a 'mooh' point

clearly an IBM drone

Microsoft, its time to deliver

Just before OOXML was approved in JTC1/SC34, a lot of us spent a lot of time discussing the differences of between Sun's CNS, IBM's ISP and Microsoft's OSP. Specifically, a thread on Oliver Bell's blog dealt with this topic. The post was called "The OSP will apply to future versions of DIS29500". Oliver said

For developers wanting to use the ISO/IEC DIS29500 specification this has raised some questions around exactly what level of support Microsoft will pledge to future versions of the OpenXML specification as it continues to evolve through the ISO process.

This is an important issue, and to date I don’t think we have been clear enough around our intent in this area. This has come up in internal discussions several times recently and today a decision was taken to make a public statement to continue to make the intellectual property that developers or users may need available to future versions.

The statement will appear on http://microsoft.com shortly

This was in late March 2008. I just checked the OSP-page and this change has still not been applied to the OSP. The text still says:

Q: Does this OSP apply to all versions of the standard, including future revisions?

A: The Open Specification Promise applies to all existing versions of the specification(s) designated on the public list posted at http://www.microsoft.com/interop/osp/, unless otherwise noted with respect to a particular specification (see, for example, specific notes related to web services specifications).

Then in late May Microsoft announced their support of ODF in Microsoft Office 12 and joining ODF TC.I myself wrote a bit on it on my blog, and I made the following list of things Microsoft wanted to do:

  1. Microsoft will join OASIS ODF TC
  2. Microsoft will include ODF in their list of specifications covered by the Open Specification Promise (OSP)
  3. Microsoft will include full, native support for ODF 1.1 in Microsoft Office 14 and in Microsoft Office 12 SP2 - scheduled for Q2 2009. Microsoft Office 12 SP2 will have built-in support for the three most widely used ISO-standards for document formats, e.g. OOXML, ODF and PDF.

Well, I clearly misunderstood something with regards to OSP covering ODF, because that has not happened (yet). I was under the impression that it was a requirement when joining OASIS, but maybe Rob is right in saying that the OASIS IPR-policy participants in OASIS-work are required to sign actually trumps the ISP for IBM and perhaps also the OSP from Microsoft. On a funny note, I was actually quoted in their press release praising their modifications to specifications covered by their OSP ... but maybe they changed their mind.

Still, I think it would be a good move by Microsoft to include ODF in their OSP. As I wrote at that time

One of the aspects of the discussion that never really surfaced was that if IBM has software patents covering ODF - some of them quite possibly cover parts of OOXML as well. But the ISP of IBM does not mention OOXML - it only mentions ODF. This leaves me as a developer in quite a legal pickle, because by implementing OOXML I am covered by the OSP - but I am not covered by IBM's ISP (and vice versa). To me as a developer, Microsoft's coverage of ODF in their OSP is a good move, because it should remove all legal worries I might have around stepping into SW-patent covered territory.

This is still true, dear Microsoft.

I all bad, then? Well no - Microsoft recently won praise from no other than Groklaw with expanding their FAQ on their OSP - now specifically  making it clear that the OSP covers GPL-licensed implementations. Groklaw seemed so confused by the "good news" they had to ask: "Are pigs flying, or what?"

Smile

So Microsoft - what are you going do?

Get the ball rollin'

The latest couple of weeks have been almost as quiet as the couple of weeks after the BRM in Geneva. Most bloggers have cut down on their posts regarding ODF and OOXML (including your's truly) and have apparently gone back to their day-jobs to do a bit of Summer cleaning before the Summer vacations. There has, however, been some interesting development in some of the corners of the ODF/OOXML blogsphere.

First,

ODF TC has launched the preliminary work to form another ODF TC to focus on interoperability between ODF-enabled applications. I am one of the "lurkers" on the mail list, and I encourage everyone to either eavesdrop on the conversations taken place or actively participate in the debate. As noted before, conformance and interoperability is so much more than schema validation and the initiative is highly valuable. The topics being discussed are conformance, interoperability, IPR, AcidTests and much, much more.

Second,

Microsoft has joined ODF TC in OASIS. By Paul's message to the maillist of ODF OIIC  it seems that Microsoft has already been admitted into ODF TC. Microsoft is now listed as one of the "Sponsor Level"-members along with Adobe, Google Inc, IBM, Intel Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, Novell, and Sun Microsystems. (PS: Why is there an asterix after the names of Google and Novell?). This would mean that, as far as I get the legal mumbo-jumbo, that Microsoft will include ODF in its OSP. According to the content of the list as I write this, it has not yet been included. This also reminds me, that Microsoft said that they would modify the OSP for OOXML and specify that it also covers any future versions of OOXML that Microsoft participated in producing. We have still to see the modified text of the OSP, so Microsoft please "encourage" your legal team to finish up the wording.

and third,

(and by far, most importantly) 

Today is the day of the off-line beer drinking of the participants in the Danish debates around ODF/OOXML. We decided that it would be fun to have an off-line meeting between those of us that know each other by (blog)name only. It takes place at 17.00 this afternoon at BrewPub in Copenhagen. If you have a chance, feel free come by and share a beer with the rest of us.

Smile

Microsoft steps up to the task at hand

Some quite extraordinary news emerged from the Redmond, WA, headquarters of Microsoft today. In summary, they announced that

  1. Microsoft will join OASIS ODF TC
  2. Microsoft will include ODF in their list of specifications covered by the Open Specification Promise (OSP)
  3. Microsoft will include full, native support for ODF 1.1 in Microsoft Office 14 and in Microsoft Office 12 SP2 - scheduled for Q2 2009. Microsoft Office 12 SP" will have built-in support for the three most widely used ISO-standards for document formats, e.g. OOXML, ODF and PDF.


My initial reaction when I heard it was "Wow . that's amazing". I am sure a lot of people will react "It's too little, too late", though, but let me use a couple of bytes to describe why I think it is a good move by Microsoft.

Microsoft joins OASIS ODF TC

Well, Microsoft has been widely criticised for not joining OASIS a few years ago. I think it is a bogus claim, but never the less; it has been on the minds of quite a lot of people. Novell has had a seat in both ECMA TC45 and OASIS ODF TC for some time now, and it is my firm belief that both consortia has benefited by this. The move by Microsoft to join OASIS ODF TC will likely have a similar effect. One of the most frequent requests in the standardisation of OOXML was to increase the feature-overlap of ODF and OOXML. This is quite difficult to accomplish (effectively) without knowing what the features of the other document format is (going to be). By Microsoft participating on both committees (and IBM will hopefully consider joining ECMA TC45) harmonization (or "enlargement of the feature-overlap") will likely occur at a quicker pace.

This also means that the worries some of us have had about Microsoft's future involvement in standardisation work around document formats has been toned down a bit. Microsoft is now actively participating in this work in ECMA, in ISO and also in OASIS. I think this is really good news. Not good news for Microsoft - but good news for those of us that are working with document formats every day.

Microsoft will cover ODF with OSP

One of the most difficult, non-technical, discussions during the standardisation of OOXML was legal aspects. It was discussions about different wordings in Sun's CNS, IBM's ISP and Microsoft's OSP (Jesus Christ, guys, pick ONE single acronym, already!) and the possible impact on implementers of ODF and OOXML. One of the aspects of the discussion that never really surfaced was that if IBM has software patents covering ODF - some of them quite possibly cover parts of OOXML as well. But the ISP of IBM does not mention OOXML - it only mentions ODF. This leaves me as a developer in quite a legal pickle, because by implementing OOXML I am covered by the OSP - but I am not covered by IBM's ISP (and vice versa). To me as a developer, Microsoft's coverage of ODF in their OSP is a good move, because it should remove all legal worries I might have around stepping into SW-patent covered territory.

ODF support in Microsoft Office

Microsoft will finally deliver on requests for native ODF-support for ODF in Microsoft Office. Microsoft will support ODF 1.1 in Microsoft Office 12 SP2 and also have built-in support for PDF and XPS (these are currently only available as a separate download).

Denmark is one of the countries where both ODF and OOXML have been approved for usage in the public sector. This is currently bringing quite a bit of complexity to the daily work of information workers since there are not many (if any) applications offering high fidelity, native support for both formats. They hence rely on translators like ODF-Converter or similar XSLT-based translators. It's a bad, but currently necessary, choice. The usage of translators for document conversion has been widely criticised, amongst others by Rob and I, and the built-in support for ODF in Microsoft Office is a great step in the right direction.

As with everything Microsoft does, we need a healthy amount of scepticism as to which extend they will deliver on their promises. However, I truly believe that the moves by Microsoft here are good news - regardless of the scepticism. An old proverb says "don't count your chickens before they hatch" - and this applies perfectly here. We will have to wait and see what will eventually happen - but so far . it looks good.