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Microsoft Accuses Google Docs of Data Infidelity 178

Posted by kdawson
from the for-this-we-got-a-standard dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "For years Google has been pitching migrations from Microsoft Office to Google Docs, arguing that Docs makes Office 2003 and 2007 better because users can store Microsoft Office documents in Google's cloud and share them in their original format. Now eWeek reports that Alex Payne, director of Microsoft's online product management team, says that moving files created with Office to Google Docs results in the loss of data fidelity, including the loss of such data components as charts, styles, watermarks, fonts, tracked changes, and SmartArt. 'They are claiming that an organization can use both seamlessly,' Payne writes. 'This just isn't the case.' Meanwhile, Google defended its original 'Docs makes Office better' in a statement, noting that it has made a lot of improvements to the web editors in Docs with its recent refresh, and promising that functionality will only get better as Google integrates the DocVerse assets into Docs. 'It says a lot about Microsoft's approach to customer lock-in that the company touts its proprietary document formats, which only Microsoft software can render with true fidelity, as the reason to avoid using other products,' says a Google spokesperson."
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Microsoft Accuses Google Docs of Data Infidelity

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2010 @07:06PM (#32222794)

    Even while the file formats are open now

    Really? Please point me to the relevant reference for the Office 2007 file format. And don't even think about saying anything related to OOXML because its not even close.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2010 @07:20PM (#32222892)

    Well, if true, I guess you could count my (rather large) organization as one that would never used Google Docs. Tracking changes alone is a feature used extensively by our business departments.

    I honestly don't think any web-based document system will can compete with MS Office (desktop version). If you've ever worked for any type of large business lately, word processing is WAY past the basic formatting options I've seen in any online suite.

    Change tracking in the current Google Docs seems more than sufficient as you can see each change a user made in a timeline and choose to revert to any point in the timeline. You even get to do comments and such very similar to MS Word. In the end Microsoft intentionally doesn't play well with others so that they can continue to lock people into one forced solution. This is typical business strategy and can't be argued. They have done this for years with IE as well as hold the web back as a result.

  • PDF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by toastar (573882) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @07:25PM (#32222928)

    I see students failing papers because the Word on one machine does not read word files created on another machine in a different version.

    And this is why my resume is in PDF format.

  • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Daengbo (523424) <daengboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:09PM (#32223152) Homepage Journal

    Why would Google mine the data when it doesn't serve ads on Premier Apps (that's the kind businesses use, FYI) unless the customer specifically requests it? I've read the ToS, and it doesn't mention mining data AFAICT.

    7.1 Obligations. Each party will: (a) protect the other party’s Confidential Information with the same standard of care it uses to protect its own Confidential Information; and (b) not disclose the Confidential Information, except to affiliates, employees and agents who need to know it and who have agreed in writing to keep it confidential. Each party (and any affiliates, employees and agents to whom it has disclosed Confidential Information) may use Confidential Information only to exercise rights and fulfill obligations under this Agreement, while using reasonable care to protect it. Each party is responsible for any actions of its affiliates, employees and agents in violation of this Section.
    ...

    8.1 Intellectual Property Rights. Except as expressly set forth herein, this Agreement does not grant either party any rights, implied or otherwise, to the other’s content or any of the other’s intellectual property. As between the parties, Customer owns all Intellectual Property Rights in Customer Data, and Google owns all Intellectual Property Rights in the Services.

    Where are you getting this information of yours?

  • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:30PM (#32223266)

    I honestly don't think any web-based document system will can compete with MS Office (desktop version).

    Have you heard of this thing called the World Wide Web? It is a web-based document system that has quite a few more users than MS Office does. It's even available on the internet!

  • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:32PM (#32223278)

    First one has to ask why one "rather large" organization would even entrust it's confidential documents in the first place to another rather large organization which makes its living based solely on the looking at the contents of one's emails, searches, web browsing habits and documents just to deliver advertising.

    They don't do this when you get a corporate or institutional account with Google. The company/university pays for the services, and there is no advertising or data-mining.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:38PM (#32223304) Homepage

    Amusingly, the Technet blog entry [technet.com] has text marked as "Calibri" font, with no alternatives. Calibri is a Microsoft-only font that comes with Vista. So non-Vista systems render the text in Times Roman. Calibri is a sans-serif font, and all the other fonts in that Wordpress theme are sans-serif, so the page looks awful.

    Now that font downloading works in essentially all the current browsers, that's not necessary, at least if you stick to public-domain fonts. However, there aren't many public-domain fonts that don't suck at small type sizes. (Here's a page of mine with some downloaded fonts. [aetherltd.com]) If you have anti-aliasing on, it looks OK; if not, the text font looks ugly. Interestingly, Linux and Macs do anti-aliasing routinely, but older Windows systems do not.

    Google Docs has the same problem. Currently, it works like classic HTML; if you have the font locally, you can use it, but if not, you get some default. The stock fonts in Google Docs are the lowest common denominator: "Normal", "Normal/Serif", "Courier New", "Trebuchet", and "Verdana". If Google is going to make a big push on competing with Word, they need to do better than that. Google could make progress on this by buying twenty or so really good body fonts outright from a major font foundry, and setting them up for download on demand for Google Docs.

  • Bad Uploads (Score:4, Informative)

    by hhawk (26580) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @08:50PM (#32223364) Homepage Journal

    When you open a DOCX or DOC file in Google Docs it converts them and Google Docs doesn't have the same functionality either.

    But in terms of the data, it's not Google's fault that MS hasn't created an open standard for the document files..

  • by Mortlath (780961) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @09:00PM (#32223416)
    Microsoft has documented all the binary and XML file formats used by office: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc313118(office.12).aspx [microsoft.com]
  • by guruevi (827432) <evi.smokingcube@be> on Saturday May 15, 2010 @09:17PM (#32223526) Homepage

    First of all, the DOC format (the original Word formats) are not open, only DOCX are somewhat open. The problems are in: charts, styles, watermarks, fonts, tracked changes, and SmartArt.

    Charts, watermarks, tracked changes and SmartArt are not open/documented in the OOXML formats. Styles and fonts are usually converted pretty well unless the document is generated by MS Office because then it isn't according to spec anymore.

  • by peragrin (659227) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @09:19PM (#32223552)

    except if your paying attention MSFT doesn't actually use those documented features, and instead use an older version.

    OOXML that ISO passed is different from the OOXML produced by office 2007 and 2010.

  • by Mortlath (780961) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @09:41PM (#32223686)
    This isn't only OOXML documentation. This is the current versions used by Office 2007, and also documents the older binary versions.
  • Re:What fidelity (Score:5, Informative)

    by grcumb (781340) on Saturday May 15, 2010 @09:56PM (#32223794) Homepage Journal

    MS products are good in firms that have the resources to insure all machines are homogeneous and up to date, firms that require a high level of collaborations of complex non-technical documents(This does not include most educational places).

    Nothing could be further from the truth. MS products are generally terrible for the creation of collaborative, complex, non-technical documents. It's just that organisations are for the most part incurious and unwilling to depart from the well-trodden path.

    This isn't exclusively Microsoft's fault. Almost without exception[*], WYSIWYG editors suck [imagicity.com].

    This is just another example of a phenomenon that remain inscrutable to hackers and geeks the world over. Generally speaking, people are incurious. They don't particularly care about the best or even the right way to do something. In fact, as long as they create the surface impression of having done something (e.g. using Word to create an unparseable, ungodly hodge-podge of visual formatting and calling it a 'complex document'), they're generally satisfied to let things lie.

    Of course, this is the fundamental principle that animates the Dilbert universe and makes it the serio-comic tragedy that it is.

    --------------
    [*] I only say 'almost' because I'm willing to admit that in some parallel universe, some Leonardo of the keyboard might conceivably have invented a WYSIWYG word processor that actually does an adequate job at non-trivial tasks. In that same alternate universe, however, I can skate across a giant butter lake wearing a frilly orange tutu, then mount my flying unicorn and float away over cotton-candy clouds to my home in an enchanted toadstool.

  • Re:What fidelity (Score:2, Informative)

    by RickRussellTX (755670) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @02:24AM (#32225334)

    I see students failing papers because the Word on one machine does not read word files created on another machine in a different version.

    I have to call FUD on that -- Word 2007 will read file formats from before those students were born. If they are claiming that Word ate their homework, they are lying.

    Microsoft has locked out some older file formats, such as PowerPoint before Office 97, because they don't want to maintain security on the conversion code. Organizations with long memories (like the company I work for) have bumped into that issue.

  • Not quite. (Score:2, Informative)

    by benjymouse (756774) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:26AM (#32225588)

    First of all, the DOC format (the original Word formats) are not open, only DOCX are somewhat open.

    Oh please! The DOC format is not open in the sense that anyone can contribute. But the documentation of the format is fully available for anyone who take interest. It merely requires a single google: http://www.microsoft.com/interop/docs/OfficeBinaryFormats.mspx [microsoft.com]

    DOCX is fully open. Anyone who wants to contribute is free to do so. You just have to go through ECMA/ISO - just like Microsoft. It is fully described in the ISO standard ISO/IEC 29500. The standard is freely downloadable from ISO. If you had cared to download it you would have found that your claims are BS:

    The problems are in: charts, styles, watermarks, fonts, tracked changes, and SmartArt.

    Charts, watermarks, tracked changes and SmartArt are not open/documented in the OOXML formats.

    Charts are part of DrawingML and described in section 21.2 Charts.

    Watermarks are described as part of the document settings/template feature. See section 11.1

    Tracked changes for DocumentML is described in full in section 17.13.5 Revisions. Similar sections exists for e.g. SpreadsheetML.

    The built-in SmartArt gallery is not part of the standard. But any SmartArt "chart" is just a DrawingML part with a datamodel, both of which are described in sections 14 and 21. It is not like the graphics are intermingled with the data in such a way that others have no way of figuring out what's going on. SmartArt is the term used for the manipulation of such graphics. At all times the "data" is kept separate from the graphics and the end-graphics is the result of a transformation. A transformation which is fully described in the standard.

    Styles and fonts (assuming you mean text styles in Word) are described in section 17.7 Styles and 17.8 Fonts

  • by J Story (30227) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @07:13AM (#32226482) Homepage

    Yes, it is a valid point that data can potentially be locked into Google's universe. However, Google have set up a website, http://www.dataliberation.org/ [dataliberation.org] to help move data in and out of its products. Not perfect, perhaps, but certainly not Microsoft.

  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@@@ovi...com> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @07:43AM (#32226580) Homepage

    I have found Google Docs is very true to Open Office format reproduction. The problem isn't Google Docs. It is M$'s sneaky secret, proprietary format. Switch to Open Office for your primary word processor and there will be no problem!

  • My dis am bigger (Score:3, Informative)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @01:35PM (#32228470) Homepage Journal
    The use of generic terms after abbreviations, often called "RAS syndrome" is useful for distinguishing Automated Teller Machine from Asynchronous Transfer Mode [wikipedia.org] or Portable Document Format from Probability Density Function [wikipedia.org].

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