Open Office to Support Open XML?

by M. David Peterson

Why am I not surprised to hear claims of vaporware (not true, < I've built it and tested it myself), or comments such as,

Well, ODF was designed for people who use spreadsheets, word processors, and presentations. Open XML was designed for people who use Microsoft spreadsheets, word processors and presentations.


which should more correctly read,

26 Comments

Tim Bray
2006-07-07 16:43:21
Get a clue. OpenOffice.org has had import/export filters for every MS Office format back to the dawn of time, and can already open lots of vintage Office files that Office can't, any more. Do you have some inside information that would suggest they'll suddenly change their behavior and refuse to do it this time? If so, please share it. If not, please restrain your enthusiasm.
Jorge
2006-07-07 16:50:31
Yeah, WTF? OpenOffice does allow saving documents in a wide variety of Microsoft Office formats, despite the fact that they are completely closed and a hell lot of effort was required to import / export those format decently. Yes, they are not perfect, but that's MS's fault.
If OpenXML is indeed open, then it should be easy to add to OOo. It will be added, even if it turns out to be another cryptic mess of proprietary proportions. Converting between XML formats is relatively easy, but I'll bet you a million dollars that converting OpenXML to anything else will be a pain in the ass.
Inferior? There you have it.
M. David Peterson
2006-07-07 21:16:40
@Tim,


Nope, just have seen lots of accusations that MS is still in the wrong, and yet haven't seen anything even close to any action on the Oo.o side to do the same.


Why is it that MS can deliver the first implementation of support for the competition, and Oo.o can get away with having done nothing in regards to providing support, and yet MS is, yet again, the bad guy.


It's a load of crap, Tim, and I have hard time believing that you of all people still seems to have a problem with all of this.


YOU WON FOR GOD'S SAKE! You won this, you've won the war with RSS vs. Atom, why on earth is this not seen as a good thing?


[UPDATE] You even have won with APP support directly integrated into Word, and APP isn't even a standard yet! It's an important standard that I believe is going to knock the web into hyperspace when its released, but shouldn't there be some recognition to the fact that the three primary areas that you have dedicated the last 2 years of your life toward have all found their way into Microsoft products? I'm looking at this and thinking "DAMN! Tim Bray's touch is flat out golden" and you're looking at this and finding problems...


Why? You should be gloating right now at what you've accomplished, as its nothing short of miraculous. When you started this 2+ years ago, did you honestly believe that MS would have provided this much support in response to your efforts? If yes, then cool... You have good reason to be confident in your ability to pursuade the technical direction of an industry. If not, then all the better. But either way, YOU WON!

M. David Peterson
2006-07-07 21:20:58
@Jorge,


> Yes, they are not perfect, but that's MS's fault.


Huh? How in Hell's sake do you come to that conclusion? The formats are closed source, propietary formats, that were never designed to be implemented by the competition. And yet they were, and despite the fact that this was technically a copyright infringement, MS has never attempted to sue ANYONE for implementing support.


Why on earth is this then their fault that it was difficult to implement support? [UPDATE: That's like suggesting that it's the musicians fault for not making it easier for you to download their music illegally. While I'm a HUGE supporter of an open, free culture, free of DRM-like lock down controls, I don't think its the artists responsibility to make it as easy as possible for people to access their music, expect nothing in return, and if they don't do this, be considered evil because they aren't willing to work for free. Do you work for free? ]


> then it should be easy to add to OOo.


Let your actions speak. You're words are both pointless, and meaningless.

M. David Peterson
2006-07-07 22:15:54
@Tim,


BTW... While obviously this is somewhat heated debate, I do believe congratulations on your new one are in due order.


No matter what the situation is in the business world, family matters are simply at a MUCH higher level of importance, and a new child entering your home is obviously something that deserves both congratulations and respect.


So for what its worth, congratulations to you and your wife. Obviously this is an exciting time for you. My apologies if I have added any additional stress to your day! That's not my desire, and instead hoping to help showcase the fact that because of your efforts, the software world is a VASTLY different landscape than I think it EVER could have been without your efforts.


Thanks! I assure you I do hold a VERY high level of admiration and respect for you. It would take a lot more than a simple argument or disagreement to change that, something I really can't see EVER happening.

Bruce D'Arcus
2006-07-08 06:53:10
I'm with Tim on this one. Right now OOo supports not only a whole slew of Word binary formats, but also WordML (as well as DocBook, and a bunch of other formats Word does not suport). Given past history, I confidentally predict you'll see OXML support in OOo not long after it's finalized.


I actually give my kudos to MS on this one, but OTOH, it's not like they can't do more (say join the ODF TC to help interop, etc.).


Also, don't mistake my critiques of MS competitors (particularly OOo) as a ringing endorsement of MS. My point is simply that free software needs to be better than the commercial alternatives, rather than just free. I think OOo needs some changes to position them to do that though.

M. David Peterson
2006-07-08 07:39:32
@Bruce,


For the most part, I agree with you. But, for example,


> but OTOH, it's not like they can't do more


My only question is why isn't the same true in regards to the ODF folks working with the ECMA group heading up the development of Office Open XML? Or are they?


My BIGGEST complaint with all this is that I see all of these accusations, and expectations for MS to get more involved with ODF, but as far as I can tell, the same rules of interop don't seem to apply to the ODF side of the equation.


> Also, don't mistake my critiques of MS competitors (particularly OOo) as a ringing endorsement of MS. <


Never in a million years would I make that mistake. ;)


My point in bringing this up is that when it gets down to the bottom line of comparing tool against tool, Microsoft has come out on top, even in the opinion of folks such as yourself. What I am hoping to extract and encourage here can be summed up in my final statement,


> Then open up and compete.


I believe HEAVILY in competition. I know you do as well. My GREATEST hope is that the folks behind Oo.o will both listen and respond (in the marketplace with product instead of the blogosphere with trash talk, that is) to your final statement,


> My point is simply that free software needs to be better than the commercial alternatives, rather than just free. I think OOo needs some changes to position them to do that though. <


I couldn't agree with you more.

M. David Peterson
2006-07-08 07:51:12
One other question I do have... and this is an honest, flat out, simply want to understand where the future of Oo.o is headed type quetion...


Where is the incentive for investement into Oo.o such that it CAN compete with MS or any other retail office product such as Wordperfect?


I look at OSS products like Mono, and you can see immediatelly upon visiting the project home page, that they are beginning to really push the support aspect of the Mono platform, (via the "Commercially supported." link @ http://www.mono-project.com/Main_Page )


> For fast response to specific issues related to the Mono runtime, APIs and tools, developers can take advantage of the Mono Developer Support Service Requests from Novell that can be purchased as a developer support pack of 25 incidents (Mono Kickstart) along with one server or 50 desktop licenses for $12,995. Additional developer support incidents, server licenses and desktop licenses can be purchased separately. <


GREAT! Fantastic! GOOD for Novell and the entire hacker staff behind the Mono project for beginning to find ways to create a true business model off of free (as in open, anyone can add, subtract, multiply, and/or divide from the source code base) software.


If I'm an investor, or even if I am larger corporation who has been funding the development of Oo.o, such as Sun has been doing, I have to be asking myself,


Where's the incentive here to keep pouring more money into this?


We live in a capitolistic society, driven by the bottom line.


Where is Oo.o's bottom line? Where is the return on investment?

Jorge
2006-07-08 10:06:25
Ok, so let's recap. OOo implementing support for MS Office binary formats = evil. But now you're challenging them to implement support for "Open"XML, I guess because it has the word "open" on the name. Right...
Now, I'm not a copyright lawyer, but as far as I know it's OK to reverse engineer other people's software and format if it's for the sake of interoperability. In that case it's not MS being merciful but MS having their hands tied. Quite frankly I think they would have sued if they stood a chance. Quoting someone else: "Let your actions speak. You're words are both pointless, and meaningless."
I HOPE this format is in fact open and interoperable. I HOPE MS has learned the lesson and realized this is for the best interest of all users. I HOPE OOo implements this format (I'm pretty sure they will). Maybe some day we'll have separation of format and application. That was the idea of ODF. But if that format has to be OpenXML, so be it.
Bruce D'Arcus
2006-07-08 10:08:39
Re:


"My only question is why isn't the same true in regards to the ODF folks working with the ECMA group heading up the development of Office Open XML? Or are they?"


They are. There's at least one ODF TC member (from Novell) who is on the ECMA TC45, and he has been actively working with them to improve the spec, clarify gaps, etc.

Bruce D'Arcus
2006-07-08 10:20:11
"Where is Oo.o's bottom line? Where is the return on investment?"


I personally think that's a confusion even for Sun, since they have the open source OpenOffice, and the commercial product StarOffice, and there's tensions between them.


I think we all need to stop thinking about shrink-wrapped products and monolithic suites. The value for Sun, IBM, Google, Novell, etc. should be to have a state-of-the-art productivity suite that will ween people off Windows and Office; one that is good enough that noboody can ever not adopt Linux or Solaris or whatever because of the productivity story.


But I also think the same thing that might make such a proposition attractive to these companies (a fully independent OOo, a la Mozilla) is also one that would likely make it attractive for other large organizations: foundations, universities, governments, etc.

Peter Ring
2006-07-08 15:24:03
I don't care much for Microsoft bashing. But I do care for 21st century productivity, and there are worse problems than the 'fidelity' of Word documents. A substantial part of most Word documents is actually crap and noise that you wouldn't want to reproduce and preserve if you had the choice.
I've been wasting much to much time wrestling with Word documents "because Word is what people know how to use". Tell you what -- they don't. Most people don't even use Word as a word processor, but rather as a letter processor, and never as a document processor.
I suspect that an open exchange and storage format will not by itself change much in that respect. Binary Word.8/9/10 crap, RTF 1.6 crap, Open XML crap or ODF crap, what's difference?
I appreciate the needs of anyone with responsibilities for long-lived documents (and consequently also the needs of those who want to challenge Microsoft Office's incumbency). But for me, the real advantage of ODF as well as Open XML is that it will be much easier to eradicate the crap from office documents.
M. David Peterson
2006-07-09 06:42:47
@Jorge,


> OOo implementing support for MS Office binary formats = evil


Never said that. Never implied that. You are attempting to suggest that my tounge in cheek criticism can be rearrange and applied back as a real criticism.


Add this to,


> Now, I'm not a copyright lawyer, but as far as I know it's OK to reverse engineer other people's software and format if it's for the sake of interoperability.


And what we have here in someone who needs to be spending their time learning about life in the real world, instead of writing about life in some virtual fantasy world he's made up in his head and insists on pushing the idea that, in fact, its the rest of the world thats dillusional.


Think its time to take your meds, Jorge.

M. David Peterson
2006-07-09 06:53:50
> They are. There's at least one ODF TC member (from Novell) who is on the ECMA TC45, and he has been actively working with them to improve the spec, clarify gaps, etc. <


Well in that case, then the criticism that MS should be actively involved in ODF is a fair one. Obviously a solid MS representation as part of the ODF working group for (at very least!) the sake of format interop is going to be good for both base of customers, and can't see any *real* reason why such an act would complicate matters in any *real* way.


Fair enough...


I will say that with Redmond providing as much shock value as they have the past year or so, at this stage if I were to hear they joined the group "shocked" is not a word I would be able to use to describe my reaction.


But I'll hold off from committing to this reaction until such time as it actually happens :)

M. David Peterson
2006-07-09 07:14:47
> I think we all need to stop thinking about shrink-wrapped products and monolithic suites. <


I'm not thinking of it in this way... Wrap it in a brown paper bag next to a 40 for all I care, if I'm not paying for something then there is no financial incentive for the manufacturer. Be it a bag of M&M's or this months issue of Rolling Stone, at some point somewhere along the way, the company who has paid for manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and marketing (to name only a few... there's obviously more expense incurred than just these) is going to want to get something back in return for the expenses incurred. And if that company wants to be around for very long, and even further, would like to grow their product and their customer base, that "something back in return" better be enough to allow for a profit to be extracted, else there simply will not be opportunity to do such "lavish" things such as growth, as to re-invest in this product will require even more capital from an ever growing group of weary investors.


> The value for Sun, IBM, Google, Novell, etc. should be to have a state-of-the-art productivity suite that will ween people off Windows and Office; <


It's a nice idea, but then what? If I'm IBM, or Google, or Novell, or Sun, or whoever, once the weening has taken place, there needs to be in its place opportunity to make not only money, but profit. Where is that profit going to come from? If you've just successfully weened the world off of a product like Office by giving away a product like Oo.o, your next task requires you now ween this same group of folks off of a free Office suite and into something thats not so much free, and instead.... Not free.


The day that happens is the day World World III begins, and Sun, IBM, Google, Novell are all now in the "Defense Business", investing whats left of their now all but tapped financial reserves in bomb shelters and gas masks.

M. David Peterson
2006-07-09 07:26:11
@Peter,


> But for me, the real advantage of ODF as well as Open XML is that it will be much easier to eradicate the crap from office documents. <


I think you can feel comfort in knowing you are most definitely not alone in this feeling. I think Bruce said it best,


"Nowhere do I see people rethinking what productivity should be in the 21st century"


Actually, I do think that if ANYONE is showing signs of rethinking about productivity it's Microsoft.


Everyone else, again, from Bruce, "Is chasing MS's taillights."


His point is a valid one, and from my own interpretation of what he means (Bruce will need to clarify if, in fact, this is at least part of what he means by this) it seems he's suggesting that chasing taillights does nothing to advance the "Science of Software" and everything to stay exactly the same as it has been since MS took the lead back in the late 80's/early 90's.


Bruce?

M. David Peterson
2006-07-09 12:52:22
Another person who both understands and recognizes both the need for change, and the fact that MS is about to take a significant leap ahead of where everyone else is in the Office Suite space, is Rick Jelliffe. If you truly want to understand this kind of thing from and insiders perspective, add both Ricks > http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/feed/31?au=1712 < and Bruce's > http://netapps.muohio.edu/blogs/darcusb/darcusb/feed/rdf/ < web feeds to your aggregator. Both of these folks will provide for you a straight forward perspective, focused entirely on the advancement of the industry as a whole, instead of the individual products in and of themselves. Put another way, neither is afraid to both praise and/or bash as necessary, either side of the Office Suite fence.


*MOST* of my own understanding of the various issues involved with this process (advancing the Office Productivity Suite industry) comes from these two folks.

Bruce D'Arcus
2006-07-09 14:24:43
> If I'm IBM, or Google, or Novell, or Sun, or whoever, once the weening has taken place, there needs to be in its place opportunity to make not only money, but profit. Where is that profit going to come from? <


Hardware, services (in particular), custom solutions, advertising? Pick your choice.


We all know by now there's a market for solutions based around free software, and it's only a matter of time before things gel in the productivity area. Does anyone really believe in 10 years we'll be buying Office? I doubt even Bill does.


Of course, we might well be paying for online services, and examples like the new DabbleDB are pretty impressive examples of what that might look like.

len
2006-07-10 07:08:18
IMO, Sun SHOULD start thinking harder about shrinkwrap. They need more software products to sell for a profit and to quit assuming the high cost burdens of open source automatically return profits.


I salute their intentions but I don't own any of their stock. It may be time for Sun to take care of business particularly if Microsoft is stepping up to some of its community obligations.

M. David Peterson
2006-07-10 08:05:55
@Bruce,


Oh, I agree... there are ways to make money from free (as in price) software. My point for bringing this up is that while I see TONS of other companies experimenting with innovative ways to provide free access/usage of software applications, Sun/Oo.o isn't one of them.


In what seems as such an ironic collection of interwoven statements, if you want to *compete* in the business of providing software for *free*, you need to find a way to make *free software*, *profitable*.


I'll ask the question again, because it needs to be answered (yes, you've provided several possibilities, but Sun/Oo.o isn't using ANY of them... At least not yet.)


Where is Oo.o's bottom line? Where is the return on investment?


-- or, in other words --


If longevity of document format is one of the key advantages of what ODF brings to the table, how can any of us be insured that there will be both incentive and interest to continue providing a version of Oo.o (free as in price, or not free as in price... either one is fine by me), which for obvious reasons, is the only application that we can all rest, reasonably assured, will provide support for ODF.


It seems to me that if Oo.o is not funded/financially supported by something OTHER than Sun's good will towards man, then the whole ODF "longevity advantage" isn't so much an advantage as it is a liability. (e.g. you promised us document format longevity... You better make sure that this happens or ... (I'm sure you can fill in the blank with plenty of interesting twists to the whole ODF plot)

M. David Peterson
2006-07-10 08:13:08
@len,


I could not *agree* with you more than I do. This is something that needs to be answered... Not from the standpoint of trying to belittle or make light of what Oo.o and ODF bring to the table, and instead to try to jump start the talks as to how "free software" can survive in a world where the bottom line requires dollars and sense(sic).

len
2006-07-11 06:39:11
The document formats contest is pretty public. The test of Microsoft's commitments will come in the graphics languages. As I've said elsewhere, I want to see them pick up the X3D plug in particularly now that Media Machines has open sourced the Flux source. That should be an ideal place for them to start.


Opinions vary on the best graphics technology, but the truth is there isn't one best vector format. They do different things well. X3D is a scene graph approach which is a proven way to do real time 3D that is easy enough for simple things and reasonable for hard things. VRML/X3D has stayed alive in the wild for a decade now despite many efforts to kill it, so I assert it has earned it's right at the table and in the distribution.


We'll see how this goes.

Jorge
2006-07-11 21:09:23
I find your lack of respect (and answers) absolutely impressive. You, sir, are a fucking idiot.
M. David Peterson
2006-07-12 10:01:27
Respect *CAN* be a two way street, Jorge. You're representation of what you believe to be reality is so far off from what reality truly is, that respect is not something I can pay. When you make attempt to twist and turn my own words into words that make it *seem* like I was saying something that I wasn't,


It pisses me off.


No respect is given for people who purposely twist and turn my words into something that they're not, and furthermore attempts to make me look like the fool with the attempted "switch."


Attempts such as this, don't deserve any respect. It seems you believe they do.


You, sir, are wrong. Sorry. But you are.

M. David Peterson
2006-07-12 10:08:30
@len,


> We'll see how this goes.


Yeah, this is an interesting space to watch for sure. :D

sedum Blackpool
2007-03-15 03:36:09
Why am I not surprised to hear claims of vaporware (not true, such as,
I do not agree. Go to http://www.docareers.info/incinerate_United%20Kingdom/utmost_England/sedum_Blackpool_1.html