Must you be either 100% Microsoft or 100% NOT Microsoft?

I was reading this interesting post Coté’s Excellent Description of the Microsoft Web Rift « SmoothSpan Blog, as well as the post to which it refers. It is an interesting discussion of the fears many have with respect to choosing to work with Microsoft technologies versus non-Microsoft. The chain is worth a read, whether you agree with the ideas or not.

One statement I found particularly interesting was

This thing he calles “lock-in fear” and the extreme polarization (encouraged by Microsoft’s rhetoric, tactics, and track record) that you’re either all-Microsoft or no-Microsoft is my “web rift”.

While I would not disagree that Microsoft strongly encourages the use of its tools and technologies (after all, that is what most companies do, isn’t it?), I see far more rhetoric and tactical positioning on the part of non-Microsoft, anti-Microsoft, and Open Source communities insisting that one must be 100% non-Microsoft (and preferably not even play nice with anything Microsoft), or you are obviously a Microsoft fan boy.

I guess that the point that I am making is that a large part of the “lock-in fear” is created not by Microsoft’s behaviour, but by the behaviours of the anti-Microsoft crowd.

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Open XML versus ODF, Part III

Well, since I did not receive any pointers to more analyses from my last post, I went searching on my own (doing the work myself always being a last resort!) I have found a number of articles which were very informative and seemed well put together. I am still reading and re-reading some of them, so my opinions my changed, but they all seem to be at least thoughtful analyses.

ODF/OOXML technical white paper has a fairly detailed analysis, though from the outset the author admits that the underlying philosophy of the paper is

“We are of the view that the format appears to be designed by Microsoft for Microsoft products, and to inter-operate with the Microsoft environment. Little thought appears to have been exercised regarding interoperability with non-Microsoft environments or compliance with established vendor-neutral standards [11].”

This seems to be an underlying theme of most of the articles – to start with the purpose of showing “why ODF is good and Open XML is bad”, as opposed to being purely unbiased form the start. This paper appears to be relatively fair in its analysis, however.

I also stumbled across a number of articles related to errors in the spreadsheet formula portion of the OOXML documentation, such as Microsoft OOXML spec ‘dangerously flawed’. While I would agree that these flaws (if they exist – I have not searched for them, but I beleive they do) are important, you do not through out a proposed standard because of flaws like this, you fix them and move on. I would be relatively surprised if a 6000-page document did not contain any errors. I would see this as an argument against fast-tracking standardization, but not for throwing the Open XML specification out altogether.

Then there are the documents presented on http://www.noooxml.org/arguments. While I am sure there are some great documents on this site, for my purposes I excluded them from the outset, since the site is obviously biased. For similar reasons, I did not go searching around Microsoft’s web site, or Microsoft Blog’s for information supporting Open XML.

The wiki at http://www.grokdoc.net/index.php/EOOXML_objections maintains a substantial list of concerns with the Open XML specification. There are concerns in there with which I agree, and others with which I do not. It, also, starts from the premise that “Open XML is bad”, and so is not really an unbiased analysis.

One thing that struck me as interesting, is that outside of the purely Microsoft sphere of influence (the Microsoft web site, Microsoft blogs, etc.), I came across no information presented from a Microsoft perspective, or analyzing why Open XML is better or as-good-as ODF. It seems the Microsoft camp is focusing purely on “we would like to get this specification standardized”, rather than attacking the alternative.

This leads to the question, isn’t that the correct approach? Let the Open XML specification be standardized (with identified “real” problems fixed, and let Darwinism decide which format survives?  (I can hear the Open Source community crying already!)

But, isn’t that what having alternatives is all about?

Open XML versus ODF, Part II

Last Thursday, I posted a question about Open XML versus ODF, hoping someone could point me a a real, technical analysis of the strengths and weakness of the two formats. The one response I received, from Sam Hiser, pointed to an article entitled Interoperability: Will the Real Universal File Format please Stand Up? 

The article (and the other related articles in the same publication) was very interesting, well written, and raised some interesting points. Unfortunately, I do not agree that it constitutes a technical analysis of the two formats. There is a great deal of reference to features in OOXML which cannot be implemented by third parties without access to proprietary information from Microsoft, but there are few if any hard examples. The primary examples might be the inclusion of things like autoSpaceLikeWord95 and footnoteLayoutLikeWW8. I cannot see how Microsoft could avoid including items like this in order to support proper rendering of legacy documents. In fact, if Microsoft had not included backwards compatibility support in the specification, I could see them being equally criticized for it. As for implementing these features, this is only necessary if you want to render documents to look like old versions of Word.

Most of the commentary in these articles still comes down to “ODF is good because Microsoft is evil”.

In addition, there is a great deal of argument as to whether having more than one standard is a good thing or a bad thing. It is interesting to me that the open source community is extremely supportive of having alternatives, unless one of the alternatives comes from Microsoft.

So, I repeat my question (and clarify slightly): Does anyone know of an independent, unbiased analysis of these two document specifications?

Open XML versus ODF

I have been reading several articles and blog posts the last while on the approvel process for Open XML in various countries. These include Open XML – US V1 Committee Vote and IBM MotivationsMicrosoft guns Open XML onto ISO fast track, and Open XML Suffers a Setback on the Road to ISO Ratification . Setting aside the name-calling, accusations, insinuations and other vitriol which seems to pervade all discussion involving Microsoft and the open source world, I would like to better understand what the technical justification of ODF over Open XML might be (or vice versa). While I would not claim to be a technical expert in either format (though I know Open XML much better than ODF), the main arguments I have seen in favour of ODF are:

  1. It got here first
  2. It is not from Microsoft

I do not see either of these as useful arguments. Can anyone out there point me to real, meaningful, technical reasons why one is better than the other?