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Microsoft Votes to Add ODF to ANSI Standards List 231

Posted by Zonk
from the curiouser-and-curiouser dept.
RzUpAnmsCwrds writes "In a puzzling move, Microsoft today voted to support the addition of the OpenDocument file formats to the American National Standards List. OpenDocument is used by many free-software office suites, including OpenOffice.org. Microsoft is still pushing its own Office Open XML format, which it hopes will also become an ANSI standard. Is Microsoft serious about supporting ODF, or is this a merely a PR stunt to make Office Open XML look more like a legitimate standard?"
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Microsoft Votes to Add ODF to ANSI Standards List

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  • by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous@yah o o . com> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @01:58PM (#19165557) Homepage Journal
    In an epiphany, Bill Gates realized that the lackluster sales of Vista were due to all the bad things he's done in his life. So now he's got a list of them on a sheet of yellow paper and he's going around making up for them. Having Microsoft back ODF is helping him make up for #38 on his list: "Screwed over consumers with proprietary formats."

    Come on, couldn't you see Ballmer playing Randy? :-)

    --Greg
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maxume (22995)
      Hah hah, but exactly which versions of Word didn't support plain text and rtf? Consumers just don't care.
      • Re:My Name Is Bill (Score:4, Informative)

        by Falladir (1026636) <kingfalladir@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:20PM (#19166045)
        rtf is not an open format. From a popular commentary [goldmark.org]:

        In earlier versions of this document, I listed RTF (Rich Text Format) as a more standards based way of exchanging word-processor documents. I have been corrected on that point innumerable times. RTF is little better than MS-Word format itself. It is a little better, but it shares all of the problems as MS-Word. Although RTF was advertised as a document exchange format, it never lived up to that. It appears to have varying features, and the various version of RTF that Microsoft products create have elements which only Microsoft Products can read. Note that this is not because MS-Word is a better product, but because Microsoft keeps elements of what it considers to be RTF secret.
        Consumers may not care what format their stuff is in, but when they get a replay saying "sorry, I can't seem to open that .doc, could you save it as .odt?" they'll care whether their word-processor can do it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by martin-k (99343)
          RTF is structured in a way that applications can skip the parts they don't understand, and RTF supports saving multiple versions of the same object (say, a graphics frame) in different formats, so that an application can pick the version it understands.

          The same thing will happen with ODF as more word processors pick it up. Every word processor has its little 'extra' features for which a different file format has no support. As an example, ODF only supports an extremely simplistic way of 'tracked changes' th
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by spun (1352)
        Come on, if .rtf and .txt could store the files that Word could create, people would never have used .doc. What a poorly thought out response, equating .rtf and .txt with formats that can actually, you know, store all the formatting you applied to your documents.
        • Re:My Name Is Bill (Score:4, Informative)

          by edwdig (47888) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:33PM (#19166307)
          RTF is simply a version of .doc that's largely ASCII text. It's main purpose was to be a format that was easier for tools to parse. Windows Help files used to be based off it. You can still drop whatever random objects into it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Vexorian (959249)

          I think that if rtf was the default file type for saving in word everybody would be using it.

          I just hope that ODF being standard kind of forces MS to have it as default filetype for file-save else it would just be a meaningless standard, seriously.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hendersj (720767)
          I think you're wrong here - if RTF had been the default save format, everyone would be using it. Users don't want to think about what format to save documents in, they just go with the defaults most of the time.

          So let's talk about poorly thought out responses, shall we? ;-)
  • Somebody spike the coolaid in the Redmond cafeteria? :-)
  • Publicity? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jaavaaguru (261551) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:03PM (#19165653) Homepage
    I don't see how this looks like a PR stunt. Making ODF an ANSI standard isn't exactly making Office Open XML more popular is it?
    • Re:Publicity? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Goeland86 (741690) <goeland_86@COBOLyahoo.fr minus language> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:11PM (#19165831)
      No, I think it has to do with the fact that more and more governments are requiring ODF to be adopted.
      MS was scared by this, as Office wasn't designed around it, so they're trying to put themselves in a position where they can supply what the governments want AND fulfill legislative requirements. They've learned that from the ongoing EU dispute, imo.
      The fact that they're still pushing for their own format just shows that they want to retain dominance in the office world, and perhaps regain complete monopoly of the office programs suite. However, it's going to be harder and harder, as OpenOffice will implement a way to read and write MS's XML format, since it HAS to be documented if MS intends to satisfy government customers.
      It's a business move, nothing less! I just hope that OpenOffice will catch up on the feature list quickly (there's some basic stuff that OO's still missing) so that the decision really does come down to TCO for the IT managers, and then OO will truly shine, as there is no license fee, only support cost, and I'm guessing it'll be cheaper than MS Office support.
      Just my $0.02 of opinion on this matter.
      • Not necessarily. (Score:3, Informative)

        by khasim (1285)

        However, it's going to be harder and harder, as OpenOffice will implement a way to read and write MS's XML format, since it HAS to be documented if MS intends to satisfy government customers.

        As can be seen with their current "standard", they can just cite "behave the same way as MS Word version X.y.z on OS a" and claim that it is "documented".

        Since Microsoft is the only ones who REALLY know how that behaviour was implemented, they'll be the only one who can write a compleat implementation.

        Just as the situat

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Goeland86 (741690)
          Actually, I think they *want* to fail at that.
          Microsoft is the predominant supplier, and if other programs don't work with Office, MS will claim that it's "inferior" code, that the *other* programs don't follow standards, and the people in management will buy that BS because they've been dealing with MS for ever. It's sad, really, that we lack properly educated IT people. IT is not just about understanding machines, it's also understanding humans who try to sell you machines or software that runs on those m
        • by KWTm (808824) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @05:06PM (#19169455) Journal

          Just as the situation is today. Look at the "reviews" of OpenOffice.org by various "journalists". You'll see them complaining that the formating on a document was "messed up" when they went
          from MS Word
          to OpenOffice.org
          back to MS Word.

          Okay, if you think it's due to MS Word that OOo looks bad, try this one on for size: a document saved as ".odt" with OpenOffice.org v2 for Linux (Kubuntu) is mangled when opened in OpenOffice.org v2 for Windows (Win2k). There was no MS Word involved anywhere.

          This was a document for which formatting was important: I had designed a greeting card to be printed onto thick paper and folded into quarters, so positioning was critical. I did this on my Linux box, but the printer was hooked up to the wife's box, and she only wants Windows on it. I saved the file on Kubuntu, FISh'd it over to the Win2k box and opened it, and the text formatting had screwed up, spilling over onto the next page.

          If OpenOffice.org can't standardize their own document formatting, what's the point having a standard like ODF in the first place? (I finally exported to PDF in order to get it onto the Win2k box without messing it up.)

          I'm grateful to Sun for all the contributions they've made to Open Source, but I have to say, OOo is a steaming pile of crap.

          Okay, that was a bit too blunt, and I'm glad they have an integrated office suite with spreadsheet, presentation application, I appreciate the work they've put into this, grateful that they distribute OOo under an Open Source license, etc. etc., so let me do my best to be more subtle.

          Erm, er, OpenOffice is ... a steaming pile of crap.

          Sorry. I tried.
    • Sometimes standardization is a way to slow down a technology. I know this used to happen in the IETF, where competitors would send engineers to add endless features, producing a huge unwieldy mess.
  • by SmackedFly (957005) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:05PM (#19165683)
    Not that strange, when you think about Microsofts "it's good to have more standards" argument. Knowing that the standard would be added anyway, they probably voted for it, to make that argument more credible, when OOXML is up for the ISO vote, besides ANSI is more or less irrelevant when ODF is already ISO certified. I would be very surprised if Microsoft doesn't later use this as part of an argument for accepting OOXML, directly or as a response to critics.
    • My thoughts exactly - they did it because it's a vote, and theirs probably isn't going to change the result, so they're using it as a way to argue that they care about choice.
    • You need to turn off your ethics for a minute and think only about maximizing Microsoft's position. Clearly Microsoft would benefit enormously if they can make it so that OpenOffice doesn't officially comply with its own standard file format -- the main reason anybody even cares about a standard is so that governments and localities have a check box that makes it 'ok' to use OpenOffice.

      Imo Microsoft wants to move the standard to ANSI then because that process is easier for them to manipulate into adding un
  • PR stunt. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:06PM (#19165703) Journal
    I am more likely to think of it as a PR stunt. If anyone votes against OOXML, they would issue press releases saying, "We voted for their standard, and they are voting against our standard". Lost in the argument would be the basic need to have just one standard.

    But still, as long as customers dont know the difference between interoperability and "microsoft compatibility" they win these games. Sad.

  • by Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) <`abacaxi' `at' `hotmail.com'> on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:06PM (#19165707)
    It's like the "peaceful co-existance" the Soviets were all in favor of. They want to then be able to say they support is even as they choke the life out of it.
    • It's like the "peaceful co-existance" the Soviets were all in favor of. They want to then be able to say they support is even as they choke the life out of it.

      Or how about Iran verses the rest of the world in peaceful co-existence? We're only enriching uranium for peaceful purposes. We only lie to infidels, as our religion [of peace] instructs us to.

  • Listen, Kreskin (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NotFamous (827147)
    They did a good thing. It is fruitless to speculate why. 'Nuff said.
  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:08PM (#19165745)
    If you can't read the "standard" documentation and develop a program that properly works for that standard, then it is not a standard. The "standard" still has things like "will support rendering of Office97 table format", and never define what the "Office97 table format" exactly is and how it works.

    Until each and every thing in the standard is properly defined and explained, it is not a standard.
  • The end result is that ODF becomes a standard. MS maybe gets a few brownie points in the public eye for supporting it, so good for them, but is this really an issue?
  • Sheesh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grashnak (1003791) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:09PM (#19165781)
    Apparently M$ can do no right. It reminds me of a quote from Jesse Jackson. He once said that if he walked across one of the Great Lakes, the next day the newspapers would report that "Jesse Jackson can't swim". Methinks some of you take your evil empire conspiracy too seriously.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lubricated (49106)
      As apposed to the alternate explanation. Microsoft is doing this out of the goodness of their heart. Yeah, that's more likely.
    • Microsoft has proven, time and time again, that they will engage in all sort of nefarious, underhanded behavior, including lying, cheating, stealing and extortion, in order to maintain and extend their monopolies. They showed no hesitation about lying and evidence-tampering in front of a federal judge, for example. While they do occasionally do the right thing for the right reasons, their history is such that no sane, educated person can observe their actions, especially with respect to competitors, witho
  • Please. If the majority is clear they really have nothing to loose by going along with it. With the bonus of free future spin control.
  • How does supporting a format that probably goes against the company's welfare supposed to make its own format legitimate? That's like saying a hypocrite's arguments are void and null despite the fact that they're logically sound.
  • Is Microsoft serious about supporting ODF, or is this a merely a PR stunt to make Office Open XML look more like a legitimate standard?

    This is complete amateurs who wrote this. Here's how it's done:

    ---------

    Did Microsoft just voted this way since they have no reason or gain of they voted otherwise and this is not even news worth reading...

    OR

    Microsoft has a very sinister plan in the works, the ultimate outcome of which is victory of OOXML over ODF. It involves vampires, politics, space ships, weapons, monste
    • To be honest, I threw that line in because I know Slashdot editors like bullshit anti-MS hypothetical rhetoric. Apparently I was right.

      I admit that I pander to the community. Wouldn't that make me a pro?

      Oddly enough, both articles I've gotten on Slashdot have to do with Microsoft's new file formats. I didn't want it to turn out that way, it just happened.
      • by suv4x4 (956391)
        To be honest, I threw that line in because I know Slashdot editors like bullshit anti-MS hypothetical rhetoric. Apparently I was right.

        I admit that I pander to the community. Wouldn't that make me a pro?


        Well, in this case there's only one solution: kill the Slashdot editors. Since Microsoft's also interested. They promised to help.

        So now we have all their vampires, politics, space ships, weapons, monsters, time machines, tornados, zombies, death stars, extra dimensional ports, robots, dinosaurs, seductive g
  • by Skapare (16644) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:16PM (#19165971) Homepage

    This vote is good for Microsoft. It can work this way. With ODF on the list, and later with others like PDF on the list, plus their own OOXML added to the list, it can make the list itself look legitimate. Then they will argue that governments can meet their obligations for open documents by choosing any one format from the list, making it seem that OOXML will be at least as good a choice as ODF.

  • by rs232 (849320) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:21PM (#19166081)
    Can two or more standards be, by definitation, standard? Why not just publish a RFC and allow everyone write applications to that. What could be more standard than that.

    What is a "Standard [case.edu]

    "Is Microsoft serious about supporting ODF", NO

    "is this a merely a PR stunt to make Office Open XML look more like a legitimate standard?", YES

  • Here we go again ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Draasti (318770)
    Embrace, extend and extinguish
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embrace,_extend_and_e xtinguish [wikipedia.org]
  • The same I keep preaching when it comes to politicians. Don't judge them by their words, judge them by their actions.

    It's easy to vote for something when you know that the vote is for /dev/null anyway. What would be interesting to see is whether that vote actually makes a difference. If it's already accepted or rejected by a magnitude, it's easy to cast a vote for the side which promises better PR.
  • embrace, extend... oh never mind. We'll never learn will we?
  • It takes TIME for an ANSI or ISO standard to be created. If ODF were to undergo this process it would create the impression that it was a rough or draft standard that had yet to have all the edges polished and kinks worked out.

    It is interesting that they are doing this though since it is a clear indication that they see ODF as a real threat and something that they can really only hold at bay temporarily. Has Microsoft gone into hemorrhage control mode?

  • Red herring (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:30PM (#19166243)

    The problem isn't whether M$ supports a standard's adoption. They supported HTML but...

    1. IE renders differntly than many other browsers, which all look more similar to each other than IE (thinking FF, Opera and Safari here).
    2. IE supported non-standard tags (like, say ActiveX)
    3. Because of IE's automatic market penetration, their extensions (no doubt patented) and misrepresntations of the standard (maybe patented) became standard on the web.

    Remember: Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

    Plus, then they will "comply to open standards" removing a EU/Mass./Whoever-else objection to using their software.

    • by Dracos (107777)

      MS supports HTML because they were blindsided by the web. They had to support it or miss a chance to bolster their monopoly.

      1. IE's standards support is rubbish, and hasn't improved significantly since 2001. IE7 is a joke regarding improved standards support.
      2. ActiveX is not a tag (neither is Flash) but I get your point. <layer> and <canvas> are non-standard also. Few have not done something proprietary to HTML, so this really is a non-argument.
      3. De facto standards. Show me the specs for MS'
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by prockcore (543967)
      IE, Firefox, and Opera all support DesignMode extensively. Safari is the odd man out, failing to support 90% of the execCommands, and failing to even return the proper return value.

      IE, Firefox, and Opera all support XSLTProcessor. Safari is the odd man out, failing to support it at all.

      It's disingenuous to say that FF, Opera and Safari are all pretty much equivilent and IE is the one with all the weird exceptions. In fact, it's more accurate to say Safari is the weird browser. Safari's javascript is at
  • they're back peddling.

    after the all the talk over the past week about M$ and "their" patents, people are starting to remember M$ is a convicted monopolist and why.

    they have to put back on their friendly face for the press and make a good show.
    atleast until they know they have the next group in the white house bought off.
  • by cyberianpan (975767) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @02:35PM (#19166365)
    And in possibly related news Police in Seattle are reporting that Tom Robertson, general manager for Interoperability and Standards at Microsoft, was hit by a flying chair whilst out walking his dog. Police don't yet have any firm leads but are seeking to question a bald, red-faced caucasian man who was seen fleeing the scene.
  • Seriously folks, how else could they have voted?
  • A Standard is the whole world deciding to use your product instead of the competition. What, you thought this was all about the consumer? Since when?
  • Why not Sun?
  • by Evets (629327) on Thursday May 17, 2007 @07:24PM (#19171967) Homepage Journal
    ODF is unnecessarily complex and not very useful at all as it currently stands. Most of the people here are willing to accept a MS conspiracy theory. If anything, MS should want ODF to become a frozen standard so that they could

    a) develop compatibility to the standard.
    b) develop MS-only standard enhancements/extensions.
    c) Argue against ODF adoption in government because of deficiencies frozen into the standard.
    d) Release an upgrade to office that contains document formatting features not available within the ODF standard.
  • by mgiuca (1040724) on Friday May 18, 2007 @11:22AM (#19179361)
    Isn't it funny how, when Microsoft does something puzzlingly in support of what we've all been asking for all this time, rather than being congratulated, the Slashdot crowd immediately starts trying to guess what their devious secret strategy is here to achieve world domination?

    Possible reason for this: They have been around for thirty years, and in all that time, they have ALWAYS had a devious secret strategy to achieve world domination!

    On with the speculation!

    Obviously they're just doing this to make themselves look better when it comes time to vote for OOXML!

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