention.
One reason, I’d like to say, here’s for all Americans to really feel proud to be Americans, uh, you know, blah-blah, woof-woof
Jimi Hendrix, lintroducing the “Star Spangled Banner” (Woodstock, 1969)
I was minded of the immortal Jimi Hendrix’s sage statement (whatever it meant) at Woodstock when I read the statements of Corel’s communication manager for WordPerfect Greg Wood and Microsoft’s (nee Groove’s) Ray Ozzie at ZDNet.com today, as quoted by David Berlind and Dan Farber, respectively.
Why? Because both of their statements carefully say as little definitively as possible, can be read in retrospect to state one thing or its opposite, and are equally deniable from either direction, depending on which way the wind blows in the future. As proof I’d like to demonstrate that both are completely consistent with what I’ve reported previously, although David reads Corels’ statement exactly the opposite. Still, both statements are significant in their own way, as each represents definite movement, albeit not far enough to prevent either speaker from scurrying back in the other direction.
Let’s take Ray Ozzie’s statement first, as it confirms a surprise Microsoft position taken by Microsoft after the Massachusetts OpenDocument announcement that was first reported here and then widely picked up in blogs around the world from Slashdot on down. In the original post, I reported that Microsoft had responded to an article I wrote about OpenDocument by saying it hadn’t said “never” to supporting OpenDocument — it just hadn’t been asked by its customers to go there yet. Conveniently, that statement allows Microsoft to have an excuse for changing its mind next week if it so chooses, while still expressing negativity about OpenDocument for as long as it wishes.
Specifically, in an official response, Microsoft Senior Attorney Nick Tsilas wrote as follows:
Andy, this is not accurate. I think what we have said is that features are dictated by customer demand and, until the Massachusetts-related activity occurred, Open Document was not even on our radar screens…. For us this has been, and will continue to be a matter of evaluating the flow of customer requirements, and this is a new issue. For example, while the timing may be suspect to some, our pdf development was the result of evaluating customer requirements.
This initial statement has now expanded as follows, as reported by Farber:
Ozzie attributed the tentativeness on ODF support in Office to resource allocation issues, mainly based on the user support demands that would crop up given that exporting to ODF won’t have full fidelity with the Microsoft’s own formats without some tweaking. Microsoft is working with a French company on translators to determine the scope of the problem in exporting Office documents to ODF. It sounds to me that support for “Save As” ODF in Office is a “when,” not and “if.”
I agree with Dan. It looks like there’s been quite a bit of movement in Redmond in just a few short weeks. While still paying lip service to backward compatibility issues, Microsoft has now found a French company to help it figure out a solution (according to Open Source Victoria, that solution may take as little as a couple thousand lines of code – something that OSV plans to prove – and provide – in the near future).
Let’s turn to David Berlind’s take on a Corel announcement now. As I reported in Shame on Corel, just a week ago Wood was saying:
We are a founding member of OASIS and on the committee for the OpenDocument format, so we are participating in the creation of that standard. The reality is that, today, this standard is not adopted or being used, period. Of course, we hear news about open standards, because when you create one you don’t need to necessarily rely on one single vendor, and we’re fully supportive of it.
Now, a scant week later, it comes out like this in an email to David:
Corel is a strong supporter of the continued development and adoption of the OASIS Open Document Format, and Corel strongly endorses ODF. Corel views Open Standards as a way for customers to maintain seamless and timeless access to their documents, and Open Standards free customers from the risks and costs related to reliance on a single vendor. For these reasons, Corel is actively expressing its strong support for the adoption of open standards industry-wide. We’ve indicated as much to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and we’re very optimistic about the potential that ODF, PDF and other open standards hold in helping advance the cause of alternatives to Microsoft. commitment to provide real customer value. I won’t respond to Gary’s comments further, although I will say that WordPerfect Office today possesses very robust XML capabilities and Corel’s willingness and enthusiasm in support of open standards generally is unassailable. Suffice to say, Corel remains committed to working alongside OASIS and other technology vendors to ensure the continued evolution of the ODF standard and the adoption of open standards industry-wide.
David thinks that Corel has now confirmed, per Wood, that it will support OpenDocument. Me, I’m not hearing that. What I’m hearing is that Wood is being very, very careful not to say that Corel will actually support OpenDocument, although he hopes you won’t notice, with all the air kisses he’s blowing to ODF. But why?
Why indeed? Good question. Instead, Wood says that Corel will support the continued development and adoption of ODF (twice); that it endorses ODF; that it’s optimistic about ODF; and boy, does Corel love open standards. But it just can’t seem to bring itself to pop the question and actually say “may I support you?”
So what gives? I hope the next person that interviews Corel puts them to The Question.
And gets an answer besides Blah Blah Woof Woof.