Arnaud's Blog

Opinions on open source, standards, and other things

Let’s be clear: The Apache Software Foundation does NOT support OOXML.

OK, I’ll admit that nobody has claimed otherwise. Yet.

But in these days and age you are never too prudent. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this or other similar fancy claim being published eventually.

Indeed, in its desperate and last minute attempts to convince National Bodies around the world that OOXML is happening anyway so they might as well support it as an ISO standard, Microsoft is eager to claim support by as many companies and organizations as possible.

As evidence, in its latest OOXML propaganda open letter Microsoft lists IBM among other companies as having “already adopted (or announced adoption of) Open XML in their products”. This, despite a clear explanation of the contrary by Rob Weir, published two months ago! Does anyone believe they haven’t seen it or heard about this? I sure don’t. And if there was any room for misunderstanding Bob Sutor’s statement filled that in.

A colleague in a foreign country even reported that in a National Body meeting he had been confronted by a representative from Microsoft who was trying to silence him via intimidation and insistence that IBM supported OOXML contrary to what he was saying.

Microsoft’s oversight of IBM’s denials is clearly not accidental. It is part of a well crafted and continuous disingenuous plan to convince NBs at all cost. There is already so much evidence of Microsoft going far beyond what most would consider normal lobbying behavior it is sickening. For one, I’m not ready to forget the case of the NGOs in India. Talk about dirty practices.

But what really is at the bottom of Microsoft’s claims is that basically any software that handles XML supports OOXML. While technically this is true to a certain degree, such a bold claim without any further qualification is pure misinformation. Obviously, one of the advantages of using XML is to make your format, whatever it is, easier to handle, it’s one of the fundamental benefits of using XML. But as I previously touched on in my entry on XML vs Open, there is a big difference between being able to handle XML files at the XML level and truly supporting the particular format at hand.

Supporting OOXML. cannot be merely declared on the sole basis that a software can read OOXML files, or store OOXML files. If that were the case, then any XML parser could be said to support OOXML and the Apache Software Foundation could be said to support OOXML because its XML parser, Xerces, can read OOXML files (one would actually have to unzip them first but it’s not like Microsoft would stop at that kind of detail). But it takes much more than that to really support OOXML.

One has to understand the actual structure beyond the XML representation and the semantic associated to each and every piece of data found in an OOXML file. That’s what the 6000+ pages of the specification are supposed to define, unfortunately they do that extremely poorly.

The good news is that I don’t think Microsoft is fooling that many people. Based on my own observation of Microsoft representatives and the way they talk to people they seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that they appear as if they think the people they are talking to are too stupid to see through their tired arguments. I’ve got news for them: people aren’t that stupid. Thankfully. And I’m hopeful the results at the end of the month will make that clear.

The other good news is that whether OOXML gets approved or not, I believe Microsoft will pay a high price for all of its mischief and its image will come out of this badly damaged, something they can only blame themselves for.

In the meanwhile, don’t take for granted any claims of support for OOXML from Microsoft. The fact that Microsoft claims IBM has adopted OOXML can only make one wonder about all the other companies they list…


March 19, 2008 - Posted by | standards | , , , ,


  1. Tell Doug Heintzman, Director of Strategy for IBM Collaboration Technologies

    IBM favors ODF as a file format because it is “truly open” and technically elegant, Heintzman said.

    But IBM will support Open XML, which is the current document format in Office 2007, in its Lotus collaboration and portal products. IBM already supports older versions of Office.

    BTW you might be interested in this post 🙂

    Comment by Stephen | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. Stephen,

    I’m sure you’ve seen it already but in case you haven’t (yeah, right! :-), you should check Ed Brill’s explanation on “IBM Support”:

    As for the Apache POI project, I actually know about it but, again as I’m sure you already know, it’s beside my point.

    Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  3. […] a few days ago, silence does not mean consent, yet it does not stop Microsoft from claiming that Apache too ’supports’ (OO)XML. Microsoft’s oversight of IBM’s denials is clearly not accidental. It is part of a well […]

    Pingback by Boycott Novell » More Microsoft OOXML Dirty Tricks: PR Lies | March 19, 2008 | Reply

  4. By the way, Stephen, why don’t you comment on your company’s lobbying practices in India instead of trying to confuse people any further? I’m sure a lot of people would like to know how you explain that.

    Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | March 20, 2008 | Reply

  5. Let’s be clear: the Unix cp command DOES support OOXML
    …and is both a conformant consumer and producer.

    So, any company selling or distributing Unix or Linux DOES support OOXML (also known by Microsoft fanboys as IS 29500).

    Comment by Luc Bollen | March 20, 2008 | Reply

  6. Arnaud I’m not trying to confuse anybody. Read the thread you link to on Ed’s site. He confirms that IBM will support Office 2007 file formats, but argues based, on an article from a site called Fanatic Attack, that that’s not the same as Ecma376.

    I’m happy to discuss lobbying practices, are you?

    Luc – any fanboys who refer to it as IS29500 are wrong. It should be referred to as DIS29500. I’m sure you’ll keep them honest.

    Comment by Stephen | March 20, 2008 | Reply

  7. Please, Microsoft’s OOXML campaign is all about confusing people, so let’s leave this at that.

    As for discussing lobbying practices you can go ahead. I’m happy to say that in my 8 years at IBM I have never heard of anything that I should be ashamed of. And if there is anything I don’t know about the OOXML campaign, I have yet to see any proof of wrong doing. The same is not true for Microsoft.

    I wonder how you guys can look at yourself in the mirror.

    The end does NOT justify all means.

    Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | March 20, 2008 | Reply

  8. Give it a rest Stephen. You can re-define meanings and ways of lobbying to make you feel like you’re the good guy, but it doesn’t change the fact that everyone can see right through you. (as well as Microsoft). Its actually quite pitiful from a multi-billion dollar empire.

    Just remember this though: People only use Windows because they have to OR they aren’t aware of potential alternatives.

    Once a true alternative comes along, Microsoft and their related partners are in some serious crap.

    All empires based on deception, manipulation and corruption will fall in due time.

    Comment by Koala_Bear | March 20, 2008 | Reply

  9. Great post, Arnaud, and here’s another (familiar) side of MS-OOXML. Zoho recently announced support for the MS format for its Writer app. However, as you would expect, “support” does not entail accurate implementation. Typically, Writer eats bullets, garbles page number footers, and has a nasty tendency to change fonts on you, among other things. And don’t even try a tri-color table. And while we’ve watched it for the past year, to date there has been no successful converter written for MS-OOXML into any other format — not even Microsoft’s own .doc.

    Now that’s not only a shame, but that’s reason enough to know MS-OOXML should never go near standardization.

    Comment by Zaine Ridling | March 20, 2008 | Reply

  10. Or to put it another way, IBM supports ODF as the file format standard, and supports MS OOXML when it finds it in the wild. Makes sense to me.

    After all, since ODF can be used as the multi-platform file format without breaking the current set of applications, it works in well with IBM’s business strategy; MS OOXML has far too many x86 Win32tel dependencies to make it useable on the likes of the z900 series etc … Microsoft should confess to deliberate use of a footgun and intent to plead for mercy on account of disabilities …

    Comment by Wesley Parish | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  11. […] in the groklaw feed.  So I followed it to the article, and it turns out that on March 19th, a senior IBM employee blogged on the subject.  He doesn’t tell any outright lies, but his use of language implicitly enlists the ASF into […]

    Pingback by Let’s be clear: The Apache Software Foundation has no position on OOXML. « niq’s soapbox | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  12. […] about ASF and OOXML In case anybody misunderstood my blog entry “Let’s be clear: The Apache Software Foundation does NOT support OOXML“, I did not mean to imply that the ASF has any official position one way or another regarding […]

    Pingback by Clarification about ASF and OOXML « Arnaud’s Open blog | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  13. [Luc Bollen] >> So, any company selling or distributing Unix or Linux DOES support OOXML (also known by Microsoft fanboys as IS 29500).

    For those that don’t realize what you mean.. The OOXML standard defines conformance VERY (ie, EXTREMELY) liberally. This allows Microsoft to say that a bunch of people support OOXML (eg, many Linux distributions).

    This is a sick joke, however. Consider an analogous example.

    I define “support for my cause” to be crowned emperor of the world if you own a browser that is capable of rendering faithfully my world domination webpage since in that case you would be an official Jose_X World Domination Webpage Supporter; thus, you are *supporting* my world domination.

    In short, even if you are 100% against OOXML, you almost can’t use a computer today without using a tool on it somewhere (eg, to copy a file) that **according to the OOXML specification** would be considered to support OOXML.

    Microsoft is a very very clever company that without shame fools some very smart people repeatedly into short-changing themselves to the benefit of Microsoft, all the while thinking they are gaining. No wonder so many don’t want to have anything to do with Microsoft, even when that something might appear to be harmless. At a minimum, people should discuss with outsiders openly Microsoft offers. Yes, many a company have been taken advantage of, short-changed, and sometimes even trampled by Microsoft. At some point you lose people’s automatic trust. Microsoft deals need to be vented in the open so that we can all help discover the hidden traps.

    Comment by Jose_X | March 21, 2008 | Reply

  14. [Wesley Parish] “[…] IBM supports ODF as the file format standard, and supports MS OOXML when it finds it in the wild”

    Part of the problem is the second “supports”. I think a better description is “… IBM supports ODF as the file format standard, and >>deals with<< MS OOXML when it finds it in the wild.”

    I think such a characterization would help the uninitiated understand the real situation.

    Comment by Terry Cloth | March 23, 2008 | Reply

  15. Indeed! Very good point.

    Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | March 23, 2008 | Reply

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