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?"


So Microsoft - what are you going do?

Comments (5) -

I would not expect Microsoft to add ODF 1.1 to the OSP untill version they release MS Office SP2 which would support ODF 1.1 and they might add ODF 1.0 to their OSP licensing then also even though they are not going to support that version and have not contributed to it's standardization either.

In accordance with standardization organizations rules in general participating organizations are required to formally release any IP rights at the time a standard is approved/accepted/published.
So I would also expect Microsoft to add the future version of ODF which is version 1.2 to be added to the OSP licensing only then when OASIS approves/accepts it as a standard.

It is the same for HD Photo format. Microsoft have announced to put it in the OSP licensing a year ago but they are waiting for the JPEG consortium to approve the format as the JPEG XR standard.

Great question, Jesper, and we remain committed to adding IS29500 and its future versions to the OSP.  We’ll be addressing that as soon as there is a final IS29500 text published, but right now there’s nothing tangible we can refer to because the text isn’t out yet.

Hi Doug,

The text on your OSP-page says in the section about web-services:

Web Services

This promise applies to all versions of these specifications existing as of the promise date, October 16, 2006. Many of these specifications are currently undergoing further standardization in certain standards organizations. To the extent that Microsoft is participating in those efforts, this promise will also apply to the specifications that result from those activities.

(my emphasis)

Regardless of existance of IS 29500 - what is holding you back on creating a similar text for OOXML?


Well, I'm not familiar with all of the considerations that have gone into the various applications of the OSP, but one factor here is the extremely high level of public scrutiny and analysis that seems to follow our actions around document formats.  Based on our experience of the last couple of years, I suspect that we'd be criticized for not respecting the process if we modified the OSP to include all versions of IS29500 before the first version it has even been published.  In any event, the only variable is when, and not whether.

Hi Doug,

I realize the scrutiny that follows your actions - but that is the precise reason for me pushing you to update your entry on OOXML in your OSP.

Note also that this has nothing to do with IS 29500 - this deals with ECMA-376. Of course there might be some legal stuff I am not aware of, but I would imagine that any versions approved by ISO would fall into the category "Any future versions of ECMA-376". As was explained in the AHG1-meeting in London, ECMA maintains copyright (shared with ISO) to the content of any standards that ECMA works on in ISO, so "copyright-wise" any editions of IS 29500 will in effect be "subsequent versions of" ECMA-376.

The reason of the scrutiny following Microsoft's actions is that people don't trust Microsoft to "do the right thing". If you ask me, the "right thing to do" with respect to Microsoft's promise to include future versions of ECMA-376 in the OSP is to either

a) Do it or
b) Explain why you don't (in a convincing way)

By not doing either of the above, Microsoft is itself adding to the uncertainty of what will happen to ECMA-376 if ISO rejects OOXML.


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