back to article EC takes own sweet time backing Microsoft ODF move

The European Commission is investigating Microsoft’s interoperability pledge that it will support OpenDocument Format (ODF) in Office 2007 service pack two (SP2). Regulators at the anti-trust arm of the EC said in a statement today that it welcomed “any step that Microsoft took towards genuine interoperability, more consumer …


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  1. Rich Silver badge

    Lst's face it...'s just not going to happen is it? Microsoft absolutely will not support any kind of standard that anyone else does and (of course) those that it does, it "extends" with features nobody else actually wants, whether it be file formats, network protocols, you name it.

    eg - They have their own version of the "standard" kerberos. Their "standard" (and pretty shit-poor) firewall authentication protocol (ntlm) is "standard" only to MS (the only reason anyone else supports it is because they HAVE to, not because they WANT to). They have their own email access standard (Outlook) which is a law unto itself and plays very badly with the network at large, they have their own idea of what HTML and CSS is, they have custom file formats that nobody else can understand, they invented that truly ugly abortion called "the registry",

    MS should be banned from any involvement whatsoever in ODF specification development. What possible reason could their be for allowing them in? They have publicly stated that they don;t like it, don;t want it and have come up with a cruddy alternative OOXML who's only purpose is to be different (surely nobody seriously thinks OOXML is anything other than an expensive diversion to lure stupid business users away from ODF?). With this background, why the hell would you want them to have any further involvement in ODF? It's dancing with the devil!

    As for "...Open XML [is] no longer exclusively a Redmond specification".

    Maybe not, but this nobody else actually wants the bloody thing!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS Interoperability?

    If theyre into caring and sharing and letting products work together then perhaps the thieving shites could start with two of their own love-children: Vista contacts/mail and whatever their current sync program is. I have an HTC phone running a legally owned copy of Windows mobile, a legally owned and bought Vista Home Premium laptop, and windows mail and contacts. Will they sync? Dont be stupid. Despite having already fleeced me a fortune for a mammoth mountain of crapware, they want another 90 quid for Outlook. Will my legally purchased copy of Outlook 2000 work? Dont be stupid.

    They are thieving Copper nanotubes and theyve had every penny theyre getting from me. Ever.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    A prediction

    50 qatloos says ...

    MS will (accidentally-on-purpose) not put enough manpower resource into implementing ODF functionality in Office.

    Quality of generated documents will be technically compliant but visually lousy.

    ODF will remain second-class citizen, vendor lock-in a reality, true interoperability a distant dream.

  4. Tom Silver badge


    Theres no point in ratifying vapourware. If it should ever appear then fine, check it and give them a pat on the back if it aproaches conformity.

    Till then keep them on that hook.

  5. Steven Knox
    Gates Horns

    Misleading Headline

    Microsoft hasn't made an ODF move -- they've just done some PR. I take their claims about a seriously as I do the new "incarnation" of Dr. Who.

    "There is a continuum of thought related to interoperability reaching back many years based on the growth of Microsoft’s enterprise business, all of which has been affected by the regulatory activity in the U.S. and Europe."

    Yes, I've heard of that continuum -- it ranges all the way from "embrace" through "extend" right into "extinguish".

  6. Ash

    The new Microsoft oxymoron

    Move aside "Microsoft Works", we've let the PHB do some rebranding! Presenting...

    "Microsoft Interoperability"

  7. Peter

    My bad

    Ahem, my previous comment should look very strange. Must check my F5 button.

    Exits in shame...

  8. Peter

    All quiet on the Western front

    What, an article about Microsoft interoperability and no reactions?

    Mine's the only one left.

  9. John Bailey
    Thumb Up

    Here we go again

    The EU commission are taking the right path. Dealing with Microsoft in cases like this, it's like getting a stubborn five year old to eat their vegetables.

    Every spoonful is an exercise in tragic over acting and every attempt is made to make each fragment seem like they are chewing razor blades.

    Microsoft generously allowed the SAMBA project to look at the server protocols? Nope. they kept coming up with booby trapped offers that the Commission rejected until they finally buckled under and provided something useful, which would have been useless if MS could just change everything as soon as the ink was dry, except the condition to keep the documentation and patent information up to date was added. Nothing from Microsoft in the field of interoperability is useful unless they are cornered into giving it up.

    This will be no different. You can bet that behind the scenes, Microsoft approached someone to see if the commission would swallow various degrees of compliance. A separate converter app wouldn't fly, neither was an import/export function nested several layers down enough, or a partial implementation of ODF that only supported MS functions, but ignored or treated as a fail, any aspects that MS did not implement.

    The only way to get real interoperability from Microsoft is to make it sit at the table until each and every pea is eaten, and leave it in no doubt that tomorrow, they will face the same treatment.

    As long as it is in Microsoft's interest to have their software incompatible with everyone else's, they will fight every attempt to make it so.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The emboldend comment by Jason Matusow used...

    English word, almost constructed in sentences, but I'm buggered if I know what he meant. What did he mean??

    MS have determined that EEE might not be the preferred operational model in this business context but the approrpraite methodology for future profit maximisation and customer focussed development and rollout is to roll over and play dead-ish while executing backward facing double flips to vanish from the regulators radar - Not!

    Are MS trully stupid, just conceited or do they think the regulators are naive enough to swallow the story? MS aren't stupid and the regulators aren't naive so the obvious conclusion I leave to you dear reader.

  11. Laxman

    Can't the EC mind their own?

    It's not their business to deal with vendor lock in by commenting on stuff like that. And since both OOXML and the old Office formats have had their specs released, It simply isn't the ECs business anymore. Nobody has a right to make MS support ODF anyway (expect MS themselves).

  12. Lars Johansson

    Mind ones own...

    Laxman - democracy - the people have the right to elect whatever representatives the like, to make whatever laws they like and set up whatever bodies they like to enforce those laws. If the result of that is fair competition laws and a commission willing to enforce them, then sad for Microsoft - they will just have to comply or stay on their side of the pond, plain and simple!

  13. Laxman


    How much should commissions step into the fray? Is making a comment like this of any use?

  14. Mark


    EU IS minding their own.

    MS are an abusive monopolist. This is breaking the law. And guess what? The EU can persue law breakers.

    And if MS don't support ODF, they will lose sales to governments in the EU. But if they implement ODF, it must BE ODF, not some bastard stepchild (and this isn't even at the "glint in the fathers eye" stage). So MS are being told that this statement is NOT giving them a green light. Again, this IS the EU's own: they are telling MS that actions are not getting them off the stick. If you were in jail, would the judge tell you, while you're arguing your case yourself, that an argument you were pursuing was not going to work? If he DID, that's a BENEFIT to you, isn't it?

  15. RW

    What's the risk to Microsoft?

    1. MS intensely dislikes any real competition. It's a visceral reaction, perhaps originating in the Ballmerguts (tm applied for), but hardly a businesslike decision unless your business model is "let's be a monopoly." (Well, duh!) No, wait, make that "unless the only business model you understand is that of a monopoly." There, that's a little better.

    The risk is that Steve Ballmer may have indigestion.

    2. If MS software were truly interoperable, it would be in head-to-head competition with other brands, and the relative merits would be the deciding factor in many cases. Unfortunately, MS is, afaict, incompetent in many respects and if, say, Office had to compete head on with Open Office, Office would lose each and every time. They've been writing crapware for so long now that they don't know how to write real software that serves the customers' needs and isn't plagued with useless "features" that are hard to distinguish from "bugs," never mind the interoperability issues.

    The risk is that no one will buy MS software.

    The ISO and other standards organizations must start stating "if any implementation of this standard includes extensions or features not in this standard, it is non-conforming and may not claim it conforms to the standard."

    The standards orgs must also start preparing test suites that explicitly demonstrate the results of each feature, and then forbid any software from claiming standards compliance unless it has successfully passed compliance tests against these test suites. It seems that Microsoft just doesn't understand standards and no other method will do the job of forcing them to.

    Aside: it's easy to believe that MS deliberately misconstrues standards, but I'm not so sure. I once had a co-worker who invariably misunderstood specs that everyone else had no trouble with. If queried, he'd always start off with "but I assumed...." and then state an assumption that was pure and simple wrong. As him, so, perhaps, MS.

    It's only by fencing in the standards via "no extensions" and "must correctly handle test suites" that you can prevent MS from playing their usual games.

    Too bad that Microsoft behaves like a stubborn mule: the only way you can get its attention is to hit it over the head with a two-by-four. (Two-by-four: standard North American lumber size, nominally 2×4" inches, actually 1¾×3¾", the nominal size referring to its state before planing.)

    Finally, I wonder what happens when the OOXML standard is revised without MS being able to dictate the details. Seems to me that having gotten it approved as a standard, MS has lost control over it.

  16. Mark


    It should be "Microsoft will lost *much* of the time". Some people do actually like MS Office. Possibly some sort of Stockholm effect, IME.

    Where it would lose is that people won't HAVE to get the latest MSOffice because any ODF compliant system will work, so MS lose the treadmill even for those people who really do prefer MS's Office suite.

  17. Herby

    Remember: They're Microsoft...

    ...They don't have to care. Not one bit about the customer. Only the (obscene) profits.

    @RW: "(Two-by-four: standard North American lumber size, nominally 2×4" inches, actually 1¾×3¾", the nominal size referring to its state before planing.)". Look a 2x4 hasn't been that size for ages. It was 1 5/8 by 3 5/8 in the 60's, but now it is 1 1/2 by 3 1/2, shrinking ever so much. Pretty soon it will be a 1x3.

    Another observation: Microsoft's stock price peaked around 2000, and has been just about level for the past 5 years. It could be that their time has past (we can only hope).

  18. Bobby


    "if, say, Office had to compete head on with Open Office, Office would lose each and every time" - this just isn't true. Excel is MS Office's killer app for business use, and Open Office doesn't even come close to what you can achieve with it as a app platform.

  19. Mark

    Excep the MS Office killer app?


    Only with people SO DUMB as to use it as a database.

    That spawn with the incestuous evil that is VBA is the major cause of headaches in the IT world today. It really would be better to chew on Satan's love-spuds than be told to support the "Killer app" of Excel & VBA. Unfortunately, the clueless and upper management (and more especially Marketing and Accounts) often intersect and see the ill-aspected offspring as being a killer app and so totally NECESSARY that the OOo writers felt they HAD to include VBA support (and support that is, for the older VBA applications, far better than the VBA support that modern MS Office deigns to apply: gotta get you using VBA#++!!!).

    Or, in shorter terms: Excel & VBA is NOT the killer app. It's just that nobody who USES it thinks that Open Office works with it. 'cos it's, like, not Excel, man! Whaddaya think? And such a system should not be a killer app in these days. It IS truly horrible.

  20. Patrick O'Reilly
    Paris Hilton

    Save yes, but...

    So they've agreed to let you save documents as ODF but will they let you open ODF files...?

    Paris - because she loves being led down the Primrose Path

  21. davcefai

    @ Bobby

    Too true mate! I really miss those "has performed an illegal operation and will shut down" windows.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Microsoft Sucks

    Always have done, always will do.

    Instead of stopping them doing such things, let's just lock them in a zoo exhibit entitled "When Capitalism Goes Wrong", and be done with it.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Open ODF files

    "So they've agreed to let you save documents as ODF but will they let you open ODF files...?"

    Why bother - the first thing that normal people do when they start using Open Office is switch it to generate MS Office formatted documents by default - only died-in-the-wool ABMers actually create ODF files.

    "ordinary" people who can't figure out how to save from OOo in MS formats give up on Open Office after a week or two, when the realize that they can't send the ODF documents to anyone that they want to communicate with, including sending files to their own work addresses from home.

  24. Steve P
    Gates Horns

    @Patrick O'Reilly

    I figure it'd actually be the other way around - Office will import ODF OK, and may even save it in a compliant document - but when you try to save you'll get worrying messages about losing formatting, features will not be preserved, etc.

    And the resultant document will almost work in OpenOffice. It won't look the same, there will be many little formatting and layout problems, and will have a whole load of MS-proprietary XML in it, so Office can pretend it can load it correctly.

    Microsoft will announce that any shortcomings are limitations of ODF that aren't present if you use docx format (or OXML)

    And some users will try to move away from Office, find that their ODF documents saved out from Microsoft Word need to be reformatted, will realise how much extra work that still needs to be done, so will go back to using Office, and the lesson they will take away is that OpenOffice and ODF just don't work.

    That is how I expect it will play out. :(

  25. Patrick O'Reilly

    @Steve P

    "when you try to save you'll get worrying messages about losing formatting, features will not be preserved, etc."

    Funny, thats exactly what says about .doc files...

  26. Mark

    "only died-in-the-wool ABMers actually create ODF files"

    And why would that be, Ms Anon C? Because so many other sheeple have purchased MSOffice (of various versions) and you DO want your mommy to be able to read your message, don't you?

    So I hardly see having it save as .doc as a downside: it shows how much BETTER OOo is. And when MSOffice eventually DOES implement ODF, EVERYONE will be saving as default ODF. You still do want mommy reading your messages, don't you?

  27. Aodhhan

    Pull out

    Microsoft announces it is pulling all products and support out of Europe beginning in September, because their analysts claim they cannot recoup costs of maintaining compliance without passing it on to the consumer.

    Psych!! Not reallly, but what a scary thought. Courts should be careful just how far they go with things.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    it's not even funny anymore!

    How can they expect to achieve anything with 3rd party standards they have not managed to achieve with in-house standards?

    Interoperability of Microsoft's own products is really bad ... as soon as you update any node the whole system becomes buggy, unusable.

    I guess next year's office will be compliant with draft 0.1 of the OpenDocument standard, you know the proof of concept stage.

    Then again, I am sure the OpenDocument folks have published better documentation on their standard than Microsoft has ever read ... ;-)

    L'espoir fait vivre, excuse my French ;-).

  29. Mark
    Gates Horns

    Scary thought "Pull out "???

    No, not scary at all.

    Oh noes, we'll have to use the MS Office we've been using the past few years!!! How will we cope!!!

    Oh NO! We'll have to use NON-MICROSOFT software! How will we survive!!!!

    Yeah, I'm sure Europe is quaking in their boots.

    Oh, no it's MS will be quaking because there are more people in Europe and with the dollar in the toilet, they need foreign cash more than domestic...


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