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Microsoft Just Says No to .Doc Replacement Panel 569

Schlemphfer writes "OASIS is a nonprofit consortium backed by top technology companies, and the purpose of this organization is to set open standards for desktop and business software. They've just announced a working group that will create an XML-based document format standard for openoffice.org. And even though Microsoft is a member of Oasis, they aren't going to be taking part in this group. It's a logical move on Bill's part, considering that standardized XML docs are sure to weaken the hold that Microsoft's proprietary .doc format has on business software."
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Microsoft Just Says No to .Doc Replacement Panel

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  • SURPRISE! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:30PM (#4725153) Homepage Journal
    Yes, MS isn't going to open up one of its proprietary license. Especially one that is so widely used. If this comes as a surprise, you need to soak your head.

    But, I guess everyone will have a great time bashing MS for doing the obvious...
    • Expecting M$ to openup .doc formant or to use a Open format is like expecting Saddam to disarm.
      it ain't happening any time soon fellas.
      Sure they will allow the inspectors in ..
    • Re:SURPRISE! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Exmet Paff Daxx ( 535601 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:42PM (#4725280) Homepage Journal
      I believe you've misunderstood the article. This isn't about Microsoft publishing specs to their .DOC format (which Kotar-Kotelly's Final Decree requires them to do) but rather their unwillingness to participate in the creation in a new format that will be the doom of Microsoft Word.

      As you say, hardly surprising, but it's important to note the details.
      • Re:SURPRISE! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pknoll ( 215959 ) <slashdot DOT pk AT grapefish DOT org> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:17PM (#4725610)
        Replacing Word's default file save format won't "doom" Word. 99% of the people who use Word don't know nor do they care what format the saved file is in, so long as the people they send the file to can read it.

        Hmm... maybe I've just made your point for you. =) The albatross around Microsoft's neck has sort of always been that backward compatibility, hasn't it?

      • Re:SURPRISE! (Score:4, Informative)

        by BurritoWarrior ( 90481 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:47PM (#4725853)
        "This isn't about Microsoft publishing specs to their .DOC format (which Kotar-Kotelly's Final Decree requires them to do) "

        No it doesn't. It talks about protocols, not file formats.
      • "...This isn't about Microsoft publishing specs to their .DOC format (which Kotar-Kotelly's Final Decree requires them to do)..."

        Where does the format of a .doc file fall under the Final Decree? I don't think you can justly say that a .doc file is a 'middle-ware' application, nor is it a 'communications protocol'. I don't think the the .doc file communicates with a 'Windows Operating System Product' now does it?

        Don't believe me? Read it for yourselves.
        Final Decree [usdoj.gov]
  • Besides (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suman28 ( 558822 ) <(suman28) (at) (hotmail.com)> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:30PM (#4725156)
    I was under the impression that Microsoft Office 11 was promoting their own??? version of XML. If that is the case, I am sure that BillG wouldn't want anything else as a standard
    • Re:Besides (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrResistor ( 120588 ) <peterahoff@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:38PM (#4725232) Homepage
      Office 11 will have an XML format available, but the default will still be .doc.

      • Re:Besides (Score:4, Funny)

        by WhiteKnight07 ( 521975 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:52PM (#4725368)
        Office 11 will have an XML format available...

        I can see it now....

        <?MSXML version="1.0">
        <data>
        $%G)FKJ#$&F_CGKASK!^HAD*+ZXL:P::?......
    • Re:Besides (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:58PM (#4725430) Homepage
      Why do people think XML is a panacea for proprietary document formats?

      [Insert binary blob of data that is currently a .doc file here]

      Lookeee! Now it's XML. Isn't that so much better?

      No, I don't think MS is going to do anything that awful, but realize that XML is not magic. It does nothing by itself to make a document more open. If you have lookup table values in the XML data then you're still screwed unless you know what the actual lookup table is. You can have utterly meaningless tags with random data in it. If you don't have agreements on what fields actually mean then all you have is content without value. Yay.

      Frankly, all XML really does is explode a file's size by encapsulating data with tags. Whoop de doo. You have to have a rigorous and complete document specification, and while a DTD may fulfill that need it doesn't always. With a rigorous and complete spec though then XML is redundant - you can just as easily parse a binary file at that point. And look! You can do it with less memory and CPU. Funny that.
      • Re:Besides (Score:5, Insightful)

        by smallpaul ( 65919 ) <paul&prescod,net> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:47PM (#4725859)

        Frankly, all XML really does is explode a file's size by encapsulating data with tags. Whoop de doo. You have to have a rigorous and complete document specification, and while a DTD may fulfill that need it doesn't always. With a rigorous and complete spec though then XML is redundant - you can just as easily parse a binary file at that point.

        That's just false. With a rigorous and complete specification for a language you still have to write a parser for that language. But with XML, you use one of the dozen off-the-shelf parsers, including the one that probably ships with your operating system or browser. Guess what, these office documents will probably work _out of the box_ with pre-existing XML browsers (Mozilla, IE 6) and CSS stylesheets. Or at worse, an XSLT could do the transformation on either the client or server side. The virtue of standards is that you can leverage standard tools.

        A binary file format would typically need a binary plugin.

      • Re:Besides (Score:3, Interesting)

        Frankly, all XML really does is explode a file's size by encapsulating data with tags...

        Actually, in my experience, OpenOffice's compressed XML files are smaller than their MS .doc equivalents.

      • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @05:02PM (#4725981) Homepage

        Because XML is highly compressible, use of XML does not necessarily increase file size. The Gnome apps that use XML data formats store it compressed as gzip; I just took a typical small Excel spreadsheet, which takes 20.5 kbytes in Excel format, and saved it in the Gnumeric XML-based format: it's 3K. Uncompressed, it's 37K, but that doesn't matter, as the uncompressed format is never kept either in disk or in memory all at one time.

  • by somethingwicked ( 260651 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:31PM (#4725163)
    How many of you would participate in training your own replacement when you have no desire to leave???

    Especially, if it meant as you replacement did more work, it meant your paycheck was incrementally decreased...

    • Really? I've always found that training my replacement earns me appreciation from my workplace, makes me more valuable to the employer, and free's me to work on bigger and better things (usually with corresponding increase in compensation).

      Heyy, you aren't one of those idiot job security programmers who believes that obfuscated source actually helps you keep your job are you?
    • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @06:46PM (#4727020) Homepage Journal

      OPEC decides not to support Solar and Wind power generation standards,

      RIAA chooses WAV files as the new digital music standard for best interoperability,

      Disney suggests donating all Copyrighted works created prior to 1996 entered into the Public Domain,

      NSA injects every wiretapped communication with a pre-taped public service announcement consisting of celebrity voiceovers reciting the Fourth Amendment in languages such as Farsi, Hindi and Mandarin.

  • by ryants ( 310088 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:31PM (#4725168)
    How did:
    Microsoft ... has decided to take a "wait and see" approach with the working group ...
    turn into
    Microsoft Just Says No to .Doc Replacement Panel
    ?

    Do the /. editors have access to some special Babelfish plugin the rest of us aren't privy to?

  • It makes sense. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zmalone ( 542264 ) <wzm@pylae.cCOFFEEom minus caffeine> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:35PM (#4725198) Homepage
    Why should Microsoft change formats? They are presently in a position (in regards to office software) where they can force their own "standards" on everyone else. They continue to dominate because there are not reliable, transparent converters. If they were to adopt a document format where other companies software could edit documents created by Word, there would be little reason to stay with Office. I personally always use plaintext wherever I can, I don't want to rely on any document format (no matter how common) to continue to exist for long periods of time.
  • XDocs... (Score:4, Informative)

    by burnsy ( 563104 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:35PM (#4725200)
    Microsoft isn't standing still. See XDocs [microsoft.com].

    "XDocs," the code name for a new product in the Microsoft Office family, streamlines the process of gathering information by enabling teams and organizations to easily create and work with rich, dynamic forms. The information collected can be integrated with a broad range of business processes because XDocs supports any customer-defined XML schema and integrates with XML Web services. As a result, XDocs helps to connect information workers directly to organizational information and gives them the ability to act on it, which leads to greater business impact.

  • But what about... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arloguthrie ( 318071 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:35PM (#4725201) Homepage
    ...the whole .NET thing? I thought the whole purpose of it was to put file formats into XML so that document data, defined by its metadata, could then be used all over the place no matter what application wants it? According to this C|Net article [com.com]:
    The company is adopting Extensible Markup Language (XML) as a second file format in all Office applications, to enable better data exchange between the productivity suite and back-end software, such as databases. This "opening up" of Office could end Microsoft's lock on document file formats that have boosted Office sales in years past and made the software the de facto standard for desktop productivity.
    So if this is Microsoft's plan, then why wouldn't they want to be on this panel and strongarm them into using their particular metadata to describe documents? Please forgive me if I'm being naive. I'm truly curious.
    • Re:But what about... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bay43270 ( 267213 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @05:14PM (#4726097) Homepage
      The paragraph you quote is over simplifying what MS is doing. Word will read ANY xml format and it's schema. The user then can alter the text (with xml validation showing up as text highlighting). When you save, you have the option of a plain XML format (just the xml that conforms to the schema) or a Word version of the xml (sorry I don't know the MS terms). The Word version of the document contains the original XML format as well as MS proprietary XML. All the MS tags are in their own namespace, so the XML is still valid.

      It's really a very cool idea. Your Word templates can reference Schema elements; so non programmers can create the template. Anyone who knows how to use Word will be able to make a form that interfaces with existing XML formats.
  • That way we replace both .doc and .pdf at once.
  • by Cuchullain ( 25146 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:40PM (#4725253) Homepage
    Proven in court. Why would they turn away from monopolistic behavior when their punishment for it is negligable?

    Office is the cash cow, and they have done their best to eliminate viable competition.

    The only reason that Corel Wordperfect lives on is the legal community, and a few bullheaded supporters that will not change. (not that refusal to change is bad in this case.)

    Why would anyone logically think that they would embrace a standard that will put their competitors on an equal playing field?

    A standard that they cannot "extend" easily at this point without lots of bad publicity.

    I think that they are going to "wait and see" if it flies, then embrace and extend it after it sticks. It is in their benefit to wait for it to fail, or for more time between their conviction and their extension of this standard. They don't want to get their hand slapped again so soon.

    Cuchullain
    • Office is the cash cow, and they have done their best to eliminate viable competition.

      I can understand how they've done their best to eliminate the competition with regards to browsers and operating systems ... but Office??

      Does anyone have any actual details on what they did with Office that was so anticompetitive?

      Propiatory document formats as a reason don't cut it, other manufacturers use that sort of thing (insert any non-MS package under the sun here) - the only reason it's so widespread is because of the massive take up of Word at a time when the competition was, quite frankly, rubbish.

      But I've never read anything about them exercising anti-competitive behavours with word - more that the entire world and his dog have become so entrenched with the .doc format, that MS don't need to actually do anything.

  • something that can open .doc and the new standard.

    Call the new standard .qbp or .epd
  • Er (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MisterFancypants ( 615129 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:42PM (#4725278)
    This just in, Sun says No to Java standardization! My point being...BFD? Of course Microsoft isn't keen to join up. Just like any other for-profit company wouldn't join a committee whose purpose was to weaken their market position...
  • Anyone noticed that (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nenolod ( 546272 ) <nenolod AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:43PM (#4725289) Homepage
    this is the third article concerning microsoft today? At this rate, we will have 6 - 8 articles concerning MS by the end of the day. How wierd is that?

    Also, the other thing no one has really noticed has been that Office XP has it's own XML document specification. Even they are starting to get away from the proprietary format.
  • by conan_albrecht ( 446296 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:46PM (#4725316)
    IMHO, Microsoft's closed office formats are the basis for its monopoly in the Office market. I love LaTeX and use it when I author articles myself. But when I work with others, guess what? I have to use Word.

    I've tried using LaTeX with several groups and each group has decided to move back to Word. It is just too familiar, too standard.

    The sad part is that I absolutely hate Word as much as I dislike any other program. It has nothing to do with my feelings towards MS. Word is just a poorly done program.

    In the real business world, Office will be king until MS opens its format. StarOffice (which I've used quite a bit) is nice, but at 99.5% compatability, it just isn't good enough. No one wants to lose a business deal because they don't use the standard.

    I highly doubt MS will ever release its hold on the Office formats. Of course, they are going to XML, but that doesn't mean the format will be open and readable to competitors.
    • LaTeX has some problems for automatic tools, stemming from the fact that it's actually a scripting language. In many cases, this causes major problems for collaboration. TeX does really nice layout, and it's kind of cool that LaTeX can be written entirely in TeX, but there are problems with using the same thing to write both LaTeX and your document.

      So the failure of (La)TeX to take over the whole world doesn't mean that a document format which would permit the use of a Word-like program would also fail.
  • Just like Unix took over the proprietary OSs on large systems, XML will eliminate proprietary file formats.

    Why?

    Because the major corporate customers know that proprietary products screw consumers in the long and possibly short run.

    If anyone is still in the dark on how a proprietary single source for technology can screw your company, just look at the price increases, license changes and other efforts by Microsoft to screw its own customer base during tough times.

    You might expect Microsoft to raise prices and tighten up terms during good times. But, the idiots running Microsoft are so dumb and stupid (that means Gates and Ballmer) that they do so during difficult times.

    It is proof positive to avoid doing business with Microsoft Corporation.

    Any business.

    After all they are looking for more partners to screw.

    Do not blame me for the decisions made by Microsoft Corporation. Blame Gates and Ballmer.
  • by Khalid ( 31037 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:48PM (#4725338) Homepage
    Have a look at this http://www.1dok.org/eng/index.html

    The site says : 1dok.org is part of a programme of the Ministry of Economics, Technology and Transport (MWTV) and the Schleswig- Holstein Technology Foundation (TSH) funded out of the Innovative Actions of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) by the European Commissions GD Regio.

    I believe their intention is to base it on OpenOffice format, they want to make it the official office data format for the German government, and may later for all the Europen governments.
  • by Cyran0 ( 628243 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:51PM (#4725353)
    It's not that Microsoft didn't *want* to contribute. Here's their proposed DTD:

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:51PM (#4725354)
    Once a standards based XML document format is formalized, Microsoft will boldy announce that Office has full support for reading and writing the format. What they won't tell their customers is that when Office writes out such documents, they will most likely embed "custom" features that "extend" the standard that non MS applications will have difficulty understanding and without which things just won't quite look right, thus locking MS Office users in to the same dilemma they have now.

    BUT, this can be avoided IF the standards committe carefully structures the standard in such a way to prevent custom incompatible extensions and that any application not adhering to the standard cannot advertise itself as compliant or able to read/write such documents. A good trademark owned by the standards body would assist in enforcing this. Then Microsoft would have to choose either to implement it openly, or not fully support it. This would at least force them to be honest.
  • by elflord ( 9269 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:54PM (#4725385) Homepage
    To address some of the way off-the-mark posts in this thread:

    Isn't Microsoft .doc format based on XML already?

    Yes, but this doesn't really help a whole lot. XML is a standard for designing document formats, it is not a format in its own right. The fact that Microsoft's format is "based on XML" really only says that they will use HTML-like tags <foo>some text here</foo>, it doesn't say that how their word processor will interpret those tags, or even what the tags will be, etc.

    What's wrong with RTF or straight-up ascii?

    Try embedding a spreadsheet in RTF, and get back to us (is this question for real ?)

    I was under the impression that Microsoft Office 11 was promoting their own??? version of XML. If that is the case, I am sure that BillG wouldn't want anything else as a standard

    No, Microsoft are using their own document format. It's not a "version of XML", XML is a specification for writing document formats. It isn't a format in its own right. Bill couldn't care less if something else became standard, but the issue here is convenience. Microsoft may want to be able to add tags to their document format, as they add features to their software. It's really a case of the "not invented here" syndrome -- everyone likes to invent their own format. Even with standards like POSIX, C++, C, and HTML, any vendor of consequence adds their own vendor extensions.

    Yes, MS isn't going to open up one of its proprietary license. Especially one that is so widely used. If this comes as a surprise, you need to soak your head.

    "Proprietary licenses" are not the issue here. Microsoft are moving to an XML based format, and they already allow developers access to documentation for their formats. Moving to XML will make their formats more accesible -- it might not make much difference to a serious implementor, but it will make it much easier for the average perl hacker to do something with their documents.

    The issue is that MS don't want someone else controlling the format that their software uses. It's simply more convenient if you have complete control over the specifications of your format. Compatibility requires some discipline, and possibly a certain amount of inconvenience. Whether or not that inconvenience is worthwhile depends on the merits of the format, which is why Microsoft are playing "wait and see".

    In any case, I doubt Microsoft would use a standard format as their native format, at best they would base their native format on a standard and add a bunch of vendor extensions to it.

    • I can only imagine that their XML would be on a par with their HTML. That being said, FrontPage is cra*. "Hmmm, can we create a web page composed totally of span tags?? Yes!! Now, each one of these should have its own CLSID composed of no less than 80 digits and numerals. OOOH! Separate them with hyphens."

      Seriously, their XML will most likely be along these lines:
      A "creator" section that has the creator metadata,
      A "Bodytext" section that contains the bodytext,
      and some additional metadata that will only be of use to VB6 programmers working with an ODBC database.

      The rest of the formatting and rendering information will be stored in poorly documented areas in HEX or binary encoding. Why? The system uses this type of information in Binary or Hex encoding.

      Honestly, I have my suspicions that the new "XML based" formats are more a response to the decoding of their previous formats than anything else. MS can dance the Mighty "XML Standard" dance, all while providing a broken XML implementation. The truth is that people are already feeling "locked-in" and the XML stretegem is Microsoft's way of pretending to be more open.

      ~Hammy
  • Foot in mouth (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ToasterTester ( 95180 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:54PM (#4725390)
    Tell your writers to check what MS is doing before putting their foot in their mouth and auto-bashing MS. MS has been talking about Office 11 for weeks now with their new XML based file format. Also they said on this issue they are taking a wait and see approach. Now I fully believe MS will tweak their XML so it's not fully compatible with others, but I'm going wait and see so I can legitimately complain.
    • I fully expect MS version of "XML based .doc" to be simply a base-64 encode of the .doc we have today, enclosed in a pair of XML-tags.

      Thinking "Oh, it's XML! Then we can all understand what it says!" is naive.

  • by Jayde Stargunner ( 207280 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @03:54PM (#4725391)
    Seems to me that MS may be doing this as a (prudant) way to avoid potential conflict-of-interest issues.

    As has been reported, they are developing XDocs in the future, and this consortium could potentially be putting together something fairly similar to XDocs.

    I doubt MS wants to be involved in something that appears like the whole DDR SDRAM/RDRAM fiasco.

    -Jayde
  • by d3xt3r ( 527989 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:00PM (#4725446)
    <xml>
    <document type="ms-word">
    <data>aksljdflkaj31948lksadjfmn232.....</data>
    </document>
    </xml>

    Ahh, open standards at work over in Redmond.
  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:01PM (#4725450) Homepage Journal
    In related news, slashdot.org has changed its mission statement. Instead of bringing you the latest _news_ (which is now done more effectively by Google [google.com]), they are now commited to keeping you up to date on each [slashdot.org] and every [slashdot.org] way [slashdot.org] MicroSoft [slashdot.org] protects its assets, screws it's customers, and opens the web to anyone by spreading software with severe security holes. After the physical move of the servers a while ago, the editors now announce the immediate move of the site to the new domain: slashdot.microsoft.com .
  • by bats ( 8748 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:05PM (#4725495) Homepage
    Microsoft Office file formats are the lynchpin to their dominance of the computer software world. Because everyone has Office, no one can switch since the defacto exchange format is MS Office docs. Small companies/organizations can effect wholesale change to some degree but still have difficulty trying to interact with other businesses. Non-techs don't understand why you can't read their Word doc b/c what else could you be using? This causes pain for anybody who tries to switch and the quickest relief of pain is to fork out a few hundred smackers for a copy of Office.

    Microsoft also enforces its planned obsolesence in the same way. Since new machines only come with the new version of Office, any existing organization is eventually infected with the 'upgraded' versions (complete with their 'smart' features that are either annoying or useless to 99% of the consumer base). Once these documents begin to float around and not open quite right in old versions of Office, everyone needs to upgrade. Otherwise, countless billable hours will be lost to futzing with file formats. $400 for an Office license quickly pays for itself when you're billed out at $50-$100 per hour. Its not the most desireable path, but for a struggling business, its the quickest pain relief available.

    File formats also further entrence the Windows operating system. Clearly, linux and unix are out with no native MS Office suite. While I admire the open source projects and their ability to continually reverse engineer the moving target of MS file formats, it is impossible to keep up and they can never provide 100% compatibility which is imperative for a working daily interaction with MS Office users. Even on the Mac with Office X (touted by MS ads for its full compatibility), there are roadblocks to easy transion. My wife uses Office at work because she has to interact with others who do. She recently tried to move to Mac but couldn't because her files weren't quite right. The symbols didn't translate correctly, which might not bother business folk, but as a scientist, it meant that all her technical papers would require endless fixing just to do a little work at hoem. So she's back to a Microsoft Windows box. How fortunate for Redmond that the software they supplied wasn't capable enough for her to make the 'switch'.

    All of this hinges on the ability of Office to maintain a closed file format. It keeps users trapped in Office due to compatibility with their coworkers and colleagues. It forces users to upgrade their perfectly good software and shell out more $$$ to MS just because someone else in the office has a new machine. It locks users into the blessed Windows OS again solely for the sake of compatibility and ease of document exchange. MS will never agree to a default open file format for its applications as it would break their stranglehold on both office productivity software and operating systems, the only two profitable portions of their business. Even the new XML formats that promise self describing data storage will only pay lip service to the critics as they wrap up their proprietary binary formats in easy to read, text tags.
    • ...I feel compelled to reply.

      Microsoft Office file formats are the lynchpin to their dominance of the computer software world.

      I am amazed that so many people who should know better - all of the /.ers who claim to be clued in - believe this tripe. Let me enlighten everybody who has fallen for this line...

      First, do any of you out there remember a software company named Claris? For those of you who don't, Claris was the software division of Apple, and was responsible for programs such as MacWrite, MacDraw, MacPaint, etc. Claris not only had proprietary file formats for all of its software, they had inside knowledge of every detail of the Mac - the OS, the hardware, everything. What happened to them?

      MacWrite was killed off rather effectively by - you could see this coming, right? - Word Perfect and Microsoft Word.

      MacDraw was buried completely by Adobe Illustrator.

      MacPaint was annihilated by Adobe Photoshop.

      The lesson here is simple. If Claris, which had access to every facet of their only target platform could not dominate the Mac software market with proprietary file formats and exclusive knowledge of the OS, no one can.

      Microsoft Office will not be taken down because its file formats are open, or because a 'standard' format comes along. Office - and this applies to pretty much anything - will be beaten by something better.

      And as an aside, MS Windows is the dominant OS out there because - and think on this for a bit - there was no alternative to Win95 at the time it was introduced. Where was Linux at? BeOS? I owned a Mac IIfx, and it cost three times as much as a PC at the time. No alternative there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:06PM (#4725500)
    This week we learned that Windows and Office are the heart of Microsoft's monopoly [slashdot.org], financially speaking.

    Office, one of MS's two profitable divisions, gives Microsoft a 79% profit margin for each product sold. I have a feeling that if your average Joe only KNEW about openoffice.org as an alternative, they'd use it in a heartbeat. Businesses might be harder to convince, but when I told my dad about OO.o, he just about shat himself. $400 saved.

    If the Internet community can raise $100K (in what was it, 5 weeks?!) to free Blender [blender3d.com], surely if given enough time we could raise a million for say, a Superbowl or Oscar ad in 2004. I'm sure there's more than one corporate competitor of Microsoft's that wouldn't mind kicking Bill in the financial balls by making a modest contribution to the OO.o publicity effort.

    I can see the ad now...

    "Coming up next, the Oscar for Best Picture..."

    CUT TO BLACK.

    FADE UP:

    MEDIUM SHOT OF a SILVER CD-ROM on a DESK with "openoffice.org" scrawled in BLACK SHARPIE.

    AS WE SLOWLY ZOOM IN TO THE CD-ROM...

    ANNOUNCER: Hey, America. Four hundred bucks is too much to pay for Office software, don't you think? But now there's an alternative you can download for free and copy for your friends. It's called OpenOffice.org. The people who make the "monopoly" version of Office don't want you to know about it. But we do. So visit www.Openoffice.org and give it a try. This message was paid for by thousands of Internet users around the world who thought you should know about alternatives to supporting the monopoly.

    TEXT: "OpenOffice.org -- A free alternative"

    FADE TO BLACK.

    I'd put ten bucks in for this ad. Just the articles ABOUT the ad and how it was financed would be great publicity.

    (Oh, and I hereby release all the text above under the open content [opencontent.org] license, v1.0.)
    • Never happen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Myco ( 473173 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @06:26PM (#4726809) Homepage
      That's a cool idea, but unfortunately it will never happen. Have a look at AdBusters [adbusters.org]. They've got a number of great ads ready to air, but no network will show them because they run against the commercial grain of the rest of the sponsors. Rest assured, the media giants do *not* want to waste all their hard work kissing Microsoft's ass just to throw it away for a few million worth of ad revenue.
  • by rossz ( 67331 ) <<ten.rekibkeeg> <ta> <ergo>> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:07PM (#4725507) Homepage Journal
    And this time it would be very simple. Once the XML document standard has been settled, the US government needs to mandate that any wordprocessing software used by the government must use the XML open starndard, no exceptions. Give the industry one year from the adoption of the the standard to implement it in their software. After which, any document processing software which does not conform is automatically excluded from any consideration by the government. No one is forced to open up their proprietary systems. It's their choice. Choice is good, even for arrogant companies like Microsoft.
  • by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:10PM (#4725552) Homepage
    M$ is a big player in XML. Now they now have to either continue the pro-XML strategy and acknowledge that XML will commoditize their precious proprietary files (hastening the decay of the M$ monopoly), or "embrace and extend" the XML used by Office into something that looks like XML but isn't.

    As a desperation ploy, they could use XML file formats, leaving the tags in plain text but encrypting the data. Any competetive products trying to work with the file would be face the wrath of DMCA.
    • Microsoft doesn't have to do anything so sneaky. You see, Microsoft isn't really competing against OpenOffice, they are actually competing against old versions of their own software. Microsoft would love to make the XML format the default format in Office 11, but they know that if they do that their corporate users will freak out. Microsoft nearly had a revolt on their hands when they switched the Office formats in Office 97. All of a sudden people couldn't open the MS Office documents they received via email.

      On the other hand, it did drive a lot of MS Office upgrades.

  • by ScottKin ( 34718 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:12PM (#4725567) Homepage Journal
    Hmmmm...

    Microsoft XML Architect and W3C XML Standard Co-creator Jeal Paoli announce XML integration with "Office 11" on November 14th... [microsoft.com]

    Open Source community (in no doubt lead/prodded/cajoled/wrangled by Sun's Scott McNealy) tries to upstage W3C's work on XML by producing their own standard on November 20th. [com.com]

    Can you say "wanna-be"?

    Also, I think the "editors" of /. should be lynched for turning an honest response from Microsoft into a "we-don't-play-that-no-mo" response. Microsost NEVER said that they weren't going to work within that working-group or not. CowboyNeal et. al. are just a bunch of freakin' gits who love to "sucker-punch" anyone they can.

    I think /. should change their background color to "yellow" - because this STINKS of "Yellow Journalism"

    ScottKin - looking for CowboyNeal so I can PUMMEL him into consciousness.

  • by MeanGene ( 17515 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:28PM (#4725704)
    XML structure is just wasteful and hard to read. Why would anyone prefer to write

    <italic>
    <bold>
    <fontsize=12>
    xyz!
    </fontsize>
    </bold>
    </italic>
    instead of succinct, clean and more flexible
    (italic (bold (fontsize 12 (text "xyz!))))
    Oh yeah, the answer is - Lisp has been around since 1950's and we can't get grants or buzz using it...
    • A simple fix (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jefu ( 53450 )
      (And, yes, I know where and why it doesnt work, but it had to be done at least this far.)

      <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
      <xsl:stylesheet xmlns:xsl="http://www.w3.org/1999/XSL/Transform"
      version="1.0">

      <xsl:output method="text"/>

      <xsl:template match="*">
      <xsl:choose>
      <xsl:when test="count(node()) = 0">
      <xsl:value-of select="name()" />
      </xsl:when>
      <xsl:otherwise>
      ( <xsl:value-of select="name()" /> <xsl:apply-templates /> )
      </xsl:otherwise>
      </xsl:choose>
      </xsl:template>

      </xsl:stylesheet>

      The transformation in the other direction is left as the traditional exercise for the interested reader.
  • by smallpaul ( 65919 ) <paul&prescod,net> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:28PM (#4725712)

    Ignore all of the obvious issues about the value of the .DOC monopoly. Consider instead that the name of the working group is the same as the name of a product that competes with yours and that the working group has pretty much decided that the file format will be based [oasis-open.org] upon the file format of that competitor.

    In other words, Microsoft would be participating in the canonization of the file format of not only a competing product but an open source competing product. Can you really blame them from seeing that as a no-win situation?

    I wish the standardizers and coders the best of luck and I would love to see them succeed. But I'm sure none of them are naive enough to have expected Microsoft to participate. Only the scandal-hungry hounds at CNet and Slashdot consider this news.

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:50PM (#4725881) Homepage Journal
    Here's another thing for conspiracy nuts to think about: Anything that anyone (including Microsoft) does that can keep people from switching away from MS Word's format, is good for...

    ...the Anti-Virus companies. The probability that a new word processor format would be designed to include enough expressiveness for trojans, is pretty darn low.

    So maybe McAfee or Symantec or someone like that, slipped a few bucks into Microsoft's pocket to ask 'em to oppose the new format. ;-)

    (I love coming up with this crazy shit.)

  • sabatoge? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Flamesplash ( 469287 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:57PM (#4725939) Homepage Journal
    I was just trying to think what people would say if MS had participated on the panel, and I think it would be "sabatoge." If MS did indeed participate on the panel they would have a chance to undermind the standard that was produced as well as get earlier info about the developing standard to try and circumvent it sooner.

    I don't think MS would do this, but I think that there are worse things MS could have done than simply not participate.
  • Wrong strategy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by El ( 94934 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @05:45PM (#4726485)
    It would be much smarter of Microsoft to participate; then they can obfuscate and delay the new standard. Their refusal to participate makes me suspect that perhaps they beleive they have some patents that might apply, and don't want to get accused of acting like Rambus when they spring the patents on the committee to try to shut down the new standard.
  • by jefu ( 53450 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @09:05PM (#4728117) Homepage Journal
    An xml format for documents is a Very Good Thing with lots of benefits. Or potentially just a whole pile of annoyances.

    One of the problems with WYSIWYG markup is that it is visual, everyone likes Word (or whatever) because they can make things Look Right. But this is also its biggest problem, as it removes the structural/semantic information. We've now trained a whole pile of people to believe that what they think looks good must (obviously) look good to anyone. (To see the validity of that, just look at what those attitudes have done to the web. "I like blinkies, so everyone must." Ewww.)

    But now the document is non-portable, and in some sense digitally unusable. Hard to index, hard to grab bits of for the next time you need almost that same thing. Indeed, something like the oft vaunted "mail merge" in Scribe, LaTeX, XML are relatively simple (a shell script and sed) but they tend to be hard in WYSIWYG documents.

    Why? Because semantic markup is necessarily domain-centric. A business letter doesn't have the same kind of content as an invoice. Even when they're part of the same communication.

    Thats a good thing for indexing, cataloging, analyzing and all that.

    Its also a good thing for those who need to produce a lot of documents that look a lot alike. Hence document templates (available in any decent word processor).

    Even better, using XML allows a nice separation of powers. The person writing the business letter does not need to know what it will look like, and the person defining its look does not need to know its content. Since the writer is not concerned with the look, editing actually gets easier. For example, I often use LaTeX (also HTML and XML increasingly) and emacs and know them both relatively well (and I use both under both Windows and Unix) and when I need to switch to something WYSIWYGish, I tend to get very cranky. "What do you mean, you cant put every sentence on a line by itself?"

    Now everyone with a grain of sense knows all this (so I apologize for repeating it). Or do they?

    Microsoft does. XML based documents are going to be the future, they say. Oasis does (but then they're SGML oriented anyway).

    But not everyone does. That secretary down the hall doesn't. And he's going to fight like hell having to do things in a true XML oriented way (show him an xml editor and wait for him to threaten to quit). (Why do you think SGML never caught on?) He doesn't care about saving work - he wants to get paid for his 40 hours. And his boss is going to hear him loud and clear since he sits right outside her door. Even though putting him into that XML re-education camp is very likely to save a whole pile of money in the long run, the noise and screams and the short run cost is going to make it very hard to push in any kind of organization.

    Which means we might end up with an XML representation of that WYSIWYG text. This would be a real mess. There is a thing called the "Rainbow DTD" (a quick web search turned up no live copies of this). This was an SGML (it predated XML) markup that essentially represented WYSIWYG markup. So there were elements like "". Yech.

    As a proof of concept, a while back, I cobbled together a script that would read this and guess as to the users "meaning" (we were dealing with a relatively small target domain)- it worked, but quite badly, to get it to work well would have taken expert system or statistical inference kinds of code. The idea was not supported by my boss, because it would have required iterations and feedback from the original authors to tune the translations. He said, "They like WYSIWYG, lets not bother them." It was clear that it would have worked though, and with tools like XSLT, it would not have been all that hard.

    So now I wonder, are the OASIS folks going to do a "rainbow dtd" type thing? Perhaps at a slightly higher level of abstraction? Or will it be a metalanguage for document definition (hey, I thought that was what XML was). And the MS folks, what does their XML look like?

    Cuz, one way or another, with XSLT and a bit of hackery, someone will find a way to translate one to the other. And back. The only question left is how hard it will be and how much semantic information will carry across.

  • by RallyDriver ( 49641 ) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:38AM (#4729832) Homepage

    The era of adding genuinely useful features to productivity software is long past. I defy you to find any company (including Microsoft) where more than 5% of the people use more than 5% of the features in MS-Office. Feature creep in that product is addressing a diminimus minority. Sure, you can do all kinds of clever stuff with VBA - who actually needs to? Very few people.

    The one and only time in recent memory I have tangled with VBA was to borrow from a colleague a script which implements a basic feature that MS-Access (2000) is simply missing - save a table as CSV. That's right, it can't do it. It can put it on the clipboard, but as any non-techie who wangs data around using Excel will tell you, the world stops at row 65,535. Lame.

    Why do people upgrade from MS-Office 97 to 2000 to XP? Not for features, for one of two reasons - (a) they get a new computer and the old version won't run, or far more commonly, (b) they start receiving too many .DOC files by email that their software won't read. MS not only has the sense to stick with the impenetrable binary format, but to make an incompatible change to the default save format each release to force the upgrade path. Forget XML - the .DOC is the lingua franca of non-techie document exchange. There is a 3-way tie for second place between .PPT, .XLS and those little winmail.dat calendar thingies from Outlook.

    I use StarOffice 5.2 for day to day munging of MS-Office files, for which it is fine, and it has come a long way from earlier versions, but it still needs work in the one word processor feature that really matters - handling .DOC - nowadays it supports even fancy stuff like change tracking, fonts are mostly their though it suffers from more "layout creep" than exchanging files from one setup of MS-Word to the next (what a bunch of lameness, making layout depend on the print driver, Word's worst bug IMHO).

    ISTR that MS was originally proposing to use XML in Office 2000 when it was first on the drawing board. Some PM pulled that piece of business suicide away right quick.

  • by Hermanetta ( 55229 ) on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:07AM (#4729968)
    Again, you guys need to go read and decide for your selves before doing the lemming thing. :-)

    All microsoft said was that they were going to wait and see.

    Here are a few things to read. I'm sure you can find more if you try....

    Ripped from the headlines....

    http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,3959,561973,00.asp [eweek.com]

    XML to Drive Office Update
    By Peter Galli

    The next version of Microsoft Corp.'s Office productivity suite will come with XML support baked into Word, allowing users to, among other things, more effectively mine their data.

    Code-named Office 11, the suite will feature built-in support for XML in Word, allowing developers to create "smart" documents that automatically search for code or updates as needed.


    http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2002/Nov0 2/11-14XMLConference02PR.asp [microsoft.com]

    Microsoft XML Architect and Co-Creator of W3C's XML 1.0 Standard To Unveil XML Vision for "Office 11" at XML Conference & Exposition

    XML Visionary Will Put the Microsoft "Office 11" XML Pieces Together for Attendees

    REDMOND, Wash. -- Nov. 14, 2002 -- Jean Paoli, Microsoft XML architect and co-creator of the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) XML 1.0 standard, will be a featured speaker at the IDEAlliance XML Conference & Exposition 2002 in Baltimore next month. Sponsored in part by Microsoft Corp., the conference is the world's largest exposition on XML-based software and services. Paoli's presentation, titled "Bringing the XML vision to the desktop with 'Office 11,'" will detail Microsoft's vision for XML and provide attendees with a first look at the technical architecture in the next version of Microsoft® Office, code-named "Office 11." The presentation will take place at 4:45 p.m. EST (1:45 p.m. PST) Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the Baltimore Convention Center.

  • by doodleboy ( 263186 ) on Friday November 22, 2002 @09:57AM (#4731328)
    It's inevitable. All free software has to be is good enough and it'll make massive inroads into MS's office and OS monopolies. XP and Office together retail for more that twice the price of a basic PC. The dam will burst when major OEMs start bundling non-MS OS and applications with their computers in order to boost their paper-thin margins. Naturally MS knows the value of being the default and gives massive discounts to OEMs, but even 10% of retail is a lot more than free.

    I don't know about you guys, but OOo is more than good enough for my needs. So is Mozilla. So is Linux. Not even taking into account the traditional free software advantages (interoperability, stability, security, no spyware or excessive restrictions, etc.), it's a matter of time before free software becomes the standard.

    It's simple economics: Money talks, bulls**t walks.

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