James O'Neill's Blog

February 14, 2007

Not exactly a valentine for IBM

Filed under: Linux / Open Source,Office — jamesone111 @ 7:56 pm

One of those odd coincidences. Back in January 26 when I was blogging about IBM FUD , I mentioned an Information Week Article where IBM made the assertion that “a so-called “open XML” platform file format, known as OOXML, is designed to run seamlessly only on the Microsoft Office platform.”. This is odd because companies like Corel and Novel are baking it into their products. Odd too that 20 out of 21 voting at ECMA voted for it if was not designed to be a standard.

On the same day Jerry Fishenden was writing about the same area on his blog. It’s a good read: here’s a snippet

“Watching the daily pantomime of what has happened with these Ecma Open XML file formats in the ISO process has made me realise that for some people this has never been about “open” and about interoperability and doing the right thing for the user. Instead, it seems to be about trying to build a prescriptive mandate for a single file format: ODF, the file format used by Open Office and Star Office. And blocking anything that might threaten that prescriptive model.”

Jerry can spot FUD when he sees it. The as I said before first step when looking to spread FUD is establishing credibility choosing the right name is critical if you are arguing in the domain of competing IT systems, it’s vital to work under a name which makes you sound Open and Interoperable, the Second step is to make assertions which go unchallenged, from which you can extrapolate.  Jerry spotted a couple of “great examples of the type of blatant, er, “terminological inexactitudes” (or “open double-standards” if you prefer) doing the rounds from an organisation known as “Open Forum Europe” (OFE). Great name for an IBM lobby group, that and they say “There are also serious doubts that the standard could be implemented outside the Microsoft environment, due to license requirements that are not made explicit.”

So we’ve made handed the format over to ECMA – who have passed it onto ISO, various people are implementing to it, but “licence requirements that have not been made explicit” mean some people have doubts   Who has doubts ? We don’t know. What Licence requirements ? No-one knows -they’re not explicit and only IBM seems able to see them. It helps IBM if people believe that Open XML is “Microsoft only” – even if a Microsoft backed site is plugging GPL code for working with Open XML in PHP. Of course Jerry knows what this is, he calls it “just plain old fashioned FUD.”

So much for a couple of weeks ago. Today we have published an OPEN LETTER which “shines a bright light on IBM’s activities” here are my 2 main take-aways

  • Microsoft does not oppose IBM’s chosen standard – ODF. We have ensured there is 3rd party support for ODF in Office 2007, which gives customers choice. By contrast IBM is working against customer choice. They’re lobbying to make ODF a requirement in public procurements. The members of the ECMA commitee had some serious clout, and who was the only one to vote against Open XML ? IBM, of course. They are now trying to stop ISO even considering it – on the grounds that ODF is already a standard. Should the first technology to the standards body, regardless of technical merit, get to preclude other related ones from being considered ? I don’t think so that would make “quick” better than good.  In any event there are multiple ISO standards for documents (e.g. PDF/A and HTML) and pictures (JPEG and PNG)
  • IBM is hypocritical on two counts. They claim to be for customer choice, but these actions show otherwise. And they pushed for Microsoft to standardize document formats and to make the related intellectual property available for free. We did this with Open XML. Then they try to block this at every turn.


Read the open letter for yourself. Keep it mind when you hear IBM talking about this subject.


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.


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