When supporting a standard is not supporting a standard

I applaud Distesh for his post. It is a well known tactic of Microsoft to go about saying that they are supporting Standard X or Prototol Y, when in reality, it is support in a cursory form only. When they said some years ago that they are using Keberos, they did support some and then added proprietary extensions. A few years before, Microsoft tried to fork Java while it was licensed from Sun only to be sued and to pay up $20million to Sun.

They never learn. Or rather, they cannot learn. They are bound to repeat the same behaviour, over and over again.

We all know that the Open Document Format version 1.1 definition is deficient in how formulae are stored in spreadsheets. And yet, there is already an implementation, all open sourced, in OpenOffice.org to exactly that. So, when MS releases an update to their office suite, they totally mess up how spreadsheets with formula are stored. It cannot be that they did not HOW some else would have worked around that deficiency in the standard, but they, in their arrogance, choose not to.

Why you ask? What will happen now is that there will be many people who use the MS office products and choose to save the documents in ODF format who are going to have documents that FAIL. These same documents (spreadsheets) will not work correctly when read into OpenOffice.org.

And guess what Microsoft will then say: “ODF is no good. Save in OOXML. See we told you.” And there will be people who thought they were finally able to have true transferability of ODF across products, now having to think twice.

It reminds me of how years ago when MS released their Office 95 tool and then subsequently their Office 97 tool. A document that was created and saved in Office 97 as a .doc, CANNOT be read by Office 95. Why? Simple.

Boss: Why can’t I read this .doc file?
Secretary: I think we are running Office 95 that’s why. We have to upgrade to 97. I am raising the PO.

Product Marketing decided to make the format different enough to force the unknowing to upgrade. They milked their customers, yet again.

They are doing it again in 2009. Do not trust Microsoft. I know they want to win customers and win the confidence of customers, but so long as they cannot play ball, stop buying any Microsoft products.


  1. What’s even better is that MS Office doesn’t even support OOXML; it supports MSOXML, which is some non-standard variant. Yes, you read that right. Microsoft doesn’t even support the standards they make up.

    • I believe that’s got a lot to do with the changes they had to make in the standards process, and the code in Office 2007 was already there for the original version.
      Big software companies (and they don’t come much bigger) have a huge inertia that’s very difficult to overcome, both in code (especially when you’ve got a huge codebase and a burden of backwards compatibility) and in corporate culture.
      Microsoft’s standard approach now is to have a file format importer for the newer format available for the previous version of Office wherever practical (doesn’t seem to apply to Access, but they do it for all the document-based apps). Surely you don’t wish to deny them the ability to modify their file format to support new features?
      And from what I’ve seen of the OpenDocument spec, it’s surprising anybody can implement it correctly.

  2. well
    they support the official ODF standard, openoffice doesnt.
    lets wait for the next ODF version to be officially standardized, then you can moan..

    • Re: well
      Exactly right, either ‘open standards’ means something, and we can benefit from allowing vendor lock-in, or else lets just forget about OASIS standards and go with what ever Open Office does.
      Please, lets not recreate the same situation with Microsoft Office binary format but now with Open Office and ODF format.

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