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368 comments

Nice to see... (-1, Troll)

Budrick (816333) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645467)

It's good to see this, but it sounds like KDE trying to save only their own face. Ah well.

He mentioned Abiword and Gnumeric as well (5, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645514)

So he's not just "trying to save only [his] own face," but is actually pointing out that there are multiple implementations and that OpenDocument really is a standard.

Of course, it wouldn't even be a problem if they were the same codebase, because since they're Free Software they can all share the same code. Certainly, Microsoft could support OpenDocument easily just by copying the same code into Office, right?
 
...oh, wait.

Re:He mentioned Abiword and Gnumeric as well (2, Interesting)

Lost+Found (844289) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645549)

Actually, yeah. Microsoft could, in theory, insert all of the OpenOffice code to read and write OpenDocument into Office, since it is LGPL. They'd just have to contribute back changes / enhancements to the OpenDocument code itself.

Re:He mentioned Abiword and Gnumeric as well (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645585)

Well, not really. Import / export code is a mapping between the file format and the internal representation of the data. Unless Microsoft Office and OpenOffice use the same internal representation (highly doubtful) it is not likely that they would gain much benefit from trying to shoehorn OpenOffice's import / export code into their own code.

Re:He mentioned Abiword and Gnumeric as well (1)

Budrick (816333) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645557)

My point is that the letter is extremely KDE-centric. I suppose it's understandable and kind of fair given that it's coming from someone involved with the KDE/KOffice project, but a little more neutrality would sit better with me.

Re:He mentioned Abiword and Gnumeric as well (2, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645715)

He's speaking on behalf of the KOffice team. He is not speaking on behalf of Sun, OOo, AbiWord, or any other such project. So of course what he says will focus on KOffice.

One shouldn't expect SGI officials to make press statements on behalf of Microsoft, IBM or HP. The same applies here.

Open FUD (5, Funny)

gwait (179005) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645469)

Microsoft spreads Fear Uncertainty and Doubt, what a shocker!

Re:Open FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645647)

A slashdoter posts yet another useless cliche comment, trying to pretending they don't care about the topic. What a twist!

Wrong. (0)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645751)

it is shared fud. Just go look at CAGW, and ACT (or is that act-up, or act-down, or something like that). In fact, simply watch any partner company or any of the analysis companies (idc, gartner, etc).

Why even bother with word processors? (5, Funny)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645476)

Why even bother with word processors these days when LaTeX is more than capable of the vast majority of document typesetting needs? It does take a bit longer to learn that Word, but everyone I know who has learned it has become far more efficient and can produce documents that are far more professional.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (4, Informative)

n2rjt (88804) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645515)

Well, in addition to the obvious issue about compatibility with .DOC format, it's kind of like the difference between BASIC and C++.
Word Processors are less capable but more immediate, especially in the WYSIWYG area.
Sure, there's LyX, and probably other semi-WYSIWYG editors for LaTeX, but it's not the same.

When it comes to typesetting power, LaTeX wins hands down. It's like having a compiler with a full set of support libraries, compared to a simple interpreter with only the functions that came built in.

Personally, I have never learned LaTeX, although I used to use LyX quite a bit before OpenOffice. It was in many ways better than OpenOffice, but it took me quite a while to learn how to do new things. Also, of course, I could never share documents with others at work.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (4, Insightful)

Q2Serpent (216415) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645691)

Also, of course, I could never share documents with others at work.

I think the beauty of a text-only format like TeX and LaTeX is that you can share it with everyone. In fact, more people can make small additions to a TeX document than they can a Word document. There's also nothing for them to install, you can store the document in a revision control system and get meaningfull history (diffs), there's no hidden information [microsoft.com] inside of it, etc.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (4, Interesting)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645732)

Personally, I have never learned LaTeX, although I used to use LyX quite a bit before OpenOffice. It was in many ways better than OpenOffice, but it took me quite a while to learn how to do new things. Also, of course, I could never share documents with others at work.

      You might want to try the 1.3.6 version (latest stable), or, if you're adventuresome, the 1.4.0 in CVS. LyX is NOT designed for short documents, such as very quick notes or things of that nature. But it's phenomenal for long documents (several page letters, technical notes, books, theses, and, with the beamer class, even presentations which knock the crap -- admittedly not a difficult task -- out of PowerPoint).
      I suppose you meant you could never share *editable* documents with others at work. Well, LyX exports to just about every "nice" standard, including .pdf. Also, since there are now very nice LyX ports (and officially supported by the LyX team!) for Windows and ports for OS-X, it's worth another look. The learning curve is much less steep now. And, using LaTeX on the back end (ahem) virtually guarantees much nicer-looking, and consistent, documents than using even OpenOffice (which I also like quite a bit, but only for the sharing of documents with Word-crippled colleagues).

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (4, Insightful)

haluness (219661) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645517)

Being a LaTeX fan myself I agree with you for the most part. The problem is for some things like, say, writing a 1 page letter or memo, it is easier to pull up a word processor (in the style of Word/OO etc) and get it done with quickly.

The other problem, as always, is some people/places requiring Word. As a graduate student I had to supply some papers in Word format. I could'nt get away with doing it in LaTeX even though Word was a pain.

So, yes, there is a requirement for GUI based word processor, even though I think the effort required to learn LaTeX pays back a hundredfold in terms of efficiency (for anythjing more than 2 pages) and professional looking documents

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645600)

I've used LaTeX for a few short things (there is a letter style, for example), but generally I find anything that isn't worth typesetting is better off as plain text. The one writing tool I do find invaluable is OmniGraffle. This produces a nice hierarchical structure and allows me to quickly promote and demote headings, fold up parts of my document when I'm not working on them, and generally structure my thoughts a lot better. I can then export the results as plain text, preserving the final structure, and send them to my publisher.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (5, Funny)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645541)

LaTeX is more than capable of the vast majority of document typesetting needs

That's an understatement — TeX is Turing-complete.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (1)

slavemowgli (585321) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645596)

That's an understatement -- TeX is Turing-complete.

That's a non-statement - Postscript is also Turing-complete (for example), but neither does Turing-completeness matter when all you want to do is create good-looking text documents, nor does Turing-completeness actually say anything about the usability of a language. (Sure, there are people who write web servers in Postscript, for example, but that's just the exception that proves the rule)

Of course, that being said, I *do* agree that TeX/LateX are clearly superior solutions when you want to create beautiful documents, too. But the reason for that is not that TeX is Turing-complete.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645659)

You are confusing suitability with capability.

The GP is saying that because TeX is Turing complete its capabilities, by definition, exceed the "the vast majority of document typesetting needs".

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645560)

c'mon man, this is stupid. I am a power user; I know LaTeX, as i used it to write down my master thesis; I really like typesetting with it, but I would never use LaTeX to write down a curriculum vitae, or a brief letter, or whatever is not larger than few pages. In fact all of these things can be done in few seconds with a quick&dirty WYSIWYG word processor (a.k.a OOWriter, or Word). LaTeX can do everything, but it's mostly suitable for long and structured documents, not for my mum's recipies. And it is not by any means easier to learn.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645566)

1. Learning curve.
2. Most people will never be as productive with it as with word?
3. Most people will try everything to avoid having to think when performing some task.

Or... not everybody is a geek.
LaTeX rules!

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645573)

Because your granma can't use LaTeX.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645646)

My grandmother is dead. Long dead. Dead before the PDP-1, even. Learning and using LaTeX is the least of her problems. I'd image she's far more concerned with keeping dirt and worms out of her rotting anus.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645575)

Why even bother with LaTeX these days when PostScript is more than capable of meeting all your document typesetting needs? It does take a bit longer to learn and use and debug than LaTeX, but everyone I know who has learned it has become far more geeky and can produce documents that are far more procedural.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645617)

Even though you got modded Funny, its quite true. I only use LaTeX anymore. Of course, every document i write has easily over a hundred equation images, which are a royal PITA to make sure anyone viewing the document can see them, so LaTeX to PDF is the only way for me to go.

Word processing != Typesetting (5, Insightful)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645637)

The reason is simple. Typesetters/formatters are great for generating splendid output. But most people never produce a hardcopy (or any "final" output) for 90% of their documents. Instead, their documents are workplaces for organizing ideas, bascially pseudo-database records in a filing system stored in their "My Documents" folder.

In short, the vast majority of word processor use is for manipulating, organizing, and retrieving text-based data in a format rapidly parsable by human eyes as part of a workflow or thought process.

For such things, LaTeX, troff, or any other text formatter... sucks. In fact, it isn't even appropriate for the task.

But you're right, if you just want nicely structured, rendered output in hardcopy or PDF, you can't beat 'em.

Re:Word processing != Typesetting (2, Interesting)

ultranova (717540) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645788)

In short, the vast majority of word processor use is for manipulating, organizing, and retrieving text-based data in a format rapidly parsable by human eyes as part of a workflow or thought process.

For such things, LaTeX, troff, or any other text formatter... sucks. In fact, it isn't even appropriate for the task.

Neither is Word. The appropriate program for such things is WordPad (in Windows world) or gedit (in Gnome world). Word is too complex, and its many features get in the way and become distractions - the constant automatic spell checking underlining every mistake you make being a good example.

Re:Word processing != Typesetting (3, Informative)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645838)

Um, except gedit/wordpad don't offer tables, formulas, styles, graphics, or fields pulled from a database. Most geeks on /. work in technical environments where the bulk of work is either code or networks or research.

In the office world (i.e. the other 90% of the globe) the need to work with highly structured documents both visibly and rapidly on an ongoing basis is extreme, and Word/Excel are actually a very good fit indeed.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (5, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645654)

Why even bother with word processors these days when LaTeX is more than capable of the vast majority of document typesetting needs? It does take a bit longer to learn that Word, but everyone I know who has learned it has become far more efficient and can produce documents that are far more professional.

This is, quite simply, a remarkably stupid comment. I use LaTeX. For pretty much all my documents and presentations. I write my own document classes. Previously I have written LaTeX document classes reproducing the format of company Word and Powerpoint templates so I could produce my documents and presentations in LaTeX instead of MS Office - and yes, I did get that cleared with marketing. I am quite intimately familiar with all the power, flexibility and benefits that LaTeX has to offer. The fact remains that word processors are remarkably fast efficient and easy to use and entirely suitable for the majority of users. Most of the real benefits of LaTeX simply aren't of sufficient importance for most casual and business needs to bother - and it's not like word processors these days don't have their on benefits (usually relating to integration with the rest of an "Office Suite" package.

LaTeX is truly wonderful, and if you know how then by all means use it. But don't pretend that it's a replacement for a word processor - they are really filling different niches, and have quite different areas at which they excel, and at which they are weak. The right tool for the job and all that.

Jedidiah.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (0, Redundant)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645747)

The fact remains that word processors are remarkably fast efficient and easy to use and entirely suitable for the majority of users.

Except for the fact that they aren't. They suffer from problems with the format the documents are saved in, as this whole debacle here shows. And word processors are pretty fucking useless when you can't even expect to be able to give a saved file to another user and have them open it without problem. At least LaTeX gets around this problem by using a plain text format.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (1)

EngMedic (604629) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645671)

why is this modded funny? it's TRUE. i use LaTeX pretty much exclusively: it writes lovely lab reports, proposals, resumes, and papers. I write technical stuff in it, but i also do "normal" stuff like research papers: if for nothing else than i love the font, i love the autobibliography, and i love being able to make sexy looking documents over a ssh tunnel running your favorite text editor.

Re:Why even bother with word processors? (2, Funny)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645832)

Remember that a majority of office workers (was it 67%?) that use office suites get mixed up between kilobytes and megabytes. They find it confusing...

And you would ask them to use LaTeX?

Yay! (5, Interesting)

Descalzo (898339) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645479)

I wish my organization would switch to some kind of inexpensive standard. We are starting to feel pressure from problems caused by running different versions of Word, or upgrading from OS9 to OSX and wishing they could take their license with them (without running in classic mode), or some people don't think it's worth the money to switch from AppleWorks (which sucks, by the way) to Word, and then we have to try to read documents in ClarisWorks (which also sucks) format in Word and vice-versa, and we are getting SICK OF IT! And I only work in an elementary school!

Re:Yay! (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645547)

Hey! Back when I was in elementary school, ClarisWorks was good. The only reason AppleWorks (which is the same program, just renamed) sucks now is that Apple abandoned it five years ago.

wat (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645481)

g n a a frist psotage mother fucker

Allow me to say ... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645483)

This is ridiculous. They are trying to establish a monopoly on the word processor market, even enforcing a standard upon people so they are restricted to their products. Heed my words, and use Microsoft Word instead.

Alan Yates.

invitation to mailing lists. (2, Funny)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645493)

Dear Mr Yates,
[...]
You can also write to the KOffice mailing list and ask your questions there.

I can't wait to see his flames on the mailing list!

eh ? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645494)

Yates ????? Shouldn't that be Gates ? :)))

Am I the only one who noticed... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645498)

...that the response was basically an ad?

Is legal action possible? (4, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645503)

In Massachusetts, is it considered criminal to mislead the government or the administration in such a fashion? Could legal action be taken against Microsoft based on these blatantly false claims (ie. that KOffice is directly derived from StarOffice) that were presented to the administration as fact?

Re:Is legal action possible? (2, Insightful)

Lost+Found (844289) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645533)

Even if it was illegal, I seriously doubt anyone in their government would ever follow up on it. Massachusetts may be tired of Microsoft and ready for freedom, but I doubt that they're zealously trying to destroy the company.

Re:Is legal action possible? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645565)

Making them spend some time in court for deliberately falsifying information about their own products and a competitors' would be worthwhile in itself, particularly considering it was a State government they were lying to.

Re:Is legal action possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645622)

IANAL so I have to ask: Would it be libel? AFAIK it's only libel if the claim is false and intended to be harmful. Most Slashdotters can probably come up with some (more or less valid) reasons why such a false claim about KOffice could be harmful but I wonder if any court would agree or how it could be proven?

It doesn't just harm KOffice, it harms America! (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645782)

Massachusetts wants Free standards so that it can maintain transparency of government, which is essential for the democratic process. Microsoft apparently actually wants governments to be opaque, secretive, totalitarian, and in bed with corporations (namely, Microsoft itself). Microsoft's lies don't just harm KOffice, but they actually try to subvert democracy itself.

Microsoft hates Freedom! Microsoft hates America! Microsoft supports Fascism!

And no, this isn't a troll, because it's supported by the facts of Microsoft's actions.

Re:It doesn't just harm KOffice, it harms America! (1)

Lost+Found (844289) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645835)

Eh, I don't think Microsoft hates America, they just hate an America that they do not control. As for the rest of your post -- what's the word "apparently?" I thought the company's mindset was common knowledge!

Like a stuck pig (4, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645509)

Why is it that despite the enormous popularity of MS Office, Microsoft squeals like a stuck pig when someone (usually a government organization) chooses a competitor or a competing file format? No one else does that - everyone else learns from it and goes back to make their product better so they can win in future. Only Microsoft whines when they lose. It's not that they CANNOT incorporate OASIS into MS Office. It also seems a bit hypocritical when they moan about OASIS only effectively being supported by one product, when their own formats can at the moment only legally be supported by Microsoft thanks to their patents.

Re:Like a stuck pig (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645587)

It's called "hypocrisy" and it isn't limited only to Microsoft. But they certainly do a lot of squealing, that's for sure.

Re:Like a stuck pig (1)

onetwentyone (882404) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645603)

You need to remember that when you're entire business model revolves around holding customers merely as revenue streams thanks to licensing and contracts, of course someone over there will start a hissy fit when groups/agencies/government bodies realize they still have choices.

And that's really that hard part here, how do you maintain a monopoly when there are still legitimate options you don't own and control?

Re:Like a stuck pig (3, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645624)

Microsoft has managed to convince the masses that their operating system and their office suite are the "normal" (i.e. regular, non-weird, default) way of doing things. Therefore, when someone uses something other than Microsoft, Microsoft's marketing has them convinced that their is something strange about that practice. To use anything other than Microsoft for normal day-to-day computing amounts to "singling Microsoft out" and punishing them. Why? Because that's the "normal" software, and why wouldn't you use it, unless you had a beef with MS?

I'm not saying this is true. I doubt even Microsoft thinks it's true. However, as long as the masses are convinced of it, Microsoft will use/abuse this for marketing and PR. Every time someone uses Linux or OOo, Microsoft will paint them as fanatics and crazy people, out to get Microsoft.

Re:Like a stuck pig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645634)

Simple - they do not want to lose market share, they will go to any extent for that - there is unconfirmed news that the newly promoted Jeff Raikes wants Office to run on *nix the same way it runs on Windows and Mac. Just in case if Linux eats into Windows share, Office will gain.

Re:Like a stuck pig (1)

moranar (632206) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645735)

There are plenty of apps that work with MS Office formats. They've all paid the license fees, and are presumably covered under NDAs or similar things. Wordperfect; the wordprocessor from Apple, and others. They "just" can't be open.

Re:Like a stuck pig (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645784)

Because, MS will be the first to tell you that they nickel and dimed their competition until they had the 2 monopolies. Every time, that they won an item, the competition looked the other way. MS is not doing that. Linux (and OSS in general) is a very real threat to them, unlike apple, Word Perfect, old Novell, etc.

Once MS had the 2 monopolies, they owned the market. But if they lose just one of the 2, they will lose the other quickly. Basically, they must maintain both, or risk losing all.

Re:Like a stuck pig (1)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645795)

It's because if there are obvious competitors with well-known clients, they can no longer force un-important upgrades on users at their whim -- they need to plan them, market them, and make them worthwhile.

If they have a monopoly, or a near-monopoly with no real competition, then they can do what they want. As soon as there's a real competitor, they need to actually compete. There's generally less money when you have to actually compete.

PDF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645510)

hahahahahahahhahahahahahahahhahhawwwwwwwwwwwwwww

More for PR (3, Insightful)

ndogg (158021) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645523)

This seems more for PR than for getting a response from Microsoft.

I understand your worries, but fortunately I am able to put your mind to rest: KOffice is in fact not related to StarOffice or OpenOffice. It is a completely separate product, and a very fine one at that. One of our team members, David Faure, was an active party in the creation of the OASIS OpenDocument standard, and KOffice was the first office suite that publicly announced support for it.


Translated: Don't listen to Yates. We can assure you that KOffice is its own entity that is in no way shape or form a derivative of OOo.

It's not a bad thing, though. There are certainly people stupid enough to believe a letter sent by Microsoft would have no agenda. This, at least, sets the record straight for all the world to see.

THIS is why I can't stand MS sometimes... (5, Interesting)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645529)

They say it's "illegal" to standardize on OpenDocument and back that up with the (false) claim that the tools that support it are from a single codebase.

All so they can convince the Mass. gov't to use their own single codebase "standard."

Just "sometimes?!" (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645588)

Microsoft pulls stuff like this all the time. In fact, it is their entire business strategy, and has been since the founding of the company. The only thing that's surprising is how they manage to get away with it most of the time.

When you go to PR training... (2, Funny)

Osrin (599427) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645537)

... one of the first things that they teach you is that if somebody calls you an idiot, then duck the response. Don't stand up and loudly proclaim that you're not an idiot, you'll make a headline out of it.

KOffice, or anybody else for that matter would probably have better served their cause by not responding at all to this.

Re:When you go to PR training... (3, Insightful)

Homology (639438) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645601)

... one of the first things that they teach you is that if somebody calls you an idiot, then duck the response. Don't stand up and loudly proclaim that you're not an idiot, you'll make a headline out of it.

KOffice, or anybody else for that matter would probably have better served their cause by not responding at all to this.

KOffice team quite simply pointed out a false statements made by a Microsoft executive about their applications, and in the process they grab some good PR as well. I think they payed better attention to the PR course than you did ;-)

Re:When you go to PR training... (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645612)

Calling somebody an idiot is an opinion. I agree that it's dumb to stand up and try to defend yourself against an opinion.

However, Microsoft's claim that KOffice was the same code as StarOffice wasn't an opinion. It was a false statement of fact, or in other words, a blatant lie. How is it a bad idea for the KOffice people to stand up and say "no, you are blatantly lying (to the government, no less!) to serve your own interests?"

You know, if it weren't for the facts that computer issues are hard for people to understand and that Microsoft is part of the media, I would think that people would be shouting "Microsoft hates Freedom! Microsoft hates America!" right about now -- and they'd be right!

facts still matter (2)

cahiha (873942) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645648)

The idiot here is Yates; and, you are right: he will probably not respond to avoid making this more of an embarrassment than it already is.

But the KOffice team has to get the facts out. MA really does need to know that KOffice is an independent codebase. MA should also know that the argument made by Yates is based on faulty data and weigh his arguments accordingly.

Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (3, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645542)

Wallin made statements like:

"KOffice is the most comprehensive of all office suites in existence, comprising no less than 11 different components in one well-integrated package."

Is it really, though? I mean, it's one thing to have 11 different components. But it's another to have all those components working well. While the very core KOffice applications like KWord are acceptable, some of the other components aren't exactly the most usable. To declare KOffice as being "the most comprehensive" office suite might be somewhat incorrect.

"Last, but not least: Within a year, KOffice will likely run on Windows as well."

This could be a very dangerous thing to claim. Let us say that in a year, KOffice is not running on Windows. This claim has now left the KOffice team in a very difficult position. They have no choice now but to include support for Windows within a year. Otherwise Microsoft and others could point to this letter as being a work of deception.

I commend Wallin for attempting to set the record straight regarding the claim that KOffice was derived from StarOffice, but perhaps some of the claims are going a bit too far.

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (2, Informative)

Rapsey (241302) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645605)

koffice and every KDE program is built on top of QT which is platform independent and kdelibs which are not. Once they get kdelibs ported everything else is not a problem.

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645655)

But that's just it. They still have to get kdelibs ported. That won't necessarily be an easy task, let alone one that can be finished within a year. Besides, they'll have to use QT 4, as it is the first recent release of QT with a GPL edition for Windows. While it probably can be done eventually, to suggest that it will be done within a year is setting unreasonable goals for the project. And it is especially unwise to put such potentially misleading statements in an open letter which is denouncing a rival for their use of misleading statements!

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (1)

Spoing (152917) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645614)

This could be a very dangerous thing to claim. Let us say that in a year, KOffice is not running on Windows. This claim has now left the KOffice team in a very difficult position. They have no choice now but to include support for Windows within a year. Otherwise Microsoft and others could point to this letter as being a work of deception.

I think they are just waiting for both QT4 & KDE 4 before doing a complete port. Ports using Cygwin and Colinux are being worked on in the meantime.

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645673)

I think they are just waiting for both QT4 & KDE 4 before doing a complete port. Ports using Cygwin and Colinux are being worked on in the meantime.

I don't doubt that a port could be done eventually. My problem with the statement is that they're saying it could be done within a year. Frankly, I think that's just as misleading as the statements from Microsoft.

Will QT 4 and KDE 4 be ported to Windows within a year? It's very possible that they (specifically KDE 4) won't be, or at least KDE 4 won't be in a very usable state.

It's good that he corrected the false claims made by Microsoft. But to turn around and make claims that may turn out to be just as false isn't good for the KOffice project's reputation, it isn't good for the open source community's reputation, and it could very well be used as fuel against such groups in the future.

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645771)

You understand that "likely" only means "probably", not "certainly", right?

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645837)

It's still a claim about the future capabilities of an open source project. When one is writing a letter pointing out the misleading statements of a competitor, it is best not to make claims that may be just as misleading.

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (4, Insightful)

Angostura (703910) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645642)

You have greatly under-estimated the power of the word "likely".

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (4, Insightful)

manyoso (260664) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645664)

You may argue Inge's usage of the word 'comprehensive', but he plainly spelt out his _intended_ usage. Thus any claim that he was trying to mislead is, in itself, misleading.

As for Inge's statement that KOffice will likely run on Windows within a year. This is not a statement of courage. It is an entirely reasonable and obvious assumption. Plans are afoot as we speak to do just that. KOffice, much as all of KDE, will be ported to Qt4. Qt4 is now GPL'd on Windows. The internals of kdelibs are being redesigned to acknowledge this fact and allow us to target non-X11 desktops.

KOffice will be coming to Windows/Mac OSX desktops in the near-to-mid future.

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645698)

I come from an era where a product suite was not considered "comprehensive" just because it had some (possibly non-functioning) portion of code written for a large number of smaller, unoriginal programs. The programs each have to work, at least to the point of being equivalent in functionality to competing products, in order for the suite to be considered "comprehensive". While KOffice is getting there, I wouldn't go around and publically label it as "the most comprehensive" suite just because it has the basic window frames for the various programs implemented.

It would have been better for him to say that they were working on adding Windows and Mac OS X support. But to suggest a limit of "within a year" is almost moronic. Now it forces them into that schedule, even if it isn't viable. And since this letter was accusing others of making misleading statements, it would be horrendous for the KOffice project's image if they themselves become guilty of making such misleading statements.

Talk about stuff of yesteryear? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645763)

KOffice got a lot features lately. Development speeds up. Just get a fresh copy to test it yourself.

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645802)

There's a huge difference between "likely" and "will." The latter is a promise, but the former is just an expression of hope, and therefore isn't misleading at all.

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645720)

They have no choice now but to include support for Windows within a year. Otherwise Microsoft and others could point to this letter as being a work of deception.

Now that would be friggin' hilarious. Microsoft accusing others of "deception" for announcing vaporware and then failing to ship it on time. That tactic would not likely fly for the company that's bringing us WinFS after a decade of slips, that will finish Vista years late and without most of its promised key features, that routinely announces vaporware to squelch new markets for potential new competitors, and that manages to sell expensive software "subscriptions" based on promised upgrades that fail to materialize before the end of the term.

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645726)

"Last, but not least: Within a year, KOffice will likely run on Windows as well."
This could be a very dangerous thing to claim. Let us say that in a year, KOffice is not running on Windows. This claim has now left the KOffice team in a very difficult position. They have no choice now but to include support for Windows within a year. Otherwise Microsoft and others could point to this letter as being a work of deception.
Funny, KOffice already runs on Windows thanks to Cygwin :)

rotator

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (1)

TheVoice900 (467327) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645761)

Comprehensive simply means it has a wide scope, or is composed of many elements. I'm pretty sure KOffice does indeed have the most tools (Word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, database, charting, vector graphics, raster graphics, project management, charts, formulas, reports..). MS Office has most of those, but afaik it doesn't have a dedicated vector or raster graphics program just yet. Whether or not KOffice's components are as powerful as those in other suites is a different matter...

Re:Are Wallin's comments much more accurate? (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645792)

Yes, but in the world of software one would also expect such a "comprehensive" suite to consist of numerous programs that actually work. Like I said, the KWord program works well. KCalc is okay. I've run into numerous problems with Kugar and Kivio and Karbon 14. Yes, they're there in some form, but they're not always usable. And I don't think it's responsible for the KOffice project to go around claiming they're the "most comprehensive" office suite if only a small portion of the programs in their suite are comparable to the competing programs.

Massachusetts Attitudes (4, Insightful)

Feneric (765069) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645551)

I'm still amazed that Microsoft is acting like this is a sudden event. The tide in Massachusetts has been turning this way for a long time. Didn't they wonder about Massachusetts being the only state that didn't cave in and settle in the MS monopoly case? Didn't they wonder about the ramifications of the Massachusetts "Open Source Software Trough" when it was first instituted some years ago? Didn't they see the writing on the wall in local Massachusetts community sites like Saugus.net [saugus.net] that have been promoting free software [saugus.net] and open standards since the '90s? Haven't they noticed that recent Massachusetts-based projects (like the local Teaching American History Grant participation [saugus.ma.us] have been embracing open standards?

Wake up Microsoft. This shouldn't be a surprise. What's more, other states have been following Massachusetts' example regarding the open source trough, so I expect that they may also take a good hard look at what's happening here now.

What would be the best thing to happen (4, Insightful)

RoLi (141856) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645572)

... would be if Apple would support OpenDocument.

Does anybody know wether there are plans by Apple?

Re:What would be the best thing to happen (1)

Lost+Found (844289) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645609)

Apple would have to provide the products, and would probably irritate Microsoft enough to drop their Office for Mac suite. But it might not be a bad idea at this point in time.

Re:What would be the best thing to happen (1)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645678)

Apple already makes Pages, a wordprocessor.

I suspect it will support OpenDocument, but that's just mean.

OpenDocument support will make the OS X 'ecosystem' an easier sell to governments.

Re:What would be the best thing to happen (2, Insightful)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645713)

I don't know what Apple's plans might be, but it's certainly an idea I'd support.

I wonder, however, how difficult it would be to create a stand-alone transformation package. Pages uses XML. OpenDocument uses XML. There are XML Transformation tools out there. Someone only need describe the transform, and you should be all set.

I really don't understand Microsoft's attitude on this one. Their reasoning for not implementing OpenDocument in Office just isn't sound. Sure, there may be areas where Microsoft's native Office formats have some advantages, but last I checked Office still supported saving to RTF and HTML formats, both of this are significantly less feature complete than OpenDocument. And you don't hear anyone moaning that these shouldn be removed from Office (or shouldn't have been implemented in the first place).

Microsoft has an out in this battle -- just implement OpenDocument format as an export format and be done with it. Their "problems" are entirely of their own creation because they refuse to take the obvious step to rectify the situation.

Yaz.

Re:What would be the best thing to happen (2, Informative)

Rogue Jedi X (911665) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645818)

Well, I don't know about Apple, but I do know there's a Mac office suite ported from OpenOffice.org, so it should support the OpenDocument format. It's called NeoOffice/J and it can be found here. [neooffice.org]

Office Formats Not That Good (3, Informative)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645608)

The Microsoft Office formats themselves aren't that great. I work at a investment company which relies heavily on Excel. Over the years they've been using a few spreadsheets that has been around since Office 2000 at least. When we upgraded again to Office 2003, we had a few sheets exhibiting really, really strange behavior such the sheets wouldn't update unless you do a cut and paste first. We ended up having to simply rebuild those sheets cell by cell in Excel 2003. Once that was done, everything was many times faster and no more strange behaviors. The resulting file was also many times smaller. If we had access to those formats, at least we could have looked at it and see what was going on.

Some of the traders have become so annoyed by the degree of control Microsoft has over what an user can do that they joke, "Microsoft is trying to protect me from myself again".

DUPE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645619)

Ah, wonderful. I love reading the same thing twice. It makes the internet seem useful, somehow.

DUPE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13645728)

Ah, wonderful. I love reading the same thing twice. It makes the internet seem useful, somehow... o.O

How does MS's own format compare? (4, Interesting)

amigabill (146897) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645623)

This is the first I've seen of Yates' letter from Microsoft. He makes some points, and I'm curious to know how their own format compares.

How many different applications from different vendors already support the MS XML format? How does this number compare to the OpenDocument number?

OpenDocument will be usable on a number of CPU and OS platforms. How many CPU and OS platforms will be supported by MS's own XML format? (I use a Solaris workstation at work and do not myself have access to a Windows PC until I get home, at which point I'm not "working" anymore)

How long ago was MS's own XML standard finalized? And how widely is it in current use today? (I honestly don't know either since MS tools don't run onmy workstation at work, and I don't do this sort of thing at home to be worth buying their stuff myself) Has this been long and wide enough to "prove itself" in comparison to how long and wide OpenDocument's use has been to date?

If MS is losing business due to the choice of standard, why does MS not implement this open standard in their own product?

What are the costs involved with implementing MS's own XML format for 3rd party vendors in their tools such as OpenOffice, KOffice, etc?

MS seems to dictate what capabilities are required for "modern documents". Surely the committee that decided on OpenDocument knew what their own needs are and will be, and could determine if OpenDocument's capabilities were suitable?

Hi. Here. Us, too... :-) (5, Informative)

martin-k (99343) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645661)

The upcoming release of TextMaker 2005 [softmaker.com] -- currently in public beta [softmaker.com] supports OpenDocument, too. And nobody ever accused us of using any OpenOffice.org or StarOffice code ... :-)

Martin Kotulla
SoftMaker Software GmbH

MS Trolls/Fanbois/Employees (4, Insightful)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645666)

Put up or shutup.

Yes, right now, there are only 5 applications that support OpenDocument.

Yes, right now, those applications do not have a lot of marketshare.

Pray tell: How many applications support MS Office Open XML?
How much marketshare do those applications have?

Oh, thats right, the answer it 0, and 0.

OpenDocument will always be better supported, and right now, OpenDocument has more marketshare.

Will this change with the release of Office 12? Maybe-- My guess is all your customers will continue to use DOC.

Will this change with the adoption of OpenDocument by the European Union, and various governmental organizations in the U.S.? Absolutely. You *do* realize that much of the economic activity in Europe requires working with the government.

Microsoft itself will be forced to submit documents to the EU in ISO-approved OpenDocument. Hilariously, Microsoft will have to use OpenOffice.org to do so.

Re:MS Trolls/Fanbois/Employees (1)

HG Slashdot (895363) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645765)

I would asume the developer would be using MS Office Open XML... if they don't it would explain for all the bugs...

Re:MS Trolls/Fanbois/Employees (1)

sik0fewl (561285) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645766)

Microsoft itself will be forced to submit documents to the EU in ISO-approved OpenDocument. Hilariously, Microsoft will have to use OpenOffice.org to do so.

Or they can use another product with a similar codebase, such as KOffice :).

And no, I didn't read the article.

Yep, free advertisement.... but (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645667)

in the land of reality tv, why should any F/OSS group be admonished for using the MS media machine to advertise. This was so blatantly sarcastic that I laughed. Offering Yates a link to the KOffice website is hilarious!! I don't think anyone could have called him stupid any more pointedly and not used the word stupid or one of its synonyms.

This kind of media circus brings attention to the KOffice products, and hopefully to other F/OSS offerings. There literally are people that don't know what is available, or that it can / does compete with MS Office. Not just that, there are millions of people who should know, but don't know that Adobe is not the only product that will save/print to a .pdf format. Ignorance is a real enemy of the F/OSS community. More than just /.-ers need to know.

Getting the information out there in the public view is VERY important. Doing it and making people laugh is even better! Well, I think so.

What's up with KWord fonts? (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645668)

I'm a hardcore KDE user and have been since the K stood for "Kool" (in fact, I remember the original project announcement page).

I Konqueror for my web browsing, KMail for my email, etc., and love the application+desktop integration. My one bugaboo is that I still can't use KWord to produce nice output, because it gets the character spacing wrong with TrueType fonts.

Has anyone else experienced this? It's been this way since the first time I tried KWord; the letter sizes and spacings are simply uneven compared to the same document/font output from WordPerfect, OpenOffice, MS Word, etc.

Is this just becuase I'm using KOffice RPM packages in Fedora (and before that Red Hat) and the GNU police have compiled something out? Do I need to compile KOffice from scratch and include some controversial/rights-questioned component to get nice output?

I've tried using both the "real-hinter" freetype library and the "auto-hinter" (in Red Hat systems, stock) freetype library on my systems, but it doesn't seem to change KWord's output. I'd really love to use KWord for my personal work, but I do need it to produce quality output.

Can anyone help me?

Re:What's up with KWord fonts? (1)

anno1602 (320047) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645682)

The only thing I can tell you is that, while I have never used RedHat or FC, and while early versions of KOffice had its fair share of problems, I have never experienced the problems you describe on Gentoo or SuSE (back when the u was still lower case).

Re:What's up with KWord fonts? (1)

chill (34294) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645826)

I haven't run into this issue with KWord using CUPS/GIMP-Print on Slackware 10.1 and KDE 3.4.2 with an Epson Stylus Photo 925 printer. My kids had to create a "newspaper" layout (11" x 17", 4-column, .75" margin, etc.) for English class and the type turned out fine. KWord did a great job, though I bumped into one or two problems. The first was not being able to anchor a sub-frame to a header or footer frame. The second was with KChart, which has ZERO support for non-color charts. It doesn't do pattern fills and printing a color bar chart on either B&W or greyscale is totally useless.

AbiWord, on the other hand, while nice and fast doesn't do margins worth a damn. Enter .75 for a margin and it ROUNDS IT UP TO .8. WTF is up with that? The printing interface is also rather non-existant. Damn fast and good looking, though. Maybe w/2.4...

Do you have a sample .kwd file somewhere that you know outputs wrong? What printer system (CUPS, LPR, etc.) are you using?

  -Charles

Full Text of Alan's Letter (1, Redundant)

AeroIllini (726211) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645739)

Beware, the evil web PDF! Here is the full text of Alan Yates' letter, in good ol' HTML. And yes, it is a very long letter.

-------

September 8, 2005

BY ELECTRONIC MAIL AND OVERNIGHT DELIVERY

Secretary Eric Kriss
Executive Office for Administration & Finance
State House, Room 373
Boston MA 02133

Mr. Peter Quinn
Chief Information Officer/Director
Information Technology Division
200 Arlington Street
Chelsea, MA 02150

Re: Proposed Revisions to Information Domain-Enterprise Technical Reference Model

Dear Secretary Kriss and Director Quinn:

Microsoft respectfully invites you to consider its responses to the proposed revisions to the Enterprise Technical Reference Model-Information Domain published on August 29, 2005 (ETRM) which, as currently framed, mandates exclusive use of a designated office document format within all executive agencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by January, 2007.

Microsoft strongly supports the efforts of the Information Technology Division (ITD) of the Executive Office for Administration & Finance (ANF) to bring the benefits of XML to executive agencies of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We recognize that governments are challenged to be fully accountable for archived public records well into the future, and for ensuring that government agencies can efficiently handle data and documents across all technical and organizational boundaries. We share the opinion that XML is the ideal format for data interoperability and storage, management, and archiving of public records and endorse the direction to support open and agreed-upon specifications for data interoperability within government via XML standards. We share the proposal's goals for data interoperability across government agencies and for assuring proper storage and maintenance of all public records. Consistent with this viewpoint, Microsoft has been deeply committed to supporting XML within Microsoft Office for a number of years and continues to work with many governments around the world toward these goals.

We have substantial concerns, however, with the definition of "open formats" in the current proposal. This definition mandates adoption of a single, immature format for office documents throughout the Commonwealth's executive agencies and effectively requires deployment of a single office application technology within those executive agencies. As such, this unprecedented approach not only prevents impacted state agencies of the Commonwealth from using many critical and well- established technologies, but also runs afoul of well-established procurement norms without due consideration for the enormous costs and technical challenges that stem from the proposal. We simply do not believe that the proposed mandate for this exclusive document format is the best solution for achieving the Commonwealth's laudable goals.

Microsoft's key concerns are as follows:

  1. ANF did not provide sufficient time for review and comment on the proposed policy, nor a robust process for addressing comments. Due process requires much more, particularly given the unprecedented nature of the proposal and the potentially adverse consequences it could provoke,
  2. the proposed policy would create significant costs and problems for state agencies, for the private sector, and for its citizens,
  3. the document format designated in the proposed policy is new to the marketplace, still subject to potential revision, and not widely deployed or tested in a wide variety of product or usage scenarios,
  4. there are substantial technical challenges associated with implementation of the proposed policy. For example, there are issues associated with converting documents saved in the well-established, existing document formats which apparently have not been considered, including the possibility that the new policy will lock out citizens and organizations which use software applications supporting these existing formats from Commonwealth systems or services, or significantly change countless legacy documents that are not fully supported by the newly designated format,
  5. the policy would prohibit impacted agencies of the Commonwealth from taking advantage of innovations and solutions from a multitude of technology vendors, including vendors whose technologies are now widely deployed throughout the Commonwealth, thereby denying these agencies the benefits of future technological innovations,
  6. the proposal appears both inconsistent and discriminatory in that it approves use of one "proprietary" document format as an alternative to the OpenDocument format, while excluding others, and
  7. there are less costly, less limiting, non-preferential policy options to achieve the proposed policy's stated goals. Of particular note, only months ago, the CIO's office publicly supported Microsoft's open and royalty free licensing approach with regard to its Office XML formats by agreeing to include these formats within the Commonwealth's policy. Now, with the imminent departure of Secretary Kriss at hand, the Commonwealth is proposing a policy that is at odds with its previous affirmation of Microsoft's approach. Such a sudden reversal by the CIO's office is questionable in its timing, process, motivation, and commitment.

In short, the proposed policy is costly and unnecessary and would limit the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to a desktop software policy that is less functional, less open, and less flexible than the Commonwealth's current policy.

For these reasons, as discussed in greater detail below, we believe the current proposal should be reconsidered and that the ETRM section addressing data formats be revised in a manner consistent with the recommendations contained in this letter. In particular, we respectfully recommend that the ANF:

  1. reinstitute its prior definition of "open format" that properly allowed for agency purchase of products based on openly licensed and widely deployed de facto standards as an equally effective means of fostering data interoperability,
  2. reinstitute its prior conclusion that Microsoft's Office XML Reference Schemas qualify as open formats under the Commonwealth's policy (under this approach, the OpenDocument and PDF formats could also remain as viable alternatives), and
  3. incorporate a process into the ETRM that makes clear how additional formats or standards may be added to the Commonwealth's "accepted" list as developments and innovations arise in the future.

In the alternative, if the Commonwealth is not prepared at this time to adopt the specific substantive recommendations set forth above, we ask that you extend the current eleven (11) day period for public comments for an additional period of time sufficient to afford all interested parties an adequate opportunity to meaningfully review the proposal and provide thoughtful comments. During such time, we would also ask that the ITD commission an analysis of the costs and benefits associated with adopting the proposal as currently framed.

Following are the specific reasons why the proposed policy should be reconsidered, or, in the alternative, why the period for public comment on the proposed policy should be extended.

1. The Executive Office for Administration & Finance did not provide sufficient time for review and comment on the proposed policy, nor did it provide a robust process for addressing comments. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has laws, regulations, and policies in place to assure that due process is followed on important matters with relevance for the Commonwealth and its citizens. It is unclear whether laws, regulations, and policies relevant to the current proposed policy were followed in this instance and we urge you to review this issue prior to final approval of the new policy.

The Massachusetts Administrative Procedures Act sets forth specific requirements for notice and comment processes before an agency promulgates any "rule, regulation, standard or other requirement of general application and future effect." Given the mandate of the proposed policy, it appears that the APA may well apply to the proposed policy, and proceeding without a clear determination of whether it does would put the validity of the policy in doubt if adopted. Even if the APA does not apply, the due process protections it requires are appropriate, as matters of fairness and good policy making, for a shift as significant as the one ANF is contemplating here.

Indeed, the haste with which the current process is proceeding is inconsistent with the ANF's own prior pronouncements concerning the diligence to be accorded technology procurement matters. Specifically, the ANF's Enterprise Information Technology Acquisition Policy (Policy #: ITD-APP 02) - Effective Date January 13, 2004 applicable to agencies within the Executive Department provides, in relevant part:

The Commonwealth has a responsibility to ensure that information technology solutions are selected based on best value after careful consideration of all possible alternatives including proprietary, public sector code sharing and open source solutions. For IT investments, a best value evaluation should, at a minimum, consider total cost of ownership over the entire period the IT solution is required, fit with identified business requirements, reliability, performance, scalability, security, maintenance requirements, legal risks, ease of customization, and ease of migration. IT investments should reduce the total cost of ownership to the Commonwealth while maximizing flexibility and reuse.

Regardless of whether the Acquisition Policy applies to the policy under consideration, it certainly informs the level of due consideration that the Commonwealth and ITD believe is appropriate with respect to matters impacting technology acquisitions.

The proposed revisions to the ETRM were first published for public comment by the ITD on August 29, 2005. The announcement accompanying the publication of the proposed policy indicated that the public comment period would end on September 9, 2005, just eleven days later. Moreover, the public comment period spanned a three day holiday weekend further compromising the ability of impacted citizens, organizations, and government officials to offer input on the proposed revisions. By contrast, the APA requires twenty-one days' notice.

As described below, the proposed policy represents a substantial departure from existing practice within the Commonwealth as it mandates deployment of a single, untested document format and, as a consequence, necessitates that executive agencies throughout the Commonwealth migrate away from software technologies that are widely deployed across these agencies in favor of different technologies. The enormity of the costs associated with this departure from existing practice cannot be discounted. It is almost unheard of for a government entity the size of Massachusetts to make such potentially far-reaching decisions about its IT infrastructure with so little time for public comment and discussion.

In light of the impact the proposed policy would have if put in place, it hardly seems appropriate to limit the public comment period to eleven days. Because the ANF failed to follow required procedures for engaging in this type of rule-making, any attempt to finalize the proposed policy would be invalid. Proposing a single standard technology to the exclusion of all others with an 11-day comment period hardly seems consistent with this overlying goal. Accordingly, if the Commonwealth is not prepared at this time to adopt the specific substantive recommendations set forth in this letter, we ask that, at the very least the Commonwealth extend the comment period for an additional period of time sufficient to afford all interested parties an adequate opportunity to meaningfully review the proposal and provide thoughtful comments and that, during this time, the Commonwealth conduct and publish for comment a thorough evaluation of the costs and benefits associated with the proposed revisions to the ETRM before making any revisions to the current policy. It bears noting that the APA would require ANF to file a five-year estimate of the policy's fiscal effect on both public and private sectors before the policy takes effect. We are unaware of any such estimate having been prepared.

In proceeding unilaterally to mandate use of a single document format, ANF's proposal is also inconsistent with Section 390 of Chapter 149 of the Act of 2004, which is legislation passed just last year to create an information technology advisory board to guide the development of IT policy throughout state government. As you know, the advisory board consists of representatives from all three branches of government and is charged with developing annually an inter-branch memorandum of understanding that sets forth "information technology standards and a strategic plan for the signatories' acquisition and use of information policy." The statute also provides that Mr. Quinn is to be advised by the board on information technology issues, including the development of policies, project selection criteria, information technology architecture, infrastructure, and investments. By proceeding entirely outside the advisory board process, as we understand to be the case, ANF is acting in apparent conflict with the provisions of Chapter 149, Section 390 and thus casting further doubt on the ultimate validity of the regulations.

2. The proposed policy would impose enormous costs on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and on its citizens and the private sector.

If the proposed policy were put in place, the fiscal impact on the Commonwealth, its citizenry, and the private sector would be substantial.

First, there would be significant, and entirely unnecessary, costs incurred by all state agencies, departments, cities, counties, and school districts to procure new software applications that support the OpenDocument format for their individual users. Many state agencies already have licenses for Microsoft Office and other software products that do not support the OpenDocument format, and the expense already borne by these state agencies for Microsoft Office and such other products' licenses would be wasted by disallowing use of these products after Jan. 2007.[1] [2] As a result, costs to taxpayers would rise as executive agencies would be forced to toss out software they have already paid for, that they already know how to use, and that they can already use for archiving in open standard XML formats.

Second, every state agency, department, city, county, and school district would face enormous document and/or application conversion costs and would need to invest in training and support activity in order to make this conversion, with potential risks arising from conversion errors in these public documents.

Third, extensive work would have to be done deep within the IT infrastructure of the Commonwealth Fourth, new costs and problems will also be imposed on those doing business with the state, including organizations, businesses, and citizens, as the proposal could take away their choice of the software they may want to use to interact with the government to, for example, bid on a government project, submit filings, or correspond with government officials. Further, Massachusetts companies who currently sell products that do not comply with the proposed policy to Massachusetts agencies will be cut off from a major customer base.

Indeed, the proposal itself acknowledges the current pervasive deployment throughout impacted agencies of technologies not compliant with the proposed policy and the magnitude of the resulting costs that would be associated with the migration effort:

Given the majority of Executive Department agencies currently use office applications such as MS Office, Lotus Notes and WordPerfect that produce documents in proprietary formats, the magnitude of the migration effort to this new open standard is considerable.

There is simply no principled basis for causing the foregoing costs to be borne by the Commonwealth, its citizens, and the private sector, particularly given a) the significant flaws with the OpenDocument format, and b) the availability of more cost effective alternative ways to achieve the Commonwealth's principal data interoperability objectives. These issues are discussed in turn in the following two sections.

3. The OpenDocument format is immature and not widely accepted in the industry or public sector, and mandating the adoption of this format would present affected state agencies with significant technical obstacles.

The new policy commits affected agencies to a relatively new and therefore not widely adopted or deployed technology.[3] No other government entity in the U.S. has made similar policy moves. And for good reason: the technical specifications for the OpenDocument format were just recently finalized by a working group of the OASIS standards group on May 1, 2005, and have not been widely adopted, particularly across a range of organizations with varying infrastructure, skills, requirements and needs as is the case here. Furthermore, the open document committee of the OASIS umbrella organization did not include any government representatives and was comprised of a very narrow set of companies, primarily Sun and IBM, which are promoting their own technologies. The specifications were recently submitted to the ISO standards group and could be further modified there.[4]

Beyond the immature and parochial status of the OpenDocument format, the format also promises to expose affected state agencies to significant technical obstacles, thereby potentially compromising the ability of affected state agencies to satisfy their technology-related obligations.

First, the proposal works against the practical considerations of storage and management of public records and ignores the many benefits that the state can derive from more innovative software than the choice designated in the proposal. There are likely to be millions of documents held by state agencies that are not in the OpenDocument format, but will nonetheless need to be converted for the future without jeopardizing their integrity. Unlike Microsoft Office formats, the OpenDocument format was not developed to provide backward compatibility in full fidelity from old Microsoft file formats. The current proposal would thus leave affected Commonwealth agencies with very limited capability for converting existing documents, relegating them to conversion into a less functional document standard. By contrast, the Microsoft Office formats pay special attention to compatibility with older document versions so that our customers can not only take advantage of the power of XML, but also transition their billions of existing documents to a format that ensures that their data and all the features, attributes, functions, and data types of these documents are preserved in the new format.

Second, unlike the support for data integration offered by Microsoft Office, the OpenDocument format does not have a universal means to incorporate external XML data sources in their native format into all types of documents. Therefore, much of the work the state will do to standardize their data via XML formats will not be easily accessible within most documents. Data may be lost as it is entered into documents, and documents may not be able to be generated automatically with data from other systems. The proposed policy sets up two isolated approaches to interoperability, one for data and one for documents, without a bridge between them. By contrast, Microsoft Office supports such universal integration of customers' "native" XML schema, and therefore could potentially better serve the stated data interoperability requirements.

Third, the OpenDocument format lacks a number of capabilities that are increasingly important in modern computing environments. Modern documents need to be able to handle embedded pictures, audio, video, maps, voice, data, database schema, web pages, and other data types. The ETRM proposal acknowledges that these needs are not yet addressed. Similarly, the proposal does not address the integration of documents with communication, collaboration, messaging, document management systems or other applications. In short, by limiting state agencies to the use of specific technology, the proposal will simply penalize agencies by prohibiting new useful technology advancements, whether from Microsoft or other sources.

4. A preference for the OpenDocument format commits the Commonwealth to a single specific technology choice, which contravenes well-established public sector procurement practice, as well as various Commonwealth statutes and regulations.

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.

Forcing a procurement preference for a single file format on government agencies will neither improve interoperability for public records, nor result in lower costs to taxpayers. Commonwealth agencies should be allowed to choose the technologies that best suit their needs, particularly in a context where, as here, multiple open and competing technologies/formats are available and supported in the marketplace, with many document conversion utilities already available and with no licensing barriers to future conversion software.

It is also possible that the proposed policy violates applicable Commonwealth statutes. The statute which empowers the ANF Secretary to conduct and oversee procurement for the Commonwealth requires that the ANF Secretary create rules for "the stimulation of competition." The proposed policy can be read to require deployment of a single technology, to the categorical exclusion of vendors of alternative technologies. For example, the policy clearly calls for Corel and Microsoft products to be phased out without putting in place a process for updating the policy to accommodate additional technologies or standards. Because the proposal would thereby reduce competition, it is arguably invalid as beyond the ANF Secretary's statutory authority.

Likewise, the proposed policy likely conflicts with current Commonwealth procurement regulations. The ANF Secretary's existing procurement regulations are based on the ANF Secretary's so-called "Procurement Principles," which generally seek to obtain "Best Value" through competitive bidding, proactive planning, and needs assessments, and flexible bidding structures. In mandating categorical use of a particular technology/format, the proposed policy thus also conflicts with these existing regulations (which require consideration of, at a minimum, total cost of ownership over the entire period the IT solution is required, fit with identified business requirements, reliability, performance, scalability, security, maintenance requirements, legal risks, ease of customization, and ease of migration), and would therefore be invalid on this basis as well.[5]

While one might casually suggest that other companies simply provide "native" support for the OpenDocument format, the reality of the situation is that incorporating native conformance for the OpenDocument format, as required by the proposed policy, would be enormous and time consuming and, perhaps more importantly, cause these companies to limit themselves to the OpenDocument format vs. other more capable or more useful XML-based formats.[6] For example, Microsoft has spent over five years building its XML capabilities into its current generation products. These capabilities are designed to support a broad range of interoperability, in addition to support past formats now in use by millions of customers.

At bottom, while the draft policy speaks in fairly arcane terms about document formats, its implications from a product standpoint are clear: there is really only one product that only partially satisfies the Commonwealth's draft policy and other companies that have invested years of work and millions of dollars in developing alternatives are left out in the cold.

5. The current proposal constitutes a significant and unjustified departure from the Commonwealth's prior policy, adopted earlier this year, under which de facto format standards, such as Microsoft's Office XML Reference Schemas, could also qualify as "open formats."

The principal rationale for the proposed revisions to the ETRM relating to data formats is ensuring access to public records into the future. To that end, the proposed revisions to the ETRM provide:

Open formats for data files ensure that government records remain independent of underlying systems and applications thereby preserving their accessibility over very long periods of time...Electronic records are stored by agencies most often in proprietary formats that jeopardize the long-term accessibility of those records.

While we strongly support the stated goal of ensuring continued access to public records, we take issue with the notion that this goal is capable of being met solely by a single document format. Notably, "de facto standards" -i.e., technical specifications developed and maintained by a single entity or by a private, small group of cooperating entities - that are available through publication and licensed under commercially reasonable terms (e.g., Adobe's PDF Format, Microsoft Office XML File Formats, Java, and Win 32 APIs), can also achieve this goal, as well as the broader objective of fostering interoperability among heterogeneous applications or systems.

Until very recently, the Commonwealth's policy was predicated on precisely this view. In fact, the definition of "open formats" included within the proposed revisions to the ETRM represent a significant departure from the state's current policy on "open formats" which was put in place just earlier this year. Specifically, only eight months ago, at a January 15, 2005 Massachusetts Software Council event, Secretary Kriss posited an open formats definition that expanded the concept of open formats to encompass certain "proprietary" formats, including Microsoft's Office XML Reference Schemas, that bore characteristics that made them likely to ensure continued accessibility to public records:

Open Formats are specifications for data file formats based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, and affirmed by a standards body; or de facto format standards controlled by other entities that are fully documented and available for public use under perpetual, royalty-free, and nondiscriminatory terms. (emphasis added)

At that same meeting, ANF Secretary Kriss noted that Microsoft's Office XML Reference Schemas would likely qualify as open formats and be included in the next open format standard issued by the Commonwealth to the extent Microsoft made certain clarifications to its license agreement for the Microsoft Office XML Reference Schemas which clarifications were part of an ongoing dialogue between Microsoft and the Commonwealth:

We have been in a conversation with Microsoft for several months with regard to the patent that they have on, and the license surrounding their use of, XML to define the schema of DOC files in Microsoft Office 2003. They have made representations to us recently they are planning to modify that license, and we believe, if they do so in the way that we understand that they have spoken about (we will leave it obviously to them to describe exactly what they are going to do), it is our expectation that the next iteration of the Open Format standard will include some Microsoft proprietary formats. These formats, like DOC files, will be deemed to be Open Formats because they will no longer have restrictions on their use. That would potentially include (again, we need to wait for the final designation of this by Microsoft) Word Processing ML, which is the wrapper around DOC files, Spreadsheet ML, which is the wrapper around XLS files, and the form template schemas.

See http://www.mass.gov/eoaf/open_formats_comments.htm l [mass.gov] .

Following this statement, and as a result of the ongoing discussions between ANF and Microsoft, Microsoft clarified the language of the license to the Commonwealth's satisfaction. As a result, the existing policy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which the policy under consideration would replace, endorses Microsoft Office XML Reference Schemas as a qualifying "open format." The current policy of accepting openly documented, royalty-free licensed formats for use by state government accomplishes a high level of interoperability immediately, without forcing a costly "rip and replace" effort throughout the state; it also enables room for future innovations while allowing for continued improvement in state government standard practices. Accordingly, any revisions made to the ETRM regarding data formats should be consistent with the current non-exclusionary policy regarding data formats.[7]

In this regard, it is worth highlighting that the proposed revision to the ETRM also approves Adobe PDF as an "other acceptable format" for certain purposes even though it is a commercial/proprietary format that was not affirmed by a standards body. Approving some formats such as PDF that do not meet the revised ETRM's primary "openness" definitional criteria while eliminating other such "de facto" open formats like Microsoft's Office XML Reference Schemas (or its upcoming Office 12 Open XML Format) is entirely arbitrary and cannot be reasonably justified. At the same time, Microsoft submits that this treatment of PDF confirms the Commonwealth's continued recognition that even under the revised ETRM, de facto formats can be acceptable vehicles for achieving the policy's central goal of ensuring continued access to public records. Although Microsoft does not object to the identification of PDF as an acceptable format, it strongly objects to having its Office XML formats precluded from the proposed revision to the current policy. This is particularly so because the Microsoft Office XML formats (both the current Office 2003 XML Reference Schemas and the Office 12 Open Format) are equally if not more "open" than the PDF format, as well as the OpenDocument format. Below are the key criteria clearly demonstrating the openness and interoperability of Microsoft's Office file formats:

  • Microsoft has taken unprecedented steps to fully describe through a completely W3Ccompliant XML structure the way the current editions of Microsoft Office docs are represented when saved as XML. The first time Microsoft worked with XML was in Office 2000 (development started in 1997), and the upcoming Office 12 file format will see the first time XML is used as a default file format in Office products (as opposed to the "binary" formats, i.e., .doc for Word, .xls for Excel, and .ppt for PowerPoint).[8] This approach enables full integration by any technology provider and full use by any customer to read and write using the Office XML schema. Indeed, by Microsoft moving to an XML-based format for Office, its competitors are able to transform the Office XML into any other format they want. Moreover, the main products out in the marketplace -- WordPerfect, Lotus, OpenOffice, etc. -- should all be able to use our licenses and documentation to build in support for the Office XML formats. Our primary goal at Microsoft was to create an open format that fully represented all of the features that our customers have used in their existing documents, documents that have been created using the existing Office products over the past couple decades. Office has over 400 million customers, and we have a responsibility to continue to support all existing documents and all the existing functionality. There are billions of documents that we are going to help move into our new XML formats, and so a key constraint on all of our efforts was that these new formats had to support all those existing files and features with absolutely no loss.[9] To frame the magnitude of the undertaking, we have more than 1600 XML elements and attributes that reflect the features in Word alone in Office 2003. This is why we had to design a new format instead of shoehorning our features in another existing format. (By contrast, as noted, the proposed revision to the ETRM policy ignores the practical reality that there are billions of existing documents already in Microsoft Office and other well-established formats that must have a natural way to evolve to an open format in full fidelity.)
  • Microsoft explored many different licensing approaches when we designed our XML file format licensing program. Our guiding principle was that we wanted to make our program mirror approaches commonly used in the standards community to achieve the degree of openness requested by customers and the industry. The following elements of our program are the pillars of this approach:
    • The technical documentation is available on the Internet for anyone to copy and read
    • The license for all current and future essential patent claims is royalty-free
    • The license is perpetual -- Notably, Microsoft has committed to continue this licensing effort with respect to future XML schema, so any claims that the Microsoft Office formats may lead to "lock-in" are baseless
    • The license is very brief and available to anyone (see http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/format/xmlpaten tlicense.asp [microsoft.com] )
  • We believe the above characteristics led Valoris to state the following: "The MS license provides access to the schemas and full documentation to interested parties and is designed for ease of use and adoption. In this regard the MS XML Reference schemas satisfy the requirements [of openness]" This view was further confirmed recently by an independent third-party analysis of our license program. Erik Stasik, the former director of patents and licensing for Ericsson, reviewed the Office XML licensing program in his recent publication entitled "Strategic Patent Planning for Software Companies." He concluded "[t]he [Microsoft Office XML Schema] license is relatively straightforward, royalty free, and even less demanding than the license offered under the W3C's patent policy." He further observed that the Microsoft licensing approach "make[s] it more attractive for a small company to develop applications based on the Office Schemas" than the open source Apache license. We believe the broad acceptance of our program to date and the strong signs of further adoption of the Office XML schemas within the industry demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach.
  • Microsoft's open approach with regard to its Office XML Reference Schemas, which enables any vendor to establish interoperability with Microsoft Office documents, has also been reviewed and endorsed by the European Union's Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA), a key technology committee from the EU, as a way to ensure the public has easy access to public-sector information and services. More information is available at this site: http://www.microsoft.com/office/xml/default.mspx [microsoft.com] .
  • While it is true that OpenDocument has been adopted by OASIS, it is also worth noting that the OASIS committee that pushed the latest OpenDocument format as a standard has vested, proprietary interests in promoting OpenOffice 2.0. Two employees of Sun, which develops OpenOffice, serve as the chairman and secretary of the committee, and two employees of IBM, which sells versions of OpenOffice, occupy seats on the small committee. Seen in this light, it is tenuous at best to suggest that the mere adoption of the OpenDocument standard by this small and highly parochial committee within OASIS renders this standard format more "open" than the Microsoft Office XML-based formats.[10]
  • It is equally disingenuous for parties to claim that the fact that the Microsoft Office format may be covered by a patent renders it non-open. First, as noted, all current and future necessary patent claims are licensed on a perpetual, royalty-free basis.[11] Second, the terms of Microsoft's license are consistent with the approach to licensing set out in the W3C, OASIS, and countless other open standards IPR policies. Third, as well-respected organizations such as ANSI and ITU-T have recently explained, the fact that a standard is covered by a patent does not mean the standard is not open, so long as the patent is licensed to all implementers of the standard on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. (See ANSI at http://www.ansi.org/about_ansi/introduction/introd uction.aspx?menuid=1 [ansi.org] ; ITU-T at http://www.itu.int/ITU-T/othergroups/ipr-adhoc/ope nstandards.html [itu.int] ). Finally, we note that the OpenDocument format itself is covered by essential patent claims owned by Sun for the OpenOffice.org XML File Format Specification, and that Sun licenses these essential claims under a royalty-free license that is quite similar to the Microsoft royalty-free license. (see Sun license at http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/office/ipr.ph p [oasis-open.org] ; also see comparison of Microsoft and Sun licenses at http://nfocentrale.net/orcmid/blog/2005/06/microso ft-ox-vsoasis-od-is-it-really.asp [nfocentrale.net] ).

In short, regardless of how one analyzes the issue, the conclusion is clear: The Microsoft XML-based formats are open formats that should be incorporated as accepted formats under the Commonwealth's policy.

Recommendations

1. Proposed Definition of "Open Formats"

Microsoft respectfully urges ANF to endorse the following definition of "open formats," one that would avoid the shortcomings in the ANF's definition of "open formats" contained in the proposed policy:

Open Formats are specifications for data file formats based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, and affirmed by a standards body; or de facto format standards controlled by other entities that are fully documented and available for public use under perpetual, royalty-free, and nondiscriminatory terms. (emphasis added)

In contrast to the proposed definition in the revised ETRM, this definition of open format is consistent with public pronouncements of ANF made just earlier this year.

2. Proposed Treatment of Microsoft Office XML File Formats

ANF should also reinstitute its prior conclusion that Microsoft's Office XML Reference Schemas qualify as open formats under the Commonwealth's policy. This conclusion is fully justified by the marketplace facts and the perpetual, royalty-free license that Microsoft has adopted for these formats, all of which demonstrates their true and enduring openness. To be perfectly clear, Microsoft is not endorsing adoption of its format as the sole or exclusive format in the ETRM. Rather, we encourage having OpenDocument and PDF as other accepted open formats. This approach is good for competition, and good for the Commonwealth and its citizens.

3. Incorporate a Dynamic Process in ETRM to Accommodate Future Developments

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.

If the Commonwealth is not prepared at this time to adopt the specific substantive recommendations set forth above, we ask that, at the very least the Commonwealth extend the comment period for an additional period of time sufficient to afford all interested parties an adequate opportunity to meaningfully review the proposal and provide thoughtful comments and that during this time it conduct and publish for comment a thorough evaluation of the costs and benefits associated with the proposed revisions to the ETRM before making any revisions to the current policy. Given the significant due process, cost, competing standards, and other considerations raised above, this is the minimal course the Commonwealth must take to properly and meaningfully study the potential impact of the unprecedented proposals it is contemplating.

Conclusion

Microsoft has serious concerns about the proposed revisions in the ETRM ver 3.5 regarding open formats. Most critically, if the revised ETRM's proposed definition of "open format" were adopted, numerous technologies that have been widely deployed throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and elsewhere across the globe would no longer be available for use by state executive agencies. This would have significant negative implications for the Commonwealth and would undermine the ANF's goal of controlling costs and fostering competition.

Moreover, there is no principled basis for the Commonwealth to adopt these unprecedented revisions -- which would abruptly reverse course from the reasonable one charted by the Commonwealth earlier this year, and prescribe an immature and untested open format as a complete replacement for well- established open formats, such as Microsoft Office's XML-based formats. Were this proposal to be adopted, the significant costs incurred by the Commonwealth, its citizens, and the private sector would be matched only by the levels of confusion and incompatibility that would result from the fact that the OpenDocument format is such a nascent and immature format.

Microsoft appreciates your consideration of these comments and the specific recommendations set out above and commends the Executive Office for Administration and Finance for its efforts to extend the use of XML throughout Massachusetts executive agencies. Microsoft stands ready to work with the ANF to further contribute to revising the ETRM to respond to the comments set forth above, and to engage fully and collaboratively with the ANF and other entities of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to promote the goals of interoperability and continued access to public records in the digital age.

Respectfully,

[Signature]

Alan Yates
General Manager
Microsoft Corporation

Cc:
Governor Mitt Romney
John O'Keefe

Footnotes

  1. The impact of this proposal extends far beyond Microsoft. For example, agencies that have chosen to make use of Corel software, such as the Massachusetts court system, will face similar challenges, and it is unknown how the proposed policy will adversely impact existing guidelines in place for such agencies, such as the Massachusetts court system's electronic submission guidelines.
  2. Some may argue that lower licensing costs associated with software technologies supporting the OpenDocument format counters the cost associated with the migration. Recent Gartner analyst reports, however, have documented examples where organizations who have closely evaluated the issues conclude that a move to alternative software has no defensible ROI; in fact, those organizations have concluded that the preferred approach was to maintain and continue deployment of Microsoft's most recent software technologies. See: A Financial Institution Sees No ROI on Desktop Linux In many cases, companies license technologies for "free" or at very low sales price in the hopes of making money on other related products and services including sales of complementary proprietary software and hardware and service contracts. There are a number of examples of government entities that migrated away from some of the software that will be supporting the OpenDocument format due to total cost of ownership (including testing and installing, and training costs) among other factors. to manage conversions of "non-compliant" documents and mapping of processes that work well today to new, untested systems. On a daily basis, state agencies would need to work with private sector organizations and citizens to devise ways to convert documents back and forth and to troubleshoot problems. One could also assume that other branches of the Commonwealth's government would incur substantial expenses in order to adapt IT systems to be able to interface with the overhauled systems of the executive branch.
  3. See J. Wilcox at http://www.microsoftmonitor.com/archives/010242.ht ml [microsoftmonitor.com] ("Considering the OpenDocument format is only truly supported by OpenOffice 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.
  4. Note that the need for additional testing of Linux and OpenOffice.org recently caused Munich to delay its migration to these products for a year. See http://news.com.com/Munichs+Linux+migration+slips+ to+2006/2100-7344_3-5850633.html [com.com] .
  5. See Enterprise IT Acquisition Policy. January 13, 2004 (available at http://www.mass.gov/portal/index.jsp?pageID=itdter minal&L=3&L0=Home&L1=Policies%2C+Standards+%26 [mass.gov] +Legal&L2=Open+Standards&sid=Aitd&b=terminalconten t&f=_policies_standards_it_acquisition_policy1&csi d=Aitd). For example, suppose that under such an objective analysis, Microsoft's Office product, including its XML-based file format, was the superior product under the Commonwealth's Enterprise IT Acquisition Policy. It would seem that the mandatory and exclusive nature of the revised ETRM directing agencies to purchase only applications that provide native conformance for OpenDocument would undermine this well-established Commonwealth policy.
  6. This is particularly true since the proposed policy requires use of OpenDocument as the default file format, which will only exacerbate the significant confusion and compatibility concerns Microsoft describes above in light of the inability of the OpenDocument format to fully and faithfully implement all the features in countless existing legacy documents.
  7. This current policy is also consistent with the conclusions set forth in the Commonwealth's June 9, 2005 "Open Formats Summit Notes" that 1) there is no one definition of the term "open" and rather there is a "continuum of openness," and 2) "among the issues to be considered in defining criteria for openness are licensing, functionality, interoperability, and open process (including peer review) for creating and maintaining the standard on which the format is based. Practical issues for the Commonwealth to consider in choosing the degree of openness to adopt are migration, backward and forward compatibility, and the marketplace."). Under this reasonable approach, particularly the criteria regarding licensing, functionality, interoperability, migration, backward and forward compatibility, and the marketplace, the Microsoft Office XML-based file formats clearly constitute an open format, as the Commonwealth rightly concluded.
  8. See Press Release on Microsoft Office 12 XML Formats (available at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2005/jun0 5/06-01OfficeXMLFormatPR.mspx [microsoft.com] ); FAQ on Microsoft Office Open XML Formats (available at http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/filefaq.ms px [microsoft.com] ). For more background on the Microsoft Office 12 Open XML-based file formats and a comparison to the OpenDocument format, see Brian Jones's blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/default.aspx [msdn.com] .
  9. The Microsoft Office 12 Open XML Formats will work for all those billions of Office documents that already exist today. Microsoft is going to provide bulk upgrade converters that allow you to easily convert from the binary formats into the XML formats. Everything that you could represent in the existing binary formats you will be able to represent in XML. This means all features and functionality that people have come to expect from their office products will be stored in XML. This was a huge undertaking as the Office applications are very large, and while most people only use certain features, each person uses a different set, and in the end all features are used.
  10. Thus, those who claim that OASIS welcomes every entity to participate and that Microsoft could have simply worked with OASIS's OpenDocument committee to ensure that its extensive feature set was represented in this new standard and that its substantive concerns (such as backward compatibility with legacy formats) were addressed are ignoring the plain realities of the situation. The OpenDocument format is essentially a commercial product backed by Sun and IBM masquerading as an open standard, and that there was no realistic possibility that this committee was interested in revising its specifications to address the features, backwards compatibility, and other serious issues that are at the heart of Microsoft's concerns regarding its existing customers.
  11. The Microsoft FAQ on this royalty-free license makes perfectly clear that any patent rights that Microsoft may have now or in the future that may cover its XML-based file formats will not give rise to lock-in concerns. See http://www.microsoft.com/Office/xml/faq.mspx [microsoft.com] .

K office reply also fud ? (0, Flamebait)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645764)

Maybe I missed it, but I read the K office reply, and it does not seem to me that the K office person actually addressed the issue at hand, which is the origin of the code base.
In fact, the K office reply was little more then standard PR speak.

back-patting (0, Troll)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645803)

This is sad to say, but...

you do realize this is mainly some gratuitous back-patting on the part of the OSS community, right?

I'd like to have some nice graphs to show you, but the 'alternate' office suites represent less than a smidgeon on the pie graph of office suits.

Mr Yates is going to take that letter, and promptly trash it without even reading it. Then he'll return to his real job: lobbying the gov for them to use Office, in the sake of 'interoperability'. And chances aren't ridiculous that he'd win. This IS the gov that basically called off the antitrust suite.

This letter will have absolutely no influence whatsoever on Microsoft. Except if they manage to have it taken up by some major publication, it won't have any readership out of the already converted geek community, us.

The starting point of contention is a 'minor' technical one, about the codebase of KOffice being distinct from Star/OpenOffice...

Back to work, guys.

Microsoft probably already has OpenDocument... (2, Insightful)

Lost+Found (844289) | more than 7 years ago | (#13645807)

I bet that Microsoft already has most if not all of the code laying around to implement OpenDocument. They'll claim not to support it, of course, in an attempt to kill it so that they can use their Microsoft XML format to put open source office tools in check. (Indeed, Microsoft's vast Windows monopoly in the enterprise is increasingly reliant on their Office monopoly). Assuming Massachusetts isn't the last state to standardize on OpenDocument, though, Office will support it. And I'm sure they'll be ready to play the standard 3 E's - embrace, extend (meaning the open source tools will mysteriously crash / improperly render Office-produced OpenDocument files), and extinguish.

You could call the Massachusetts decision a victory, and I think it is certainly deserving. Just know that Microsoft isn't as dumb as many people seem to think -- you better bet they're prepared to launch their next volley.
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