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What has Microsoft done for Massachusetts lately?

By Sam Hiser on September 22, 2005 (8:00:00 AM)

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Microsoft's Alan Yates steps in the manure in responding to the Massachusetts Information Technology Division's late-August declaration for OpenDocument and other open software standards.

IBM's Bob Sutor and Sun's Tim Bray have already shared constructive and entertaining comments. Sutor, in particular, is keeping us nicely abreast of any worthwhile new items (here's his RSS feed). Nicholas Carr at Harvard Business School has weighed in, and Stephen Walli, an ex-Microsoft manager, gives us a valuable primer on open vs de facto standards in context of Microsoft's letter of response. I hope to amplify those valuable comments here in order to shed more light on Microsoft's extraordinary disposition.

Alan Yates' public letter reveals many chinks in Microsoft's armor and shows his company's lack of fitness, and unwillingness, to compete on a level pitch. This is a letter of arrogance and deliberate misdirection. In it, Yates expresses his warm concern for the citizens of The Commonwealth, his grave misgivings about the appropriate use of their tax dollars, and his fond hopes for their future felicity with office software -- his Office software. The citizens of The Commonwealth surely never encountered this kind of deep feeling from Microsoft before, not while that company charged its rates for software which it never intended -- and today has no means or intent within its business -- to support. His statements betray a jaundiced view and fear of free markets, and resonate with circular logic and disinformation about open standards and OpenDocument in particular.

The letter, which apparently had circulated in talking-points form to all Massachusetts-based technology trade associations (and will no doubt eventually go to the other 49 governors of the U.S. states), contains a farrago of false declarations and is full up with psychological transference in which the gamut of Microsoft's own malpractices are attributed to their rivals. In its way, the letter is a typical Microsoft communication.

Yates says there needs to be more time for "due process."

This is already beginning to feel like a legal document of Dickensian bleakness.

Yates has difficulty with Massachussets' definition of open formats.

He says the State should include his file format in its definition because that's the file format they already use: a non sequitur. He still argues that Massachusetts ought to choose Microsoft's Office upcoming file formats -- which are patent-encumbered, contain proprietary Digital Rights Management (DRM), and are fully one year away from being released -- despite the fact that the state has published criteria and requirements that do not tolerate these kinds of data lock-in mechanisms.

Yates calls the OASIS OpenDocument file format standard "immature."

Yates, in a footnote, cites sources which make incorrect statements about OpenOffice.org and OpenDocument, sources which should be regarded cautiously for having in the past performed sponsored research on behalf of Microsoft:

See J. Wilcox at http://www.microsoftmonitor.com/archives/010242.html ("Considering the OpenDocument format is only truly supported by OpenOffice.org 2.0, which isn't even available yet, I'm at a loss to see how the XML-based format meets the Commonwealth's goals for openness or backward compatibility. Nobody's really using the format yet, right? How, uh, open is that?") In point of fact, Microsoft is unaware of any released and supported software products that currently write to the OpenDocument format.

OASIS OpenDocument is an upgrade of the open XML OASIS-based file format that has been available in OpenOffice.org and StarOffice since 2000. OpenDocument has therefore met the equivalent of testing, refinement, and improvement in developmental and usage settings for over five years now. OpenDocument is available in OpenOffice.org 1.1.5 and OpenOffice.org 2 (beta), both of which are fully supported in the open source community, and by independent software developers around the world.

Between them, OpenOffice.org and StarOffice with OpenDocument's precursor, have more than 25 million users around the world in more than 75 different language versions of the software. This means that OpenDocument has close to the magnitude of the number of users as any of the several MS Office legacy formats, since the MS Office user-base is fragmented across the new version and several older versions of that discontinuous series of products.

Contrary to statements by Microsoft, by Yates himself, and by unaware journalists, users of OpenOffice.org 1 do have access to OpenDocument. OpenOffice.org version 1.1.5, available for free download, opens the OpenDocument file format. Users of the earlier versions of OpenOffice.org are therefore given access through a free upgrade to OpenOffice.org2's OpenDocument file format. Never throughout the company's existence has Microsoft offered such cross-compatibility support.

OpenDocument, and its closely related precursor, have been in continuous use for longer than any single MS Office file format version was officially supported by Microsoft. Access to OpenDocument-ready applications is free and the file format itself is unencumbered by software patents. This leaves OpenDocument more mature in every sense than the next best file format option offered by Microsoft -- for example, in Office 12 -- which is more than a year away from release.

Stephen Walli is a technologist who worked at DEC and Microsoft; his comment carries the weight of experience:

While Microsoft would love us to believe that this is an "unproven" standard, document format standards are actually amazingly mature at this point in history. You have to set the optic right. We have lots of experience with document formatting standards, all the way back to SGML (somewhat before its time), to HTML for the web, to XML. Even the early SGML work was based on proprietary mark-up and type setting languages from IBM and DEC, and early UNIX systems. We even have the experience collectively in the industry to deal with the differences between page layout (PostScript) and the structure of the information. Like networking protocols, document formats either work or they don't and it's very direct evidence. With the first standard in place, the space will mature to accomodate [sic] new document objects, and the product space will mature as well.

Regarding the maturity of the OpenDocument file format, Yates' objections are false.

Yates says this process runs outside procurement norms.

Thank goodness this process runs outside procurement norms. Only the most inexperienced Microsoft official would raise government software procurement norms as a defense, and thereby shine a light on one of the last legs propping up the Microsoft monopoly of desktop software.

Firstly, procurement has nothing to do with The Commonwealth's declaration for an open file format standard yet, since procurement would come into play later during the implementation of the file format. Procurement is not relevant to this discussion.

If it were, then we can cite a litany of procurement practices by federal, state, and local governments which unfairly deny open source and free software products an opportunity to enter the selection process. This is well documented in the United States, and has been such a problem in some countries (Peru and Brazil, to name two) that their governments have taken the expedient route of legislating national procurement policies which exclude proprietary software.

Finally, raising the issue of procurement is tantamount to a signal that Microsoft has no intention of including OpenDocument in any foreseeable version of MS Office. It is a signal that Microsoft is ruling itself out of the competition in a future procurement process. There is no technical reason Microsoft could not support OpenDocument in Microsoft Office.

Yates raises the spectre of "enormous costs" facing Massachusetts in a file format switch.

This is rich.

Yates' hyperbolic sense of moment is unevenly apportioned. He omits the enormous cost of a possible Microsoft upgrade to Office 12 one day, should Microsoft be so lucky.

And unless Alan Yates is a resident who pays taxes in The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, neither he nor his company have any business discussing the state's spending plans.

What's more, it is fair to wonder where Alan Yates gains the confidence to even broach the issue. Is it a bad habit left over from years of corrupted free-market forces? He represents a software vendor, a supplier of goods and services to The Commonwealth. The costs to the State of implementing OpenDocument are none of his business -- unless Microsoft should become a provider of the OpenDocument file format.

It is imperative for observers to understand that the costs of file format and office suite migration are exaggerated by those who stand most to lose from such changes.

Yates highlights the "technical challenges" of changing the State's standard document file format.

As a migration expert, I can state from personal and client experience that it is not actually that hard. It is certainly no more difficult than managing an organization of Massachusetts' size (approximately 60,000 desktops) with as many as four different versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system and possibly four different versions of Microsoft's Office suite -- each of which has a different file format that is not backward-compatible.

Additionally, any possible difficulties changing away from the Microsoft file formats make the case itself for the immediate change, for this is certainly a 'pay-me-now...' situation. Even Carr, the IT-agnostic author of Does IT Matter? (HBS Press), seems to agree.

State governments, their employees, and citizens should be producing documents in open formats that are easily converted, both ways.

Yates reiterates the FUD about citizens having trouble converting documents.

See above.

Citizens who produce documents in an OpenDocument-ready office suite application, like OpenOffice.org or StarOffice, do not need to convert their documents because they natively save as OpenDocument files by default.

Statistics of common PC desktop workflow practices reveal that users often do not access a majority of their old documents and, therefore, most legacy documents don't ever need to be converted.

More than 95% of legacy documents are simple, one-page memoranda, notes, correspondences, short reports, or fax documents with minimal formatting. These simple documents convert perfectly and naturally in one click from the several different MS Office formats into the OpenDocument format, once opened in an OpenDocument-ready office suite.

Trouble with document version compatibility is overstated by Microsoft for obvious reasons. It is important to keep in mind that users of MS Office have more difficulty with file format version incompatibilities than users of OpenOffice.org or StarOffice, since the latter suites open all legacy versions of MS Office documents.

Yates reiterates the FUD about citizens being 'locked-out' of his company's software applications.

Alan Yates, apparently, has not read the Massachusetts Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM) document yet, which unambiguously permits Microsoft to offer an OpenDocument-based software solution.

Yates declares that the OpenDocument decision denies Massachusetts State agencies future technology innovations.

Given Microsoft's notoriously poor record of technical innovation, this statement only sparks derisive laughter across the information technology trade. Any notable innovations -- apart from "Microsoft Bob" or the talking paper clip -- have been in the pure, psychotic aggression of their tactics of trade.

Additionally, if this is an oblique reference to Microsoft's InfoPath product, then it is merely necessary to point to existing alternative implementations of the XML business process tools. Moreover, we expect much business processing innovation to come out of the open source communities in the near future; this renders Yates' assertions ridiculous.

Yates asks Massachusetts to allow its future policies regarding the file format to be more "dynamic."

He says,

Given the vibrant nature of competition in the IT industry and the fast pace under which developments and innovations occur, it is imperative that the ETRM incorporate a process that makes clear how additional formats or standards may be added to the Commonwealth’s "accepted" list as such developments and innovations arise. Otherwise, the ETRM and the process itself will become an inadvertent road block to such positive developments.

This is simply another opportunity to repeat the propaganda about Microsoft's unique ability to innovate. It is more circular nonsense. The way that word is bandied about, you'd think Microsoft officials define 'innovation' as being something of special, elegant, and wonderful design but necessarily created only by Microsoft. It's a comically obnoxious attempt at neuro-linguistic programming.

In fact, Massachusetts' declaration for a truly open file format achieves precisely what Yates demands here. Open standards, like OpenDocument, do move dynamically with the times. They change and incorporate new design ideas and capabilities. However, they do so in the light of public scrutiny under the collaborative auspices of standards bodies like OASIS or W3C. Even though Microsoft is a member of OASIS (and is thus trying to internally influence changes to that body's definitions of "open"), such an open and collaborative standards process seems anathema to them.

To offer a format that is capable of being added to The Commonwealth's "accepted" list, Microsoft must offer OpenDocument.

Yates demands satisfaction with legalistic overtones:

He asserts:

Given the significant due process, cost, competing standards, and other considerations raised above, this is the minimal course the Commonwealth must take [emphasis added] to properly and meaningfully study the potential impact of the unprecedented proposals it is contemplating.

He demands more time for consideration (the customary Microsoft stall tactic), "due process" (this is a legal term, used here conspicuously), and public cost analyses (so Microsoft is afforded the opportunity to cost-match on some contrived basis favorable to itself or demonstrate that the cost of an OpenDocument migration miraculously meets or exceeds the cost of an enterprise Office license renewal). Such thinly-veiled threats of legal action against a customer for exercising discretion in the free market-place should be an embarrassment to Microsoft. The temerity of it is repellent.

Alan Yates' letter reveals the worst of Microsoft's behavior and signals their limited recourse when competition is enabled. The letter betrays many of the company's flaws of character, its propensity to lie, and its petulant entitlement to customer fealty. The confidence behind their language reflects the absence of fear at being caught out, and the sureness that they have rigged the markets in their own favor into perpetuity, as if it were a natural law. Or it reveals something like the fight fixer's eminent surprise at finding out his quarry took the money, but refuses to throw the fight in the third round.

The Yates letter is an historic token of the moment Microsoft lost control of the markets it has dominated for ten years. Open source, having fostered a more open and truer market conversation, makes Microsoft's self-centered messages come off now like dusty old wives' tales, like moldy myths we once believed, or like Stalinist proclamations of unreal realities. The reason Microsoft officials are so ready to prostrate themselves to say embarrassing things, audaciously untrue, is that up until now they were the only ones in on the secret: that Microsoft's market grasp is ephemeral and that it can go away quickly. This is why their tactics look so desperate in the revealing light of today's more educated environment.

Carr even starts off by saying he wasn't paying attention to the OpenDocument debate, even though he resides in Massachusetts:

I assumed it was just another case of anti-Microsoftism, an assumption backed up by the press's "Massachusetts Dumps Office" headlines. I was wrong. This isn't about Microsoft. It's about a state government launching a serious and comprehensive initiative to replace its fragmented, inefficient set of traditional information systems with a modern, coherent, and flexible IT architecture that allows data to be shared and reused easily.

Serious and senior business people have often remarked that they register most of the anti-Microsoft noise in their minds as industrial jealousy, or social extremism. But Carr begins to read the Massachusetts situation correctly as now being about the real improvement of important public systems -- with impact on tangible things like drivers license processing or local first-response and resource coordination for homeland security. He sees now the valid basis in technology behind some of the more cogent anti-Microsoft rantings (this one, hopefully, among them), that anti-Microsoft sentiment is not just something cooked up by the Left. The Massachusetts declaration should give many reasonable people material for a similar conclusion.

Even if the Yates letter contains a threat of legal action, the Commonwealth can embark on its migration to OpenDocument with confidence that it has achieved something notable -- a positive declaration for a truly open document file format standard that plays an important role in the state's long-term migration toward an architecture built around open data standards. Microsoft is not much a part of the decision, unless it should choose to adopt the standard itself and keep the state's business.

The Yates letter should turn out to be a grave mistake for what it reveals about Microsoft's repulsion at collaborative open standards and its unreadiness for unsupervised play in the open standards sandbox. The letter can only accelerate the 49 other states toward the OpenDocument file format, and accelerate the overdue unwinding of the Microsoft Equilibrium.

Sam Hiser helps organizations understand and implement Open Source & Free Software as a consultant with Hiser + Adelstein in New York. He is co-author of Exploring the JDS Linux Desktop (O'Reilly) and contributed the OpenOffice.org section to the forthcoming new edition of the classic, Running Linux (O'Reilly), by Kalle Dalheimer and others.

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on What has Microsoft done for Massachusetts lately?

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Microsoft: Free Markets

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 01:26 AM


The only type of "Free Market" that Microsoft envisions is a market in which they are free to control everything they desire and freely take whatever they want. In the Microsoft "Free Market" the customer is only free to choose Microsoft or nothing.

The Microsoft objections are those of someone who has lost because they want a one-sided (their side) world and were not delivered it. They play the game of the spoiled child who is pandered to at every turn. Finally someone has rebuffed them and they do not know how to react other than to blame everyone else with their failures.

I pray that Microsofts reign has finally begun to fall and that their immoral and unethical pratices have finally been countered and will go away.

#

Re:Microsoft: Free Markets

Posted by: Joseph Cooper on September 23, 2005 02:01 AM
That they want to be the only game in town and control everything and shut out choice is pretty communist anyway.

One entity controlling a market isn't freedom, it's bullscheisse.

#

That sounds like Catholic Church calling for peace

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 07:11 PM
It works iff peace == "agreement with the Catholic Church"

#

Re:Microsoft: Free Markets

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 24, 2005 01:17 AM
Well, that's essentially the purpose of a free market. The freedom is for a company to compete in any way it wants, even if that means creating monopolies, engineering artificial lockin, whatever.

There is no freedom for consumers in the concept of a free market. In a<nobr> <wbr></nobr>/totally/ free market (which exists nowhere, not even the WTO has managed to build one yet,) a likely outcome is for a single company to own everything...

#

A small correction

Posted by: stephenrwalli on September 23, 2005 01:37 AM
I was a DEC customer through the 1980s and into the 1990s. I didn't have the privilege of working there.

#

Microsoft's other option

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 03:42 AM
Along with implementing support for the OpenDocument format, Microsoft could have chosen to relenquish it's ridiculous patent claims on the Office 12 format. IIRC, Massachusetts originally included these formats among the allowed standards until it discovered that they were "open" in name only. Even PDF, another acceptable format, is patent encumbered and very much so. Unlike Microsoft, Adobe has taken the positive steps of licensing its PDF patents under reasonable and royalty-free terms for anyone implementing the PDF "standard".

#

Final policy adopted

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 03:48 AM
The Massachusetts policy was made FINAL yesterday, Sept 21<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... see <a href="http://mass.gov/itd" title="mass.gov">http://mass.gov/itd</a mass.gov>

#

Microsoft Patents Innovation

Posted by: Prototerm on September 23, 2005 03:49 AM
That's the only way Microsoft could claim to be innovative. Let's face it, every product Microsoft has ever released has been a derivative of someone else's ideas and hard work. The only thing Microsoft has had going for it is brilliant marketing and PR. Until now, that's really all it needed. Looks like that won't be enough anymore.

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OpenDocument Implimentations

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 06:54 AM

OASIS OpenDocument is an upgrade of the open XML OASIS-based file format that has been available in OpenOffice.org and StarOffice since 2000. OpenDocument has therefore met the equivalent of testing, refinement, and improvement in developmental and usage settings for over five years now. OpenDocument is available in OpenOffice.org 1.1.5 and OpenOffice.org 2 (beta), both of which are fully supported in the open source community, and by independent software developers around the world.


There are also several other implientations, such as KOffice, Abiword (via plugin) among others. While these are obviously much newer, they are also undergoing constant testing, which probably amounts to more than what MS Office gets before it's rolled out the door.

#

Re:OpenDocument Implimentations

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 24, 2005 01:24 AM
If you read carefully,the quote, independent software developers around the world include KOffice and Abiword.

#

Nice response

Posted by: SarsSmarz on September 23, 2005 08:29 AM
Well-linked article. I think the intended audience for ms is other spineless gov'ts, and the City of Munich, which tends to sputter every time ms comes up with a 'new thang'.

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As Ignorant As They Want To Be

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 09:26 AM
Microsoft's attitude reminds me of my family's attitude toward the "nervous breakdown" I suffered a few years ago and am still recovering from (major depression, anxiety disorders and such).

My family does not "get it" about mental health and has been unwilling to make the effort to do so. It's been suggested that they don't "get it" for one simple reason; if they do, they'll have to do something. Like take my illness seriously and be supportive and loving to help me get back on my feet.

Microsoft does not "get it" about open standards and are unwilling to do so for the same reason; they'll have to do something. Particularly, they'll have to compete on the merits of their software (which IMHO is laughable and has been for many years) instead of marketing and market domination.

Massachusetts "gets it" as far as open standards are concerned--they want it to be possible for people (especially historians, I gather) in the "Star Trek" centuries (23rd and 24th if I remember correctly) to be able to develop software that can open documents written in the 21st. And the only way to do that is to have a publicly documented standard so that software can be developed (from scratch, if necessary) that will run on whatever computers (or successors to computers) exist in the "Star Trek" centuries.

Microsoft, a paradigm shift is in process. Hop to the new one or be left behind.

#

Re:As Ignorant As They Want To Be

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 10:07 AM

``Microsoft, a paradigm shift is in process. Hop to the new one or be left behind.''


Or, as a poster on an internet forum (URL escapes me ATM, sorry) once put it:

``Adapt or Die''


Seems like Microsoft is too bull-headed to do the former and has chosen the latter. That's okay by me.

#

Great synopsis

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 10:06 AM
It's appropriate to have some intensity of feeling when we see clear attempts to undermine decisions made in the public interest. Congratulations to all for speaking out about this, and to Sam Hiser for presenting a great synopsis and excellent links as well.

Despite all the corporate doublespeak to the contrary, this decision on the part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is based purely on clear and simple principles. No need to review them here; the article does that very well.

It's certainly not the fault of the Commonwealth that Microsoft has decided to withdraw from an eminently fair competition. We're simply reminded that fair competition has never been consistent with the way Microsoft reasons about its relationship with the world. But on that note, I'd like to review an aspect of that reasoning that especially warrants our attention.

Microsoft likes to point to studies which raise concerns about the high cost of migration away from its products. It presents a variation of just this argument to the Commonwealth. Hiser and others respond with comments that it's a question of paying now or paying later. But an even stronger argument can be made.

Indeed, the cost of conversion seems very reasonable, given the lasting freedom that it buys from one single conversion investment. But we should also pause to consider why the cost of conversion should ever be so high in the first place. And the answer is because Microsoft made it so, through deliberate strategies such as "embrace and extend" and "integrated innovation," respectively designed to defeat both interoperability and modularity that make conversion possible to competing products.

Now look, it's one thing if I go and buy a pair of jeans that are simply too small for me once they've been through the washer. My mistake not to have thought about that beforehand. But if a store knowingly sells me jeans that are too small, in order to also sell me special drycleaning services that won't shrink the jeans, then we've got a problem. Especially if the store then warns me about the perils of shopping elsewhere and losing access to the special cleaning service. That's not being helpful. That's being extortionate.

#

Yates states wrong facts to support his agenda

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 02:36 PM
From the document:
"The draft policy identifies four products that support the OpenDocument format: Sun’s StarOffice, OpenOffice.org, KOffice, and IBM Workplace. In reality, these products are slight variations of the same StarOffice code base, which Sun acquired from a German company in 1999. The different names are little more than unique brands applied by the vendors to the various flavors of the code base that they have developed. In essence, a commitment to the OpenDocument format is a commitment to a single product or technology. This approach to product selection by policy violates well-accepted public procurement norms."

KOffice has *nothing* to do with the StarOffice codebase, neither has Abiword that is missing from that list.

Now, shouldn't a general manager at Microsoft know that when he thinks he can sign a paper of this significance?

If he did, wouldn't that be a violation of well-accepted norms like the concept of "honesty"?

To the people at Microsoft, here's an explanation of this concept: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honesty" title="wikipedia.org">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honesty</a wikipedia.org>

But you might say: "What if he didn't know about the truth?". Now, that would make him incompetent.

<a href="http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=incompetent" title="reference.com">http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=incompet<nobr>e<wbr></nobr> nt</a reference.com>

Take your pick.

#

Many programs besides OOo deal with OpenDocument

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 23, 2005 07:17 PM
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument" title="wikipedia.org">WikiPedia also lists</a wikipedia.org> AbiWord, docvert, eZ publish, IBM Workplace, Knomos, KOffice, Scribus, TextMaker and VisiooWriter (<a href="http://www.artisan2k.com/lagratuitheque/bureautique/visioowriter.htm" title="artisan2k.com">not</a artisan2k.com> a typoe).

#

Thank you Sam Hiser . . .

Posted by: Meesha on September 23, 2005 10:59 PM
For a so well written synopsis of the MS vs ODF affair. In reading postings from other forums that continuously preach the MS line I have defended Open Standards and issues such as ODF. The average Jane/Joe seems to be blinded by the MS hollow bling bling and they continue to believe that MS is like the Wizard in Wizard of OZ - "all powerful and magnificent". But I truly believe they have it only half right - MS is indeed like the Wizard of OZ - all smoke, mirrors and bluff. Again, thanks for taking the time to take each statement and provide analysis of the FUD.

#

Author Is just as Biased as Yates

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 24, 2005 02:26 AM
I mean wow!

#

Re:Author Is just as Biased as Yates

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 24, 2005 03:24 AM
But he's right.

#

Microsoft Can Bid No Problem

Posted by: gtwilliams on September 24, 2005 05:55 AM
They just need to include a copy of OOo with each copy of Office. That way the user can save documents in the new format.

No problem.

#

Microsoft Has a lot to Learn

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 24, 2005 06:46 AM
How Microsoft can believe that these formats are open in any way shape or form is laughable. XML does not mean 'open' at all, and I would have stopped reading Alan Yates' response immediately at Massachusetts because their definition of open does not equal XML, nor have they stated it as such. I also love Alan's 14 page response, whereas everyone else kept their responses to the point<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:-). It was also a 14 page insult to a potential, and an existing, customer.

Yes, the formats use XML (yay, at Microsoft XML == open!) but they rely on proprietary schemas that are so hideous and complex an application can only reasonably support it, 100%, by using a proprietary API. There is also no telling what binary data can be embedded in these file formats as well. At least the Open Document Format has set standards for such things. You've also got Office creating deliberately mangled files (already been done with MS HTML) and users who can also create their own non-standard entities with their own tags on Office. These games have been played before, and they were played fifteen or twenty years ago. Back then we had proprietary network stacks and protocols as well. How many of those are still around, and how many of the companies selling them are still around?

It would have been very easy for Microsoft to support Open Document by simply sticking with Oasis and contributing exactly what was needed to get it working with Office. Alas, the games remain the same.

It's really quite funny how isolated Microsoft have been from the real world, and I really enjoyed Alan Yates' response letter. Here in the real world, thats called 'how not to do it'<nobr> <wbr></nobr>;-). In a procurement or tender process in any sensible, professional field or industry in the world you either meet the requirements or you are out of the running (and you do not insult your potential customer as Alan did). Since simply talking about XML does not meet that requirement, you're out of the running within the first two sentences.

Please pass on my congratulations to Alan.

#

Excuses don't meet the customers requirements.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 24, 2005 11:50 PM
To me, as an engineer in training, its quite simple.
You don't meet the requirements of the customer,
you don't get the deal.

There's no 2 ways about it. There's no BS.

The customer wants something, they want you or
anyone else to provide it. If you don't, and offer
excuses...Well, you're out of the running.

You can whine, bitch and throw a crapload of PR
trantrums, but when it comes down to it, you don't
provide what the customer wants, you can forget it.

Do you see Lockheed Martin OR Boeing provide
excuses when they competed against each other for
the JSF project? Do you think the the Dept of
Defence will accept BS excuses?

The fact that Microsoft isn't providing a solution,
but excuses, just goes to prove the kind of company
they really are.

Its not that they can't...Its that they WON'T!

I'm glad the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has
taken this step. Good for them!

#

Future

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 25, 2005 05:48 AM
Good article. Also: last time I checked the world map it showed Mass. instead of Redmon as a state. The arrogance of M$ is of unequalled levels. Gates may be happy with his money: well Bill: be happy with MY money that you took from me by SHIT upgrades. Enjoy your money, Bill. Enjoy it while it lasts.

#

Re:Future

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 26, 2005 08:40 AM
>be happy with MY money that you took from me by SHIT upgrades.

Sorry, he didn't take it, you gave it to him. You had a choice.

#

Microsoft XML support only Win-deep

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 26, 2005 09:29 PM


In the response letter from Microsoft written by General Manager Alan Yates to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decision to standardize on the OASIS OpenDocument format in addition to PDF, Microsoft are making claims both to the openness of the company's own Office XML formats, and that they are becoming widely adopted in Microsoft's products, and therefore argues that Microsoft Office qualifies as a product supporting open standards.


This "openness" goes only Win-deep in that Microsoft is not even willing to extend its XML support to the company's own Mac product line, where Office:mac 2004 only has fragments of the XML support found in Office 2003. The company also cites lacking XML support in OS X Panther (10.3) as the reason why Office 12 on the Mac will be released significantly later than Office 12 on Windows.


This information is missing entirely in the response from Microsoft to the state of Massachusetts, and is another in a series of misinformation and not representing the full extent of Microsoft's support, or rather lack thereof, for standards and openness. The full story goes <a href="http://www.andwest.com/blojsom/blog/tatle/agenda/2005/09/26/Microsoft-XML-Support-is-only-Win-Deep.html" title="andwest.com"> here</a andwest.com>


 

#

Unique Idea

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 29, 2005 10:51 PM
Image the audacity of a state or state agency asking for vendors to deliver software that meets their standards. Standards that open up the information that they produce for anyone to be able to read wether or not they own a particular piece of software. Go figure.

When will the other 49 states, many of which received a settlement of some kind from Microsoft for Antitrust practices (in the form of vouchers for more software) wake up and tell software vendors "I want my software to function this way."

#

Re:Unique Idea

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 12, 2005 09:08 PM
Why should Microsoft accept a standard while it has created a de facto standard. This is a government initiated action in order to pay less for office software.

95% of people in the world use MS Office. Just because you open source fanatics and big corporations like IBM want to stop paying money for MS software, doesn't mean MS should support a format in whose creation it hasn't participated in.

MS should also sue Open Office for copycatting all the interface from its products.

And there is no way MS can compete with a product that is free. After all, you don't ask countries to change their currencies because other countries want to decrease exchange losses.

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