Tag Archives: opendocument

Real and Fake Document Formats

OpenDocument is the OASIS and ISO approved international document standard. It is based on a zip file containing XML files, and so is remarkably easy to access. With the old, proprietary document standards, you were always worried that the company would change its way of creating files, giving you files that your programs could no longer open. Because OpenDocument’s standard is open and easy to implement (the zip file), that is no longer a problem.

Of course, the monopoly of a fixed and secret standard has helped Microsoft’s business a lot. So even though Microsoft Office supports old formats that others have almost figured out (doc, xcl, ppt, etc), as well as OpenDocument (albeit grudgingly, because of laws that some governments have), they have attempted to create their own incompatible version, OOXML.

OOXML is so hard to implement, even Microsoft doesn’t do it correctly!

While the full story insider deals and irregular processes is too long to go into here, Microsoft keeps meeting resistance in its attempt to create a second and incompatible uniform standard:

Slashdot | India Third to Appeal ISO’s OOXML Approval
“India is now the third country to appeal the ISO’s approval of OOXML, with their appeal arriving just before the deadline last night. According to PC World, this makes OOXML the first BRM process under ISO/JTC 1 to be appealed, which leaves us in uncharted territory. Although there was substantial confusion in the comments on yesterday’s story,

OpenDocument is currently supported by OpenOffice, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, KOffice, AbiWord, and many other office productivity applications. OOXML is supported by nobody, not even Microsoft.

The Challenges of OpenOffice, the Rise of OpenDocument

News today that KDE’s open source “KOffice” will be coming to Windows next year. The situation continues to get more complex for OpenOffice, which saw forks to both IBM Lotus Symphony and Go-OO in the past few weeks. The future of OpenOffice.org as the premier open-source office productivity distribution may be in doubt.

But things can’t be better for OpenDocument, the open standard for sharing information that was pioneered by OpenOffice and is the default format of OpenOffice, KOffice, Go-OO, and Symphony. By standardizing on what a document is, the artificial monopolies around word processors, spread sheets, and presentations are torn down, allowing the competition to center around what-is-best and not merely what-was-possible.

I first fell in love with an early version of OpenDocument while working on my computer science thesis, taught it in classes to college seniors, and even use it to save and export from GoogleDocs. Whatever the fate of OpenOffice.org itself, the ISO and OASIS standard OpenDocument format that it pioneered is the future of infoworker data interchange.

IBM Lotus Symphony

How cool is this:

“Lotus Symphony is based on the Open Document Format (ODF) standard-which means you’re not locked into proprietary file formats, software licensing agreements and upgrades. Finally, free tools and freedom of choice!”

And this:

Besides committing 35 China developers to OpenOffice.org, IBM plans to make its voice heard — immediately and loudly. IBM will “work within the leadership structure that exists,” said Sean Poulley, vice president of business and strategy in IBM’s Lotus Software division. “But we will take our rightful leadership position in the community along with Sun and others.”

A boost for open source software (OpenOffice.org), a boost for open standards (OpenDocument), free trade in services, and retro (I was confused how the new Lotus Symphony would relate to Lotus SmartSuite, until learning that there had not been a new SmartSuite since 1999!

Elsewhere online: CNET has a factually incorrect hit-piece (among other errors, Google Docs supports OpenDocument just fine). And Dana Blankehorn examines IBM’s wider open source strategy.

Japan helps reduce the cost of Information Connectivity

Props to Japan for being the first country in asia to adopt the OpenDocumentFormat. Part of globalization is work on building global public goods, that everyone can benefit from. The OpenDocument format is an example of such a good, because more people will be able to access government information and services without paying rents to Microsoft.

Good show!

Microsoft Drinks from the Cup of Love

My final post in Jesusism-Paulism — “Embrace and Extend“” — is getting good press throughout the blogosphere. Castle Argghhh, Dreaming 5GW, and Spooky Action have already commented on my comparison between Microsoft and early Christianity. Now I will give a specific example of how “love” can be given too strongly and too early – in other words, inappropriately — if one’s OODA loops is too slow.

But love conquers all, and resilient love — love that, when rebuffed, merely loves stronger — unexpected love — is a powerful weapon.

In the words of Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong
,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so men are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them
.

The message of Christianity, and the means of Microsoft, is this: your enemy expects resistence. A fool fights fair.

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Instead, give your enemy love.

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Conquer him.


The Observe-Orient-Decide-Act cognition cycle was devised by John Boyd. I have previously described the OODA loop in detail and re-drew it to ease understanding:


Note how “Decide” Is Optional

The secret to the OODA loop is that one can completely skip Decide — one can avoid conscious thought altogether. This allows one to transient quickly from one OODA state to another, allowing one to cut one’s enemy and change posture before the enemy can react in the first place. Chet Richards described samurai Miyamoto Musashi’s strategy similarly:

The focus, however, is never on defending, but on regaining and using the initiative so that you can lead your opponents where you want them to be.

Now, back to Microsoft:

Some years ago it became clear that there was energy in favor of moving to standard, XML methods for storing data. While XML-style standards are hardly a new idea (going back to the 1950s), the correlation of forces had finally swung in a strcutured, standard direction. Microsoftobligingly loved XML standards, creating OfficeOpenXML as the new standard file format for Microsoft Office.

OfficeOpenXML is a perfect example of the embrace & extend philosophy, which takes up the form of an enemy in order to destroy the enemy’s intent. It apperas similar to OpenDocument, originally just the native file format of OpenOffice, and has features such as:

  • A 6,000 page specification document
  • Internal contradictions, such as standard functions that behave differently in different applications
  • Purposefully incorrect statements, such as describing 1900 as a leap year
    Internally and externally incoherent methods of describing numbers and percentages

20 official responses were received by the International Standards Organization on OfficeOpenXML. One (Romania’s) was favorable,14 (Australia’s, Canada’s, Czechia’s, Denmark’s, France’s, Germany’s, Japan’s, Kenya’s, Malaysia’s, New Zealand’s, Singapore’s, Sweden’s, and the United Kingdom’s) were negative, and five (Hungary’s, India’s, Italy’s, Netherland’s, and Norway’s) were ambivalent.

In the same way that Christians adopted Easter and December 25th as festivals, while stripping them of their original meaning and forcing those dates to serve the Church, Microsoft adapts a structured XML standard to defeat the purpose of standards. Nonetheless, Microsoft’s political muscle got OfficeOpenXML fast-tracked for approval. So far, a perfect victory.

However, since OfficeOpenXML was originally proposed OpenDocument has become an OASIS, ISO, and IEC Standard, and supported by Google’s online word processor. Microsoft now faces a market with three major file formats:

  • DOC/XLS/PPT — the old standards for Microsoft Office which are widely used
  • OpenDocument – Microsoft’s main file format competitor, ratified by numerous standards bodies
  • OfficeOpenXml – Microsoft’s new, preferred file format, neither widely used nor recognized as a standard

This bad situation could have been avoided if Microsoft had been more agile — if it had been able to cycle through the OODA loop faster or had been able to embrace OpenDocument once it emerged. In the frist case, it would have been able to pre-empt OpenDocument by getting OfficeOpenXML rapidly confirmed as a standard. In the second case, it could have merely “embraced and extended” OpenDocument by creating its own version.

Nowadays, the only valid options for Microsoft appear to be a conventional attack (trying as hard as possible to defeat OpenDocument with OfficeOpenXML) or a loving attack on OpenDocument specifically (abandoning OfficeOpenXML, and merely creating a slightly incompatible version of OpenDocument). Microsoft is resilient, so my money is on abandoning their failed effort and trying to love OpenDocument to death. Microsoft tried this before. In the early days of the browser wars, Microsoft Internet Explorer identified itself to web sites as “Internet Explorer” through the standard user agent string mechanism. When it became clear this would not work, because Netscape was conventionally more poewrful, Microsoft Internet Explorer attacked Netscape unconventionally by identifying IE as a Netscape browser.

To defeat Netscape, Microsoft embraced and extended Netscape. To defeat OpenDocument, Microsoft will abandon her efforts to defeat OpenDocument and instead embrace and extend.

Microsoft will not cut off the ear of her enemy’s slave, but she will drink from the cup given to her.