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Microsoft OX vs. OASIS OD: Is It Really Open Format vs. Open Standard?
Orcmid's Lair: Office XML's IP-Infringement Specter, I: Copyright (long). Updated Information: The table, below, has been updated in Analysis 0.75, Toward Open-Format Adoption. The 2005-12-06 blog post, Lining Up Formats for Office Documents, summarizes the later analysis.
While I mull over the problems that software patents pose for software developers and the specter that is aroused for some of us literal-minded geeks, I notice that there are some odd statements around the ease with which Microsoft is supposed to adopt the OASIS OfficeDocument specification as an obvious pathway from its current binary formats to an open-standard XML solution. So I’ve prepared a little addendum to my previous missive on the subject.
3.5 Open Formats vs. Open Standards?
That OASIS declares a 706-page unimplemented specification as being an "OASIS Standard" is fairly amazing.
OpenDocument will be implemented in OpenOffice.org Version 2.0 and in KDE KOffice Version 1.4
Unimplemented specification? Do we talk about OpenDocument or about Microsoft Office Open XML?
If you think OpenDocument is unimplemented than you are uninformed. Please take a look at OpenOffice.org, KOffice, IBM Workplace, StarOffice. OpenDocument is not a dream. It is a real format with enough support to present a real alternative.
It will take substantial effort to reality-check that specification, and it will be a little while before anyone confirms multiple, interoperable implementations.
Could it be that all members of the OASIS OpenDocument working group already did that? How do you think they agreed on that standard?
It seems to me that OpenDocument must be demonstrated to accommodate the Microsoft Office format, not the reverse.
Can OpenDocument accurately represent documents created in Microsoft Office, preserving all of the features of those documents?
If Microsoft cannot store its office document features with the existing OpenDocument file format than you cannot blame OASIS. OASIS welcomed everyone including Microsoft to help designing a new file format based on OpenOffice.org´s XML file format.
Thomas makes a number of points that I have seen on other blogs (e.g., http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/06/13/428655.aspx where Thomas's comment also appears.
I think this is deserving of a new blog entry, because Thomas has some important concerns.
Here I want to question the assumption about the ease with which Microsoft could have participated. Who seriously believes that the OASIS OpenDocument project would have taken legacy preservation of Microsoft Office Documents (with their requirements for a thousand more elements) as a design constraint, and how would OOo format have survived that effort? How could the committee have survived that effort?
I don't want to diminish the accomplishment of OOo and the OASIS OpenDocument. I think it has been influential in terms of impact on the opening of office documents as well as providing an alternative product that serves many, especially where there was no integrated office-productivity product. We might not even be having this conversation if it weren't for that.
At the moment, we have too many people telling Microsoft what to do and how to do it, but only one hand in the air for accepting the heavy lifting that preserves the varied investments of 400 million users in multiple languages and cultures. Don't underestimate the importance of that and the difficulty of the effort.
Hello. Your licensing information regarding Sun is outdated - they have revised it make very clear they intend to enforce no restictions against the OpenDoc format, since the OASIS-required boilerplate was unclear.
Am I reading orcmid's comment correctly: a format (OpenDoc)that currently supports the office needs of over 30 million users would need to define 1000 more elements to support Microsoft files? And, of course, since the binary format is secret, the only people who could implement 100% conversion to OpenDoc would be Microsoft, who have explicitly stated that they won't.
Viewed things a different way, 400 million (not my number) people have their data in a format that they can only fully access with the blessing of a single company. This is of enough concern to some that they are beginning to rebel against the notion.
And, in closing, the world is once again busily comparing a technology that is available (4 implementations of OpenDoc) against a Microsoft one that isn't (I see no Office 12 here!) - reminds me of the 18 months Win95 competed with O/S2.
I don't know where you get your numbres. The 400 million people are currently using Microsoft Office, and the new XML support will be available in all Win32 ones using a plug-in to be made available freely. In addition, there is XML support in Office 2003 already.
Neither you or I will be the ones who determine whether an implementation of the OASIS Open Document Format will be good enough.
You are absolutely correct that the table is out of date. The new Sun Patent Statement on OASIS Open Document IPR is absolutely terrific. It would be great if Microsoft will provide a similar relaxation of their royalty-free license for the Open Office XML, the Open Package Conventions, and other parts of Metro that will be important to office-document users.
I will post a new version of the table and I will put an update notice on this page when that's happened.
The new table is posted and a summary of the latest analysis is also provided. See the top of the present article for new links.
The people posting here should check whether the MS format and lisensing meet GPL.
And should discuss the legal issues comparable to the use of PDF.
1. The specifications for the current formats do not permit derivative works so they don't qualify as open-source specifications.
2. The license for software implementing the current formats is not GPL-compatible according to FSF.
3. The Office Open XML formats being developed as ECMA Specifications have high-quality conformance requirements comparable to those for the C, C++, and EcmaScript standards.
4. The ECMA Specifications are not about software. The question about royalty-free patent licenses will need to be resolved at that level.
Check the later versions of this material for additional information.
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created 2002-10-28-07:25 -0800 (pst)