Microsoft wants UK government to support both Open XML, ODF for documents

In January, the U.K. government proposed switching from using Microsoft Office to an open-source solution for its official documents. The proposal claims it will save money by moving to documents that support the Open Document Format (ODF) used by free software programs such as OpenOffice and Google Docs.

This week, Microsoft responded to the proposal in a post from its U.K. office, stating that the government is leaving out the Open XML (OOXML) format. Microsoft says that OOXML is "the most widely supported and used open standard for document formats" and is supported not only by the most recent versions of Office but also other popular software, such as Pages for iOS and even Google Docs. Instead of using one format or the other, Microsoft wants the government to support both OOXML and ODF.

"Microsoft Office has supported ODF since 2007, but adoption of OOXML has been more widespread amongst other products than ODF," Microsoft's post states. "This move has the potential to impact businesses selling to government, who may be forced to comply."

The company added that a change to just supporting ODF will "increase costs, cause dissatisfaction amongst citizens and businesses, add complexity to the process of dealing with government and negatively impact some suppliers to government." The Standards Hub is currently accepting opinions from the public on the proposal on its website until Feb. 26.

Source: Microsoft via The Inquirer | Big Ben with notebook image via Shutterstock

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Lets UK loose money and productivity with the "open" formats.
Idiot politicians making decisions on things they clearly do not understand.

_Alexander said,
Lets UK loose money and productivity with the "open" formats.

The only money lost is paying increasing licence and support costs for vendor lock-in formats like OOXML and proprietary software like MS Office.

_Alexander said,

Idiot politicians making decisions on things they clearly do not understand.

This is one decision that's actually good for the country, which leads me to believe politicians weren't involved

_Alexander said,
It is either idiot politicians or people who have no concept of the benefits of paying to receive a quality, well supported, service.

Are you implying that Microsoft doesn't provide a quality, well supported service with MS Office?

Because this is about document formats, not applications. ODF is supported by MS Office so the government could still use it.

ichi said,
Are you implying that Microsoft doesn't provide a quality, well supported service with MS Office?
Unless I'm mistaken sure looks to me he's implying the exact opposite.

Romero said,
Unless I'm mistaken sure looks to me he's implying the exact opposite.

And if you read the second part of the post you quoted you'll see why I asked that.

simplezz said,
The only money lost is paying increasing licence and support costs for vendor lock-in formats like OOXML and proprietary software like MS Office.
There are certainly no unseen costs one could come up with to counter you intellectually flaccid argument...

Know someone who works in Government and they still have to use Windows XP in some offices with Office 2003! Some have just recently updated to Windows 7, but they are still stuck on Office 2003!

The Government, quite rightly, only updates when it really has to, that's our money they are spending and most of them don't need fancy software just to produce letter!

Microsoft would say all this, they want the business!!

The UK government is on the right track. Hopefully stuff like this eventually ends MS' ruse of hiding proprietary formats under the guise of standards.

Sraf said,
What

OOXML isn't a purely open standard. It is still pretty heavily locked down by Microsoft...

For starters, Word won't save in OOXML standard compliant mode by default. The the user has to specifically save it as "Strict Open XML Document".

Secondarily, there is the patent issues at play as well. As the usage of the OOXML still carries a need for a patent license from MS... Well you don't need a patent license for the strict standards mode, but as I mentioned Word doesn't save in this by default...

OOXML was created as a "standard" that allows MS to push back against governments wanting to use a standard based format to give them a way out of MS vender lockin. It is a proprietary format masquerading as a standard.

As far as I can find, the licence needed to read the Transitional format is gratis. Sure, you can't modify it to your heart's content, but it doesn't cost to implement it

LogicalApex said,
The UK government is on the right track. Hopefully stuff like this eventually ends MS' ruse of hiding proprietary formats under the guise of standards.

hopefully one day people will stop ignoring facts like you do. office has long used open standard formats, even ISO certified.

by that logic so is google's video encoding VP8 codec. it's open but only they control it. Same thing with android, it is open but only they control its evolution and OEMs can't really run away with it or risk getting bumped out of the "open handset alliance" aka google mafia.

the point the UK is trying to make (and failing) is that they want to use other suites to read documents because they think the format is closed. clearly, anybody who has opened a word document in pages knows otherwise.

quite simply this is a whole lot of nothing. some idiot at the IT shop is trying to get a raise or something or getting a kick back from google.

Sraf said,
As far as I can find, the licence needed to read the Transitional format is gratis. Sure, you can't modify it to your heart's content, but it doesn't cost to implement it

This. The other guy obviously doesn't understand that Microsoft's implementation is both open yet more secure than the other.

LogicalApex said,
The UK government is on the right track. Hopefully stuff like this eventually ends MS' ruse of hiding proprietary formats under the guise of standards.
Rofl. Seriously?

More importantly the fear of proprietary formats has to do with "what do I do when you're hit by a bus" thinking. MS is a blue chip that isn't going anywhere. They are the most used Productivity software worldwide. They have the most used file formats. And finally, OOXML is 100% documented and implemented by many, as they state.

People's ongoing bias towards MS is just silly. And that's what drives this thought process.

MrHumpty said,
Rofl. Seriously?

More importantly the fear of proprietary formats has to do with "what do I do when you're hit by a bus" thinking. MS is a blue chip that isn't going anywhere. They are the most used Productivity software worldwide. They have the most used file formats. And finally, OOXML is 100% documented and implemented by many, as they state.

People's ongoing bias towards MS is just silly. And that's what drives this thought process.

Government documents should use a 100% open standard that has no proprietary extensions or issues ideally. Microsoft looks like they will not go anywhere today, but that doesn't hold true for the next 20, 50, or even 100 years.

Proprietary formats are a major problem long term.

LogicalApex said,

Government documents should use a 100% open standard that has no proprietary extensions or issues ideally. Microsoft looks like they will not go anywhere today, but that doesn't hold true for the next 20, 50, or even 100 years.

Proprietary formats are a major problem long term.

So are open standards projected that far out. How do we know hologram technology will support OOXML and ODF anyways? Everything is a major problem 20 to 100 years from now. Its more likely a company like MS can support their stuff better with holograms over open source projects.

I think what LogicalApex is suggesting is that what happens if Microsoft run low on cash in 5 years time and start charging for the patented parts of the standard.

LogicalApex said,
The UK government is on the right track. Hopefully stuff like this eventually ends MS' ruse of hiding proprietary formats under the guise of standards.

QFT. That and the fact that OOXML is so bloated that even Microsoft hasn't fully implemented its own format.

Now is the time to break the Microsoft proprietary cycle. OOXML is just Microsoft's attempt to appease governments and businesses seeking open formats and systems. However, MS' behaviour during the OOXML ISO process clearly shows the lengths they'll go to to preserve their office monopoly and licence fees.

I fear the UK government will buckle under the pressure of Microsoft's lobbying and adopt this token gesture OOXML format. Thus preserving the strangle hold MS has over UK IT.

One only needs to look at the NHS XP fiasco to see what happens when you rely on proprietary and non-standard systems. Time to wake up UK Gov and don't give in.

Depicus said,
I think what LogicalApex is suggesting is that what happens if Microsoft run low on cash in 5 years time and start charging for the patented parts of the standard.

He said "Proprietary formats are a major problem long term" meaning years and years from now. And also, "Microsoft looks like they will not go anywhere today, but that doesn't hold true for the next 20..." which I took to mean long term. Which is why I addressed my thoughts in the long term. MS taking a hit in the short term is a different discussion I think =).

But also, doesnt proprietary formats have a patent life at all? Long term it may be a none issue anyways.

neonspark said,

hopefully one day people will stop ignoring facts like you do. office has long used open standard formats

Microsoft's OOXML is based on a proprietary document format and depends on software patents. That alone should deter any organisation from adopting it.

neonspark said,

even ISO certified.

And let's not forget how Microsoft corrupted the ISO process in order to ram through its format:

http://www.groklaw.net/article...php?story=20070827111019189

http://wikileaks.org/wiki/New_...disation_of_Microsoft_OOXML

ODF is universally supported, there's absolutely no need to include proprietary and patent encumbered formats like OOXML. It costs more money to support two formats than it does for just one. The real reason Microsoft doesn't want ODF to be the standard for the UK is that it threatens Microsoft's Office hegemony.

Scabrat said,

But also, doesnt proprietary formats have a patent life at all?

No, because Microsoft will just extend the format to include other patents. Just like they did with ex-fat because the original fat patent expires soon.

Scabrat said,

Long term it may be a none issue anyways.

It's an issue in the short term and long term. Organisations are locked into Microsoft proprietary solutions because nobody else can implement the full OOXML format. Even MS themselves don't fully implement it.

simplezz said,

No, because Microsoft will just extend the format to include other patents. Just like they did with ex-fat because the original fat patent expires soon.


It's an issue in the short term and long term. Organisations are locked into Microsoft proprietary solutions because nobody else can implement the full OOXML format. Even MS themselves don't fully implement it.

ex-fat is different than fat32. But fat32 will still expire, yeah? So ex-fat is an improvement and different than fat32.

I always thought people were locked into Microsoft because they were the best (I know, that is subjective). And MS is calling the government to use both OOXML and ODF. Just read the last two paragraphs of the article. They werent saying only use OOXML just that is should be included with ODF.

Oh well, I really dont care much. I dont live in, or do business with, the UK so I dont have to deal with it. You guys can figure it out =).

Scabrat said,

ex-fat is different than fat32. But fat32 will still expire, yeah? So ex-fat is an improvement and different than fat32.

I always thought people were locked into Microsoft because they were the best (I know, that is subjective). And MS is calling the government to use both OOXML and ODF. Just read the last two paragraphs of the article. They werent saying only use OOXML just that is should be included with ODF.

Oh well, I really dont care much. I dont live in, or do business with, the UK so I dont have to deal with it. You guys can figure it out =).

Microsoft vendor lock-in is what has killed the productivity software space. There was a time when Microsoft was better, for one reason or another, but now that they have monopolized the market we're all worse off. Proprietary formats only serve to reinforce or establish monopoly power. If MS tooling were to be the best then MS wouldn't have any concerned with formats...

Microsoft is calling on the government to support both formats because they only care about enforcing their monopoly power. It appears they are welcoming competition, but they have no intention of making ODF a default or well supported format in Office and they have no intention of adhering to OOXML strict. Instead OOXML support will keep them in the door while ensuring their format acts as a stranglehold around the government.

I like MS tooling in a lot of areas, but I really think we need open formats for things we intend to last beyond our lifetimes. There is nothing preventing MS from properly supporting ODF and selling the government a version of Word that works with it properly... Well except that they don't want any competition...

With a fully documented and open standard the government could easily contract with a firm to write custom tooling in the future to deal with the format. The population would also be capable of doing the same if needed in the future.

Edited by LogicalApex, Feb 21 2014, 1:30am :

Scabrat said,

So ex-fat is an improvement and different than fat32.

The same could be said of a revision to OOXML. Whether it's true or not doesn't matter, It still has the net effect of extending the life of patents covering Microsoft formats.

Scabrat said,

I always thought people were locked into Microsoft because they were the best (I know, that is subjective).

That may well have been true at some point. Though it was probably more to do with Windows and proprietary secret API's than anything else, but regardless, I don't necessary believe that today considering the plethora of alternatives like Libre Office, Google Docs, Gnome / KDE Office, Lotus, etc.

I'm sure someone can find an obscure feature that MS Office has that the free alternatives don't, but the reality is, in terms of core functionality, office suites haven't changed a lot since 2000. Microsoft slaps a new coat of paint (ribbon etc) every few years and pushes out a new version. Most people don't need it.

Scabrat said,

And MS is calling the government to use both OOXML and ODF. Just read the last two paragraphs of the article. They werent saying only use OOXML just that is should be included with ODF.

And where's the benefit of having to support two formats when one of them is proprietary and patent encumbered? The only person that benefits is Microsoft. And I as a UK taxpayer, don't want my money wasted on bolstering Microsoft's bottom line.

Scabrat said,

Oh well, I really dont care much. I dont live in, or do business with, the UK so I dont have to deal with it. You guys can figure it out =).

Well I do and I'm looking forward to not having to deal with MS proprietary formats any more.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Governments and organisations around the world are abandoning proprietary software and vendor lock-in for FOSS and open standard based solutions. That's good for taxpayers and civil servants alike.

LogicalApex said,

If MS tooling were to be the best then MS wouldn't have any concerned with formats...

That's a really good point. If MS Office really is the superior product, why is Microsoft trying to push its own formats when the vendor neutral ODF already exists and is universally supported. The obviously conclusion is, by controlling the formats, Microsoft can hold governments to ransom over compatibility as we can still see today when dealing with .xls, .doc etc. The fact that Microsoft expended so much effort compromising the ISO process to get OOXML approved suggests there's something to be gained from controlling the format agenda.

LogicalApex said,

It appears they are welcoming competition, but they have no intention of making ODF a default or well supported format in Office and they have no intention of adhering to OOXML strict. Instead OOXML support will keep them in the door while ensuring their format acts as a stranglehold around the government.

That's the problem with Microsoft. They're always trying to insert proprietary and patent encumbered formats into general use. DotNet, OOXML, x265, the list goes on. All proprietary, patent encumbered, and all pushed hard by Microsoft.

LogicalApex said,

Well except that they don't want any competition...

And that's unfortunately Microsoft's always ever-present agenda. Butcher every open standard and force their own on the market. They did the same with IE, where it still creates headaches for developers even to this day.

simplezz said,
Butcher every open standard and force their own on the market. They did the same with IE, where it still creates headaches for developers even to this day.
TBH IE did introduce a lot of features that were made part of the standards later.

From a pure profit generation perspective, what company would do different if it were in the same position? How would it benefit them to support open standards? I don't blame them entirely - they're simply doing what they do best. If people/governments want to support open standards they need to be more vocal and assertive and put pressure on the companies. Governments especially have power to thwart a mere company's ambition for sure if they are interested and haven't been bought out.

Edited by Romero, Feb 21 2014, 7:14am :

LogicalApex said,

Government documents should use a 100% open standard that has no proprietary extensions or issues ideally.

Why?
Proprietary formats are a major problem long term.

How?

But, again, it's not proprietary. It is fully documented and supported by numerous entities. Your biased of MS is the only driving force.

Romero said,
TBH IE did introduce a lot of features that were made part of the standards later.

From a pure profit generation perspective, what company would do different if it were in the same position? How would it benefit them to support open standards? I don't blame them entirely - they're simply doing what they do best. If people/governments want to support open standards they need to be more vocal and assertive and put pressure on the companies. Governments especially have power to thwart a mere company's ambition for sure if they are interested and haven't been bought out.

A lot of kids don't quite understand what happened in the mid-90's through early 2000's. MS moved faster than the standards bodies. Hell. The standards bodies still move a snails pace.

And besides, the issue affects Office 2010 - NOT Office 2013 or Office 365 2.0; the latter can import/export ODF files just fine.

Sraf said,
As far as I can find, the licence needed to read the Transitional format is gratis. Sure, you can't modify it to your heart's content, but it doesn't cost to implement it

And IIRC the biggest obstacle isn't Microsoft itself but the number of companies that require backwards compatibility thus baked into OOXML there are large chunks of the standard that are left open as to provide an area for backwards compatibility as organisations transition away from doc and many of the proprietary technologies that have actually be killed off already which can be seen in Office 2013 RT (Microsoft pretty much gutted out Office 2013 for Windows RT by getting rid the years of legacy technologies that have been deprecated).

ODF support was a bit rough pre Office 2013.

The main reason is Open/Libre Office was using Draft ODF 1.2 standard and Office 2010 supported non-draft ODF 1.1. Version 1.2 was finalized during office 2013 development so it supported it.

Office 2013 also supported, by default the OpenXML standard it submitted to the ISO standards board, however Office 2010 default was not the exact OpenXML standard they submitted.

I can agree with this. Certainly, most businesses use Office, not OO or LO, so taking both is ideal, IMO. And really, just importing a file is generally not a big deal unless the sender is a real power user and does things the importing program has issues with. .