Blogs Computere og Internet Kim Blog (English) Open Source Technology

Format Wars – Return of the Jedi – RELOADED – Come to your senses Microsoft

OH HAPPY DAY!!! I’m very happy, relieved and surprised: Microsoft Office Open XML (MSOOXML) has FAILED – yes that is F-A-I-L-E-D – to win approval at the vote in the International Organisation for Standardisation – ISO.

Microsoft is in “Neverland”, and sort of claims victory, and their official press release is titled “Strong Global Support for Open XML as It Enters Final Phase of ISO Standards Process” and the comment from the OOXML community site, OpenXML Community reads:

Results of this ballot:

* 87 countries participated in the process: 69 voted Yes or No (51 countries voted in favor*, 18 voted against) and 18 Abstained.
* 41 of 41 P members took part in the vote, meeting the 50% participation requirement for those members.
* Open XML received 53% (17 of 32) of the required two-thirds voting Yes or No, falling 5 short of this requirement (22 Yes votes out of 32 Yes or No votes would have met the requirement).
* Overall, 26% (18 of 69) of countries voted No, one vote over the threshold of no more than 25% of No votes (17 or fewer No votes out of 69 Yes or No votes would have met this requirement).

Microsoft remains optimistic that Open XML will meet the above ISO/IEC requirements after the comments submitted by the National Bodies have been addressed during the upcoming ballot resolution period.

Notice the asterix (*), yes they snapped out of it, and realised what had actually happened:

* Note: 32 ISO members voted in favor of Open Document Format (ODF) 1.0 at the end of its process and 15 ISO members supported PDF/A-1 at the end of its process.

Groklaw helped doing the math for Microsoft:

Microsoft is, of course, counting P and O members in one bunch. The actual percentages go like this:

  • P-Members voting: 17 in favor out of 32 = 53.12% (requirement >= 66.66%)
  • Member bodies voting: 18 negative votes out of 69 = 26.08%
  • Disapproved

“Return of the Jedi – RELOADED”: The Empire is under pressure, there’s going to be a sequel, stay tuned, we do indeed live in interesting times.

France has an interesting proposal: Simply merge ODF and MSOOXML

My take on this is:

Microsoft: Come to your senses! Admit defeat! Spare the world, and your shareholders the agony of this stupid format war and MOVE ON.

It’s really very simple Microsoft: Just document ALL your formats, including the old binary Office formats, and we can declare victory for humanity in this STUPID war.

More on format wars and “the Jedi of the Internet” from yours truly.

Blogs Kim Blog (English) Open Source Technology

Net Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

In the beginning the digital world was a big wasteland, with scattered oases. These oases were called Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes), driven by “crazy” people that spent their savings on dial-up connections, so they could provide support for a local BBS oasis.

Episode IV: A new hope

And it was relatively quiet for a long long time.

Then something happened, the oases began “trading” information, and information began flowing between the oases, making it possible to talk to people from all over the world.

This was all being build by a volunteer workforce, and different languages were being spoken – depending on the software used to run the “oasis”. This meant that the different systems used to run the oasis, couldn’t really trade information between “borders”, and since it was all based on scheduled windows of information trade, due to the expensive dial-up connections, delivery of information was sometimes very slow, and could take many days.

“The Internet” changed all that. That was because it established “traffic-rules” that guide it. The rules are invented, or rather proposed and ratified through RFCs (Internet standards are suggested by so called RFCs – Request For Comments), in an entirely open review process, ensuring that information can flow freely. Another important difference between the rather disconnected world of the BBS oases, and the Internet, was that the Internet servers were always accessible, ensuring instant exchange of information.

Having established the traffic rules, the world could be “paved” with a computer network, driven by the military, research and governmental institutions of the world.

But it was still relatively quiet.

That was until 1991 when Tim Berners-Lee (TBL) came up with the simplicity of the Uniform Resource Locator (URL), that meant that all information could be refered to (linked to) using a simple string of text. You all know that as the address with the strange http:// in front. That is a URL.

HTTP is an acronym for HyperTextTransferProtocol – and HyperText documents are the documents that you download when you browse the web. HyperText Documents are formatted in a “language” called HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). HTML is a pure text and human-readable document format, making it possible to apply attributes to text like bold and italics using nothing but a lowly text-editor, that usually comes bundled with the operating system (e.g. Notepad on Windows, TextEdit on Mac OS X and vi/EMACS on *UX).

TBL wrote the first web-browser, and the Internet instantly became usable. That was due to the intuitive document metaphor, and the fact that the web-browser ran under a user graphical interface, made away with the text commands, that was mostly used for navigating the web, before the web-browser was introduced.

Deployment of the web and e-mail applications was swift.

I remember talking for months with partners on how to trade information (exchange files). Usually we set up dial-up connections to local computers running either terminal emulation software with X, Y og Z-Modem protocols, or later more advanced things like cc:Mail.

Then suddenly, within the span of a few months in 1996, we all had Internet @ e-mail addresses – it was astonishing, and it’s really hard to believe that you had to send disks to your costumers a mere 10 years ago.

It didn’t take me long to discover the feature of the web-browser called “view source”, and that was how I learned HTML.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The Internet, and before that the BBSes, has always, despite it’s roots in the military, been a place for free-thinkers, and in parallel with the grass-roots, a number of commercial systems for online communications existed, CompuServer, Prodigy later AOL. They all relied on dial-up access – you know using the modems that made the whining fax-machine sounds – to their servers, and had expensive subscription-plans that made it possible to tap into a community of experts.

William Henry Gates The Third – amongst others – saw this clearly, and wrote about it, at great lengths, in his quite visionary book: “The Road Ahead”. Bill Gates saw the power of online services, and wanted to take the next version of Windows, Windows 95, to the next level, by providing seamless integration with an online service called MSN – The Microsoft Network. Microsoft also wanted to provide the entire infrastructure, including access-points and network access subscription plans.

Controlling the desktop entirely, MSN should have been a tremendous success, but at the same time, 1995, the Internet had gained critical mass, and MSN didn’t happen, and by the time “The Road Ahead” was issued, Bill Gates had realised that the Internet might actually become the ubiquitous network, “the information superhighway”, that he envisioned, and Bill Gates was getting ready to turn the supertanker, that is Microsoft, around.

While MSN was sitting idle, a number of implementations of the web-browser had been released, especially the company Netscape had success and had become the de-facto web-browser.

Bill Gates didn’t like that, he wanted Windows 95 to tap into MSN, and this was difficult, because Netscape, by default, sent their users to the Netscape home-page.

A leaked internal memo described the plan – “how do we leverage the fact that we own the desktop”? The answer was simple, bundle the browser with the operating system, and give it away – that will surely kill Netscape, since they charge for it.

And that was exactly what happened! Netscape lost the war, Microsoft had won, they owned the desktop, the browser (Internet Explorer market share topped at something like 95%) and MSN had finally found it’s market due to the IM client for MSN that is also bundled with the operating system.

And despite the fact that Microsoft actually was found guilty in monopolistic practices, they just kept on going, and the change of US administration in 2001, only meant that the judgement against Microsoft never really materialised, and didn’t account for more than a slap on the wrist.

The ability of Microsoft to change strategy was amazing, the supertanker did a 180 in a very short timeframe. Microsoft also managed to make Windows much more manageable, effectively killing off the concept of the Network Computer, the PC and Windows had grown up, and it became the cornerstone of the digital world.

Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi

But something surprising happened. Microsoft became lazy, complacent, and arrogant. Microsoft was also under constant attack from “terrorists” that targeted their operating systems, binding developer resources, that should be working on the next version of Windows, now known as Vista. Vista was supposed to be the long promised nirvana of Cairo, but constant delays and de-scoping of important features like WinFS, means that Vista ended up being little more than a point-release

Internet Explorer and Windows had been sitting idle for 5 years, the bugs in it becoming more and more annoying, and the security patches kept coming in, an ever increasing stream.

During that time Bill Gates also seemed to loose interest in Microsoft, focusing more and more on his reputation for posterity, being the greatest philanthropist in the history of humankind.

This relative absence of Microsoft meant that opportunities for alternatives opened wide. Netscape finally had success with their open source efforts, and released Firefox, the KHTML project from KDE (desktop environment for *UX) had been adopted by Apple with the Safari browser and now it’s even finding it’s way to Windows. The Opera browser runs great on basically anything from desktop computers over gaming consoles to cellphones, meaning that there’s an alternative browser even for embedded OSes, like Windows Mobile, Symbian and Nintendo DS.

Linux has also seen tremendous growth, and philantropic projects like Ubuntu has started spreading Linux to the desktop. Linux is no longer hiding in the back-office, and the dark rooms of the geeks.

Linux is also on the rise as an embedded OS, with Maemo and OpenMoko, and the amazing project XO, formerly known as One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, that promises to bring computing to the children of the developing world, by thinking different.

I can’t wait for the children to start creating Wikipedia entries, blogging, sharing pictures, making music, digital art and writing books. Imagine what they can do when they grow up!

And with social web-applications and Wi-Fi access becoming universal, we don’t really need complicated OSes for our day to day computing tasks, and a new class of devices will help us shed the shackles of the anachronism, the desktop computer. If you doubt me, try to take a look at Flickr, it’s better at organising information, than your desktop operating system.

Another frontier is open standards, especially document standards are being debated. The closed standards are history, and no matter who wins the “format wars” (that I’ve written about earlier), completely closed de-facto standards for documents, is going to become a closed, and very dark, chapter in the history of computing.

The Jedi of the BBS has returned…

…may the Force be with you.

Free at last, free at last, God all-mighty we’re free at last!

ps. I know there’s episodes I, II and III, and I might write about the prequel – even though the Star Wars prequels weren’t that succesful – and Microsoft might be down, but they’re not out. I have tremendous respect for Ray Ozzie, the current Chief Software Architect at Microsoft, and the Internet Explorer team and the Mac Business Unit are doing great applications.

So there might also be a sequel: “Episode VII: Developers, Developers, Developers” – stay tuned – it will be fascinating – we do indeed live in interesting times.

'i dag' (Danish) Blogs Bookmarks Open Source Technology

“Format wars”: CW – Bliver det uafgjort mellem ODF og Open XML?

(opdateret: 8-Jun-2007: 20:57)

Bølgerne går for tiden lidt højt i den danske verden for alt der er “åbent og frit”, og det skyldes en artikel i ComputerWorld.

Artiklen er baseret på et møde om dokument formater, arrangeret af DKUUG, SLUUG og KLID (danske foreninger/interessegrupper der bla. arbejder med åbne standarder, undertegnede er på DKUUGs mailinglister).

“Format wars”

Den efterhånden lange “formatkrig”, handler om hvilket format der i fremtiden skal anvendes til udveksling af dokumenter, ikke mindst når det offentlige kommunikerer med borgerene.

Krigen står primært mellem de to formater, ODF (Open Document Format) og OOXML (Office Open XML). ODF er en ratificeret ISO standard, OOXML er på vej til at blive det.

ODF-lejren (herunder DKUUG, IT-Politisk Forening, SUN – ikke mindst SUNs COSO Simon Phipps) mener der “kun kan være et format” (ODF). Det gør OOXML-lejren (mest Microsoft) sikkert også – OOXML forstås – de siger det bare ikke så højt.

Så ComputerWorlds budskab om at “fredspiben er tændt”, er overraskende, ikke mindst for undertegnede. Nicolai Devantier fra ComputerWorld starter sin artikel med disse ord:

ComputerViews: I kampen om hvilken åben standard vi skal benytte i Danmark efter årsskiftet, er både ODF og Open XML kommet nærmere målet.

Stridens parter ser nemlig ud til at have accepteret, at der skal være plads til begge.

Men er stridsøksen virkelig blevet begravet til fordel for en dobbeltløsning, hvor der er plads til, at ODF og Open XML lever side om side?

Parolerne om, at vi kun skal have ét format er i hvert fald stilnet af, og dualismen præger i højere grad debatten – og det fra begge sider.

Som ComputerWorld fremstiller det, lyder det jo som om format krigen er afblæst, og det er faldet “ODF lejren” (i form af DKUUG), voldsomt for brystet, de mener der er tale om manipulation, og artiklen har også resulteret i skarpe kommentarer fra den danske “ODF lejr” (vi skal jo nok passe på med at kalde det lobby ;-)).

Dokument filformater er “uinteressante”

Der er vist ikke den store tvivl om at undertegnede er solidt placeret i ODF-lejren, men jeg har nu lidt svært ved at se problemet med artiklen, der bare er en konstatering af at krigen ikke er så varm.

I øvrigt mener jeg at dokument filformater er ganske uinteressante, selv om åbne standarder på dette punkt er vigtige.

Vi skal ganske enkelt til at holde op med at sende kopier af filer til hinanden, men i stedet sende henvisninger til netadresser (URLer, links), så er det jo op til browseren og serveren at rendere/konvertere korrekt og dynamisk. Bemærk at Microsoft Office og Open Office jo i øvrigt også er en slags browsere, de anvendes dog ofte kun til at browse lokale kopier af indhold.

Vi glemmer også at det stadig er Microsofts “gamle” og lukkede DOC format og Adobes delvist åbne PD og da i høj grad (X)HTML, der er de virkelige de-facto standarder.

Sådan starter lavinen

Historien viser at det der sker er, at så snart bare en enkelt offentlig instution har købt MSO2007, så starter lavinen:

Først sendes der et OOXML formateret dokument fra en offentlig instution til en anden, herefter ringer telefonen:

Modtager af OOXML dokument: “Jeg kan ikke åbne dit dokument”!
Afsender af OOXML dokument: “Det er ellers skrevet i Word”
Modtager af OOXML dokument: “Det har jeg da, men jeg kan ikke åbne det”
Afsender af OOXML dokument: “Så skal du jo bare have den nyeste version”
Modtager af OOXML dokument: “Ah – udviklingen går jo så stærkt, og nyt er jo altid godt…Jeg taler med chefen, han siger jo altid at vi skal være på forkant med udviklingen…”

Hvorefter modtager bliver til afsender, og den ene offentlig instution efter den anden falder som de proverbiale domino brikker – *suk*.

Får DKUUG til at fremstå som utroværdige

Egentlig kan jeg ikke se det store problem med artiklen, udover at den naturligvis får. DKUUG til at fremstå som dybt utroværdige, da de (eller skal man sige vi) er placeret solidt i “ODF-lejren”. Det største problem lader til at være at Simon Phipps er fejlciteret:

Simon Phipps giver i et podcast til Computerworld således udtryk for, at han ikke udelukker Microsofts format og godt kan forstå, hvis politikerne vælger dobbeltløsningen.

Sagen er også kompliceret, krigen drejer sig nemlig reelt om noget helt andet, noget der ikke rigtig kan siges højt: nemlig at Microsoft Office 2007 (MSO2007) ikke skal indføres i det offentlige, og det er jeg helt enig i.

“Jeg viser dig verden som den er”

Men, husk:

“Redmond ligger på Sjælland, på Sjælland, på Sjælland…”
“Balmer ligger i udbrud…i udbrud…i udbrud…”

(undskyld til Nephew).

Se også:

'i dag' (Danish) Blogs Education/Undervisning Open Source Technology

Hjælp med at skabe “min” Linuxforum 2006 Birds of a Feather session om åbne standarder

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a feather flock together;
and so will pigs and swine.
Rats and mice will have their choice;
and so will I have mine.

Så er der ikke ret længe til jeg “står” for Linuxforum 2006 BoF sessionen om åbne standarder, og du kan være med til at skabe, altså co-create, den.

Mit oplæg er primært dette:
‘Format Wars’: Computerworld – Politikere fristede af OpenDocument

Og især at vi får samarbejdet om denne liste:

  • Der må ikke anvendes indlejrede dokumenter og/eller grafik, alt skal være henvisninger
  • Det skal sikres at henvisninger ikke bliver brudt gennem en PURL (persistent URL) system
  • Alt skal kunne nås gennem URLer og kunne vises i en standard browser uden behov for ekstra programmer (der skal altid findes en XHTML version af et dokument)
  • Programmering (læs Excel udvikling) skal “godkendes” af en central IT funktion, så man undgår “ad-hoceriet”
  • Der skal laves et centralt erfarings udvekslings fællesskab, så løsninger kan deles, dette for at undgå at den centrale godkendelse af “programmering” bliver for stiv
  • Så lidt layout som muligt
  • Dokumenter skal være struktureret ensartet, stærk brug af “outline” og “levels”

Men også forslag til standard software, og lister over anbefalede åbne standarder, jeg nominerer:


  • MediaWiki
  • Drupal
  • WordPress
  • Gimp
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Mozilla Thunderbird
  • Mozilla Sunbird
  • Apple iCal server

Standarder (ikke nødvendigvis åbne)

  • Open Document Format (ODF)
  • JPG
  • PNG
  • SVG
  • Portable Document Format (PDF)
  • OIO AWS (Address Web Service)

De-facto standarder der er “stemt hjem”:

  • Microsoft Office <= 2004

Kommende (ikke nødvendigvis åbne) standarder der er interessante:

  • Microsoft Office Open XML
'i dag' (Danish) Blogs Bookmarks Open Source Technology

‘Format Wars’: Computerworld – Politikere fristede af OpenDocument

Computerworld – Politikere fristede af OpenDocument

Rambøll er barslet med en rapport der forsøger at estimere omkostningerne ved at indføre Office Open XML og Open Document Format i centraladministrationen.

Link til rapporten: Estimering af omkostningerne ved indføre Office Open XML og Open Document Format i centraladministrationen

Citat fra Computerworlds artikel.

Flere partier ser positivt på mulighederne for at hente millioner i besparelser ved at fravælge Microsofts kontorpakke i det offentlige. Det sker dagen før regeringen præsenterer et forslag til finansloven for 2007.

Først vil jeg bemærke at det er en klassisk fejl at fokusere på økonomiske besparelser når der skal indføres åbne standarder, det er ikke kun derfor man skal indføre dem, selv om det da også er et godt argument – men “the beer isn’t free!” husk det nu!

Derudover er det underligt at det ikke fremgår hvem der er opdragsgiveren i selve rapporten, det er jo næppe noget Rambøll har lavet gratis (sådan plejer de ikke at arbejde). Men det fremgår af Computerworld at det er OSL (Foreningen af Open Source Leverandører) der står bag.

Som sådan fremstår rapporten desværre som bestillingsarbejde.

Personligt syntes jeg det er visionsløst kun at foretage en sammenligning mellem to stort set identiske teknologier, der fundamentalt er baseret på forældet teknologi, hvor man i alt for høj grad blander indhold og layout. Der burde skiftes til en centraliseret model, så vi kan slippe af med den latterlige anakronisme, desktop computeren, og begynde at anvende tynde klienter.

Der er rigeligt med open source software der kunne anvendes til formålet, f.eks. MediaWiki.

Den største udfordring er, i øvrigt, alle de egenudviklede Excel makroer, samt de indlejerede binære formater, der findes overalt.

Når det er sagt så håber jeg at politikerne, med denne rapport i hånden, kan se at de ihvertfald skal springe opgraderingen til Microsoft Office 2007 over.

Det skal ganske enkelt forbydes central administrationen at opgradere til Microsoft Office 2007, og der skal laves standarder for hvordan man undgår de kompatibilitets problemer der altid vil plage os.

Her er et par forslag til retningslinier, stjæl gerne ideerne kære politikere:

  • Der må ikke anvendes indlejrede dokumenter og/eller grafik, alt skal være henvisninger
  • Det skal sikres at henvisninger ikke bliver brudt gennem en PURL (persistent URL) system
  • Alt skal kunne nås gennem URLer og kunne vises i en standard browser uden behov for ekstra programmer (der skal altid findes en XHTML version af et dokument)
  • Programmering (læs Excel udvikling) skal “godkendes” af en central IT funktion, så man undgår “ad-hoceriet”
  • Der skal laves et centralt erfarings udvekslings fællesskab, så løsninger kan deles, dette for at undgå at den centrale godkendelse af “programmering” bliver for stiv
  • Så lidt layout som muligt
  • Dokumenter skal være struktureret ensartet, stærk brug af “outline” og “levels”

Har I flere ideer?

Blogs Bookmarks Kim Blog (English) Open Source Technology

Format Wars: OpenXML Developer

OpenXML Developer

OpenXML Developer is a web-site dedicated to developers of OpenXML applications. The OpenXML format is Microsoft’s proposed open document format standard. OpenXML will become the default file-format for the next version of Microsoft Office, Office 12 or Office 2007.

OpenXML, or “Office 2003 reference schemas” is often seen as a strategic move by Microsoft to try to take attention away from another proposed document standard, the OpenDocument Format (ODF), that is backed by the ODFAlliance.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I really fail to see the need for more than one standard, and I really hope that Microsoft decide to support OpenDocument. For now Microsoft has said that they will leave implementation of ODF to 3rd parties.

One thing I find interesting is that OpenOffice.Org, most likely will have support for OpenXML, as well as ODF…Just another reason to switch.

Looking at the content of the OpenXML Developer site, I can see that sections dedicated to Linux and Mac OS developers has been added, but the samples that are present right now is limited to Java and .NET, and it looks like Microsoft will be adding special APIs to .NET that aims to simplify creation of binary content, e.g. attachments, and the source code for this will (I’m willing to take a wager), most likely, be closed.

Where OpenOffice.Org shines, is that it’s implementation of ODF is Open Source, and having an open reference implementation makes it relatively simple to write ODF applications that will remain compatible.

Microsoft is claiming that OpenXML will ensure backwards compatibility with the old DOC format(s), this sounds quite strange, Microsoft could have decided to build on ODF, and then make their own extensions.

So what is Microsoft’s motives. I believe that they have several:

  • Keep undocumented binary information in the documents that only Office 2007 will support.
  • New lock-in strategy, OpenXML will replace DOC as the default format, history shows that the users that have upgraded quite quickly will start sending documents in the new format, forcing the reciepients to upgrade.

It will be interesting to see that happens in the format wars. A good resource, somewhat biased towards ODF though, is the excellent Groklaw site.

For now ODF has a huge lead over OpenXML. Office 2007 has been delayed, and by the time it ships, it’s likely that ODF has been ratified by ISO. OpenXML is using the ECMA organisation to gain a fast track to ISO, and Microsoft has recently joined the ISO subcommittee that works with the ratification of document formats. It is estimated that OpenXML is at least 18 months behind ODF in the ratification process. According to C|NET, the ODFAlliance is optimistic that ODF can be certified as early as next month.

Personally I don’t think that Microsoft should be allowed to change the default format in Office, and remain a supplier of software to the Danish public sector.