Why Microsoft Is Going Open Source

No one would have believed me if I had said five years ago that Microsoft would have a page on its Web site called “Open Source at Microsoft



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Anonymous's picture

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Haven't we all been bitten

bob67676's picture

Haven't we all been bitten too many times by now to really be able to trust this, or an other similar, initiative?

Haven't we all been bitten

bob67676's picture

Haven't we all been bitten too many times by now to really be able to trust this, or an other similar, initiative?

I am a Microsoft developer

bobby's picture

I am a Microsoft developer who has been programming for MS since 1986. Most people, today, believe that the 'big brother' in the original Mac ads was Microsoft but the 'big brother' was IBM, Sun, AT$T and other mainframe groups that determined all things for the IT industry in that era. The success that DOS had was because IBM wanted a workstation for its mainframes and Gates had an ideal workstation OS for that era. DOS did all that was needed to insure that IBM would continue its dominance in the computer workstation world. The biggest factor DOS had in its favor is that it was able to run on a huge variety of PC hardware from that era and IBM could easily adapt it for it's own needs.


Bobm's picture

This is one of thr most informative post I have seen including the replies. good reading even if it's a bit old and some good history lesson to boot. Thanks

Anyone who has tried to:

Anonymous's picture

Anyone who has tried to: layout a web page that will display the same in firefox and IE, display a properly laid out word doc in open office, create a robust win app that runs as smoothly as an M$ developed app, found themselves reading through "ms ranger" documentation or had to "write through" one of microsoft's compatibility layers which are touted to be such a boon to developers and see their performance drop through the floor should quickly realize what microsoft is doing. Not to mention the insecurity of the application such as mentioned in , This Article that really needs to be corrected. They are just leaving people vulnerable.

So this rendering flaw "Hopefully" should change with the release of IE8. Would be easier if we all used Linux/Open source and standards compliant browsers.

The bigger picture at Microsoft

Don Flowers's picture

I am a Microsoft developer who has been programming for MS since 1986. Most people, today, believe that the 'big brother' in the original Mac ads was Microsoft but the 'big brother' was IBM, Sun, AT$T and other mainframe groups that determined all things for the IT industry in that era. The success that DOS had was because IBM wanted a workstation for its mainframes and Gates had an ideal workstation OS for that era. DOS did all that was needed to insure that IBM would continue its dominance in the computer workstation world. The biggest factor DOS had in its favor is that it was able to run on a huge variety of PC hardware from that era and IBM could easily adapt it for it's own needs.

In that era, the monopolies were ruthless. Dig into Sun's history, in particular, to see what I mean. The same goes for IBM and AT$T. These huge mega-corps are still out there driving most of the networks, too, and tried to buy it and put it on the DOS machines of that era. If Sculley and the Apple board had sold the Mac interface of that era to Microsoft, the predominant OS front end today would be X-windows. Back in the 1980's Gates much preferred the Mac OS to DOS front ends but IBM was creating the ultimate, graphical workstation which was OS/2 and would not buy DOS from Gates, which by that time, was on over twenty million and climbing workstations. Gates work with IBM when developing OS/2, though, told him that their super workstation was premature and the hardware of that era could only support limited graphics and was just starting to get to where it could support DOS fully.

The first Windows was a graphical shell on DOS. That made it cheap and easy to get full DOS workstation power with a graphical front end and when OS/2 came out it was premature by about two years and ran dog slow on the DOS hardware of that era. It was a superior workstation software but it cost too much and Windows had all the original work done on mainframe connectivity already in place and by that time, DOS, driven by IBM, had achieved a hundred million user base and that base has been climbing ever since. The hardware that could run OS/2 at the same speeds as the original windows did not show up until the 32 bit machines showed up.

All during this time period, starting in 1982 when NT was created at Microsoft, MS was gunning for the light end server market. NT was and still is a superb server OS that ran on 16 bit to the current dual core 64 bit machines and gets faster with upgrades in machine power. XP is NT core and Microsoft put it in place of the old Windows core which was impossible to secure and do true multitasking with so NT core took over the Windows world because it was a true multitasking OS that had been battle tested in the server world since the middle 80's. The perfect workstation was XP and still is.

So why would they create Vista. What possible purpose could it serve outside a forced upgrade for cash? Well, when MS moved away from the old DOS based Windows core they moved into a much broader mainframe world that has rather peculiar problems. The biggest problem in computing today is how insecure they are. The cause of this problem is the down to the metal applications that C compilers create. C has a host of security problems coming from the fact that most C programmers do not have any reliable way to build in garbage collection or protect themselves from memory over runs that allow hackers to take over systems or cause the systems to hang.

MS has a huge application base but the vast majority of those applications are down to the metal C programs with an estimated 70% fail rate in the year 2000 when they switched to the NT core. Sloppy coding and no control over the vendors is why that application base is so bad. MS sells an OS and sells a dozen corporate world applications and the rest of their 30,000 plus applications are written by their vendors. This huge security problem was addressed at MS with its in house code initiative to insure that their own C code base was bug free. This, of course, lead to service pack two, which was a fix on over two hundred million lines of C code. This in house initiative cost about ten billion dollars but lead to an incredible in house code review that has paid off. The second part of service pack two was the addition of security practices from the start. So why should MS users go with Vista instead of the already hardened XP? Well, Vista is the second stage of making MS machines secure. In Vista, MS is moving to running everything in an interpreter sand box. the .net initiative is about moving software from the C programmers to the interpreted software developers so that all code can be ran in a sandbox. Dot net runtime is the sandbox.

The problem with interpreters is that they are much slower on limited hardware than they are on newer hardware. Vista is not late but right on the 64 bit hardware curve. If an XP user goes and buys a $400 replacement box today he or she will find that the only things out there are dual core 64 bit to quad core computers filling up the MS niche with machines that can easily run virtual machine 32 bit OSes at what appears to be native speeds. The 32 bit world is dead and unless you buy it on ebay or at the incredible low price of 80 bucks for a complete new 32 bit single core laptop which you can find online now you will not be seeing any more of these old single core machines at the retail stores.

All these newer machines come with Vista on them but these machines run 64 bit Linux just as well. I have been in the 64 bit world since 2003 when I first started using Windows server 2003. Since 1996, I have been having both Linux and Windows on the same machine. I am a client server developer who has to do software on either the client or the server and have been doing 64 software ever since. Most users, today, have older machines running Windows XP. The move to Vista is not even remotely hard but they will notice that Vista takes full advantage of the newer server grade hardware out there.

Is MS the only one moving out of the down to the metal C programming world? No, Apple is finally ditching the down to the metal Objective-C coding as well and moving to an Objective-C interpreters in Leopard which will eliminate their biggest current problem which is also down to the metal C code that has to be totally recompiled for every hardware move they have made. The latest move has cost Adobe a fortune in moving their software base over to the newer intel Macs. If Leopard does go with an Objective-C runtime with garbage collection it, too, will be dot netted and a much better platform than it ever has been.

No Unix box is secure or can be guaranteed to be secure for the same reasons. The Linux world has far more eyes looking at the code but there is still an endless sea of breaking code out there that leaves Linux boxes the least secure out there. The Apple world has been humiliated by just a few security experts who understand that C code is insecure. The era of the single user personal computer is long over and focusing on the end user with really low end hardware and no network connections is not the path the Linux world needs to be on. The fragmentation of the Linux community is also working against it and in spite of Linux having a good choice of X front ends the users in the MS and Apple worlds only have to know one front end. The move to a much better graphical front end should be followed by a move to a single front end.

I think KDE-4 is a prime example of an up and coming front end that all should be concentrating on. The movement in the compiz fusion world, though, is just the beginning of a high, high end grapical workstation that can also be made secure using dot net techniques. The Xaml interpreter in MS is a prime example of how to get any kind of front end you want using the power of OpenGL and other graphics engines. Most of the MS games I have and software runs equally well in a Windows emulators out there. This 32 bit world is dead, though. The Linux community now has to work smarter and not harder.

The group working on the moonlight project has the right idea. By creating an open source version of Silverlight they are making sure that Linux does not get made moot by advances in MS web software. The Mono project is also headed in the right direction as well. Would it be worthwhile to have the Xaml interpreter as well? You betcha. The Xaml interpreter takes an xml file and builds windows with it using the MS graphics engine. It would be easy to build a Xaml interpreter and tie it to Mono using OpenGL and that way, any application written for Vista would also be written for Linux or easily replicated if the developer did not want to do a Linux version.

The key point is that Xaml separates the GUI from the code. The dot net interpreter runs compiled code that gets converted to the exact same runtime code no matter what language you care to use. This insures security because the dot net engine is a sandbox and can't be taken over just from malformed code. The interpreter will simply refuse to run the code but even if the interpreter shuts down, it can be restarted or just allowed to not run the offending application.

The interpreter world understands this fully. Interpreters cannot shut down the entire system because of one bad apple in a million. but, the modern interconnected world needs hardened networking interpreters and Erlang is a perfect example of what a Linux dot net interpreter should do. It is battle hardened in the telephone industry and comes with all the tools needed to build the robust back ends of the future here. The GUI front end should be turned over to its own interpreter and that is sort of where the X world is headed now. It would be a piece of cake to write a Xaml style front end builder for X. That would also move the Linux world out of the old school Windows progamming world and into a much more robust world of drag and drop GUI's with the back end being covered by an Erlang like interpreter that already does what most Unix's do with the addition of the loss of the need to ever write another thread directly again.

Erlang comes with built in networking and messaging that is far more light weight than the communication protocols built into any of the Linux front ends. The messaging system in Erlang can replace most of the hard coded threads in most Unix applications or Windows Applications that use their own error prone inter process communications systems like RPC in Windows or the message system in KDE or Gnome. The removal of these remote procedure calls would create a much more robust and secure Linux. Erlang also scales, automatically, to the hardware you are running and since most computers that people will buy over the next five years are multicore it can and will run much faster than it already does, which is blazing fast on even old beater boxes. Tie in a drag and drop GUI for the front ends that uses the full power of OpenGL and the war with MS will be won.

Why Microsoft Is Going Open Source

Gabriel's picture

Base on the amount of money that is made in open source, it was bound to happen. I'm sure that microsoft's open source trem is far from we all believe open source mean.

They will see

watch tv online's picture

Microsoft will see that open source can only work in their favor and not against them. They have various patents on their software anyway and if you want you can copy closed code too. Open code gives more flexibility when it comes to new ideas and bug fixing.

Beware of Greeks bearing

Anonymous's picture

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts ...

open orifice, xpect multiple lesions

Lavajumper's picture

Anyone who has tried to: layout a web page that will display the same in firefox and IE, display a properly laid out word doc in open office, create a robust win app that runs as smoothly as an M$ developed app, found themselves reading through "ms ranger" documentation or had to "write through" one of microsoft's compatibility layers(which are touted to be such a boon to developers) and see their performance drop through the floor should quickly realize what microsoft is doing. The old "embrace, extend, extinguish" philosophy is still an approaching phalanx. History is not as real to those who have not lived through it, and I'm sure the younger people here want to believe that MS has turned the corner, but to this old guy the tactics are transparent. OOXML will be mildly compatible, the final 1% of project will be able to be done right _only_ by using a licensed development module from MS which is incompatible with other platforms(MS-java or Java anyone?), there will be mysterious slow-downs and incompatibilities when using competitors products, and the only reasonable _business_ decision will be to pay microsoft for the privilege of using their code. Even paying for another company's technology will not make business sense, nor will writing your own, because MS will be the only one that works.
The _only_ reason MS is claiming to have Open Source is to either control it or kill it. That's what they do.


Orderer's picture

This is just pure old Microsoft hogwash. Haven't we all been bitten too many times by now to really be able to trust this, or an other similar, initiative?

Why blame Microsoft, IBM does the same too....

JustForKicks's picture


Why blame Microsoft for adopting a selective approach to Open Source. IBM does the same. They claim to love OSS, but they still keep WebSphere, DB2, etc as closed source. OSS is nice as a lip service to many large software companies. But when it comes to making money off Intellectual Property, it is closed source all the way.

Another trick

us university guide's picture

I bet MS won't even lose one penny for the "open source" trick.Their purpose is to justify themselves then take more money from our pockets .

Office and windows are the

ord's picture

Office and windows are the treasure chests of Microsoft. You can be sure that these programs and many more important software are not going open source within the next 20 years. But it make sense to make parts open source at least for marketing reasons.


Tracy Reed's picture

Who cares about "open source"? That just means you can see the code. Big deal. When will Windows or Office or any of the other interesting things be "open source"? And even better, when will I be able to make and distribute my own changed versions of those programs? Never. MS has been playing dirty tricks for many years now and I don't expect them to change now.

Open Source

Paul Prescod's picture

Tracy says: ""Who cares about "open source"? That just means you can see the code. Big deal.""

No, that isn't true. According to the definition used by OSI (and adopted implicitly by Microsoft), open source entails much more than that.


"When will I be able to make and distribute my own changed versions of those programs?"

"Open source" does require the ability to make and distribute changed versions. Of course it is unlikely that Microsoft will soon open source Windows or Office just as it is unlikely that IBM will open source DB/2 or the Rational products, or Oracle will open source their database or applications.

'in practice its 6000+ pages

David Russell's picture

'in practice its 6000+ pages of documentation mean that nobody except Microsoft will be implementing this standard'

Er... except Apple presumably, who are offering full OOXML compatibility in the new version of iWork.

"Full support"?

Anonymous's picture

That "full support" in iWork is an overstatement. Apple wrote some rather buggy import and export functions, but nothing near a full and 100% correct implementation. The iWork software has even been reported to crash unexpectedly when trying to open simple example input files from the MS OOXML website. Crashing on XML import is very bad behavior indeed from a program, something which reflects very big internal problems with that module. So, I would not really expect "full support" for OOXML in iWork any time soon. But time will tell, I guess.

Another two important

smex's picture

Another two important points:

1. BGates will be leaving soon
2. Microsoft is hiring over 4000 new developers each year now -- they bring with them their habits of open source.

Both point you have here is

Devenia Internett Markedsføring's picture

Both point you have here is very important. Especially the second one. The habits of developers are hard to change.

I believe Microsoft is realizing that the world is turning in another direction than they had in mind. So, why not turn with it?

6000+ pages

Anonymous's picture

well, does one really have to implement everything? as long as the OOXML format is useful and viewable, applications can emit OOXML documents based on a subset of the spec that gets the desired result.

Microsoft needs to use Open Source as a virus... that's what drove MS in the first place! Charles Petzold published Win 3.1 code snippets; those snippets were gobbled up, extended and talked about by a lot of folks. things die in under a monoculture and thrive with diversity.

By open sourcing, Microsoft's culture will be, once again, embraced-- perhaps, and people look through it and pull out what interest's them... Documentation only goes so far in explaining what a piece of compiled source does...

Full OOXML Compatibility?

Glyn Moody's picture

Including all the parts of the form:


I find that somewhat unlikely. Steve Jobs's boys and girls have better things to do with their lives.

I accept that there are already many partial implementations that deal with the main features, but I just don't think it's practically possible to implement the standard fully, as you can with ODF, unless you are Microsoft. And that, for me, is a bad standard.

Why Microsoft Is Going Open Source

Anonymous's picture

They say a sucker is born every minuet. Your article seems to prove it.

how about

TV Online's picture

I think they're doing it for better and free bug testing and improvement and to boost their appearance to users. People seem to have an utter hatred for Microsoft, sometimes an unfounded or just plain misinformed perspective on the company. They're not the best company in the world, but there not the worst either.

Between a rock and a hard place

Wesley Parish's picture

Personally, I'm pleased Microsoft is asking the OSI to approve the template Microsoft Community License and the template Microsoft Permissive License as Open Source licenses. I have, after all, suggested to Microsoft bloggers more than once that they should do just that.

I refuse to regard the MS OOXML aka ECMA 376 as a credible standard: I've made my thoughts known to the likes of Jason Matusow and the like - but that's a different issue from those two licenses, which I have read and which strike me - as they struck the FSF-Europe - as being reasonable Free Software licenses.

The FSF-Europe also said that the issue wasn't so much, are these two licenses reasonable licenses, it's the question of whether or not Microsoft releases anything under them. If not, they are just boutique padding, silicone implants and botox injections to make one look good.

Myself, I want as complete a source tree of MS Win9x - including MS Internet Explorer -, MS WinNT 3-4, MS Office 9x, and MS Visual [Programming Language] 5 or 6 released under the template Microsoft Community License ASAP - because I do have to maintain family members' otherwise retired thus useless PCs, and they're of such a vintage that only such aged software will run on them successfully.

Until Microsoft does some such thing and releases such software source trees- together with a binding promise not to abuse the USPTO against me or mine - I can only offer provisional support. IBM got it, Sun got it, SGI got it, Novell almost got it; Microsoft's looking increasingly like the odd one out. But to get it, they'll have to overturn a decade and more's monopolistic behaviour, and what I'm asking is perhaps the easiest way to do it.

What Exactly Have You Been Sniffing?

Anonymous's picture

I'm not sure of exactly where you come down: On one hand you say you believe in the Open Source model, and then you say:

"Now, as the opening statement on the Open Source page states, the official line is that there are “a broad range of choices for developing and deploying software, including open source approaches and applications

In order for M$ to pull the

Laxator2's picture

In order for M$ to pull the rug from under the Open Source community's feet they first need the community to stand on the rug. In the community accepts the M$ standards there will be no reason for anyone to switch from M$ office, and this takes the wind out of Open Source movement's sails. And be sure that all the M$ "open standards" are patent minefields waiting for the unaware Open Source developer to step in.


Aaron Nimocks's picture

I dont ever see MS going open source at all. Wouldnt that comlpetely ruin them as a company?

Ha, where is the fine print

Laura Mercier's picture

Ha, where is the fine print im sure there is something there, we just need a microscope to see that minute writing where Microsoft has a catch for the "open source"

We shall see

Glyn Moody's picture

I think it's important to remember that Microsoft is ultimately a company that needs to make money for its shareholders, or the latter will take their investments elsewhere. The latter don't really care about ideology. If, as I and many believe, open source is a better way to make software (leaving aside its ethical aspect), then it's almost inevitable that Microsoft will become an open source company.

Don't forget, too, that Bill Gates will be moving on soon, and even Steve Ballmer must do the same one day; when a new generation of managers take over, they won't be dogmatic about this.

Indeed We Will

Anonymous's picture

"I think it's important to remember that Microsoft is ultimately a company that needs to make money for its shareholders, or the latter will take their investments elsewhere."

Windows and Office are M$'s gravy boat. If, as you seem to suggest, M$ goes Open Source, and Open Sources the source code for Windows and Office, well they'll have cut off their nose to spite their face. If I can make unlimited copies of Windows, I can modify as I wish, if I can pass it around for free, well all that money that M$ is raking with their bugware will dry up almost overnight, the price for M$ stock will fall into a tailspin, and M$ as we know it will cease to exist -- true it will still be there, but the glory days of M$, of double digit returns, etc. will be consigned to the history books. The INVESTORS will see to it that M$ never Open Sources its code. M$ is a corrupt organization, fueled by GREED. M$ fears FREEDOM because M$ can not CONTROL FREE PEOPLE or FREE CODE. And the Open Source Community?!? Do you really believe that anyone in their right mind will TRUST M$??? Let alone develop for them WITHOUT being paid, and paid handsomely?? And Bill Gates? 50 BILLION dollars. He might step down as well might as ol' Monkey Boy, but you can bet they will continue to pull in money after they leave. M$ is NOT a Red Hat, it has no idea of how to treat people. GREED is what drives M$, and GREED is what will destroy M$. As long as GREED is firmly rooted in the culture of M$, the source code for M$ Windows and Office will remain locked behind some bank vault door somewhere. By the time it becomes obvious to everyone and their brother that the Windows operating system is a lousy and redundant OS, M$ will hardly be able to give Windows away, let alone sell it. So why would people in the FOSS community want to develop for an obsolete OS??? VISTA is M$'s last hoorah; indeed after 5 years of development you would have expected something - anything - that was better than what has so far been released. M$ has a bad case of cerebral recticitus, and because of it there is only one way to develop software: integration, integration, integration. In order for M$ to be taken seriously as a FOSS member a) M$ would *have* to put *ALL* -- not just some but ALL -- their code under the GPL, or some truly open source license, not some pretend license that M$ calls "open source" [what M$ has submitted to OSI is more for PR value than a desire to become a Open Source member.] IF by some weird miscarriage of justice OSI were to approve one of M$'s SHARED SOURCE Licenses as being Open Source, you can bet that it will be a PR bonanza for M$ -- I truly doubt even M$ expects any of those licenses to pass the FOSS mustard -- it a Hail Mary Pass. Releasing a few crumbs of code here and there hardly makes M$ and Open Source anything. I suspect that what they are or will release under these SHARED SOURCE Lic. is code of essentially no value, or code from projects that are dead in the water hoping that the FOSS Community, will rise in, and save the day by raising the dead. And if that happens.... how fast do you want to bet that M$ grabs that code and puts it under some draconian license where no one can see it?? You are a fool if you don't think they won't -- M$ has left to many bodies in their wake with their EEE strategy. Bill Gates and Ol' Monkey Boy would kill their own mothers -- and children even for a few dollars more, and they would call their actions simply "The Price of doing Business".


Anonymous's picture


lol what a fool you are.

Anonymous's picture

lol what a fool you are. you are just an angry kid, probably in some basement who considers himself a hero of sorts for raving about how evil microsoft is. the truth is that microsoft is a company meant to generate an income. That is not "greed", that is just like the millions of companies and brand-names out there that SELL products. They aren't going to collapse their income just to please a sorry ass kid like you who spends the day trolling the internet to rant about their company.

"By the time it becomes obvious to everyone and their brother that the Windows operating system is a lousy and redundant OS" You don't like their products on "principle" - they could develop the best product in the world and you would continue to be upset with it, yelling while your mouth is half full of penguin dick. Windows, OSX, and Linux distros all have pros and cons, but being "better" pretty much comes down to personal preference. In schools, both Mac and Windows platforms are employed - I know large number of people who hate Macs, and many more who prefer Windows platforms. Who are you to tell them they are wrong? I also know a good number of people who enjoy the Macintosh, or use Linux everyday - the OS's work for them and I don't throw a shit-fit because they use them.

Check Your Six

Anonymous's picture

It's Bill and You LIKE it.

Cash-cows, yes - but with foot and mouth disease

Glyn Moody's picture

You're certainly right that Windows and Office are Microsoft's cash-cows, but I think it's becoming clear that the constant upgrade cycle is becoming increasingly hard for Microsoft to sell - just look at the relatively slow uptake of Vista of the latest version of Office. This is why Ray Ozzie has been making lots of noise about services.

As Microsoft moves to a different revenue model, based less on selling boxes and more on services and subscription models (like Red Hat), the basic code won't matter nearly so much, and open sourcing it will be less of an issue.

What about GPLv3?

Nicholas Petreley's picture

How much of what MS is doing now a reaction to GPLv3? Perhaps Microsoft is trying to create momentum for its own open source licenses as a way of taking the attention off GPLv3, which it surely hates.

OOXML does not behave like a standard

Anonymous's picture

Open standards once developed and approved, by multiple entities whose interests counter balance each other, are completely and openly published, unencumbered by patents, and inviolate so anyone can fully implement them and, in implementing them, can be assured that their implementation will work with all others. OOXML has built-in permission and allowance for proprietary extension which will break that interoperability. Those extensions will be: not published (i.e. not open), proprietary (i.e. encumbered by patents, open promise or not), and will change the function of OOXML breaking interoperability (i.e. not inviolate) Therefore OOXML is not open nor is it a standard.

Patents in a standard is not

Anonymous's picture

Patents in a standard is not an issue, if treated properly and openly.

Leaving aside the value of software patents as a whole, if an organization (or individual) that contributes IP to a standard does so with a fully unencumbered (universal, perpetual, royalty-free and documented, etc...) for those implementing the standard, then I'm okay with patented IP in standards. In fact, I would not want to deny valuable IP in a broad stroke in a standard simply because it is covered by a patent.

"But it's worse than that.

Anonymous's picture

"But it's worse than that. Microsoft's OOXML is nominally open, as standards should be, but in practice its 6000+ pages of documentation mean that nobody except Microsoft will be implementing this standard, which is largely a re-definition of a closed standard as open, without any change of substance."

WTF does "re-definition of a closed standard as open" mean?

Also, are you saying that freetards are too lazy or incapable of reading and understanding 6000+ pages?

Or that the standard is "closed" because it is 6000+ pages long?

Thanks for proving your

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for proving your (un)-intelligence there, maybe you should try getting informed before calling people names like someone in High School.

More explanation is here

Anonymous's picture

More explanation is here NoOOXML

6000+ pages is not a spec,

Anonymous's picture

6000+ pages is not a spec, it's an act of aggression. This alleged spec is deliberately obscure and incomplete.


Anonymous's picture

But the standard nevertheless is not truly open. It fails to specify what exactly it is saying. There are, for example, a dozen or so tags of the type "WordSpacingLikeWord95OnMac", which says you should do word-spacing the way word95 used to do it when running on a mac.

But the so-called "standard" fails to mention precisely how that was. So in such cases the standard helps not at all.

[InterPretThisAsWord97Would]binaryblob[/InterPreTisAsWord97Would] is not an open standard document, not even if I publish a paper that says that on encountering this tag, you should interpret the binaryblob the way word97 would have.

Freetards are not so lazy

Glyn Moody's picture

OOXML started life as a closed standard: Microsoft originally had no intention of releasing details until its hand was forced by events such as the original Massachusetts decision. Publishing those 6000 pages does not make it open, even if ECMA has given its rubber stamp of approval, because it will not be possible to implement fully a standard that requires so much detail to define it.

This has nothing to do with the stupidity of free software programmers, but is just a question of time and practicality: the effort required to implement and test every feature would be prohibitive. It's rather like the situation when IBM was being investigated for anti-competitive practices some years ago, and was ordered to present relevant documents. It did – over a one million of them, neatly printed out on paper. The case pretty much collapsed when it became clear that it would never be possible for investigators to process that amount of information in a useful timeframe. So it is with OOXML.

So even if the standard is theoretically open for anyone to implement, in practice, only Microsoft will be able to offer it, since the standard formalises work it has already done. This isn't just my view, but of others who have looked in detail at what's in those 6000 pages (for example Rob Weir).

I'm glad I'm not the only

Anonymous's picture

I'm glad I'm not the only one that sees through this simulacrum. One point I think you missed is that the MS 'shared source' licenses are all similarly named but only some of them are free software or 'open source' (according to OSI) -- They are setting up the old switcheroo; they will mislead people into thinking, for example, that the MS-LCPL is an open source license ("I mean, it's just one letter different from MS-CPL, they must be essentially the same").

The MS-CPL in itself, is

Oscar's picture

The MS-CPL in itself, is named to confuse people. CPL - GPL, LCPL - LGPL. See? I don't want to start another GNU/Linux-like debate, but we should really be using MS-CPL (even better, never mention it at all) and GNU GPL, to stop the confusion. GNU is trademarked, so MS can't use that in there license names.

Microsoft OSI

Frantz's picture

I believe it when I see it. I have to agree with your statement about the old switcheroo. Microsoft has been known to break a few promises.

Well spotted

Glyn Moody's picture

That's a very good point, thanks.

Microsoft is lying

IG's picture

If Microsoft is making any sort of statement at all, they are lying. It's what they do. You can be sure that the things they call open source are not really open source. You can also be sure that if they are playing this particular lying game, it is part of a plan to subvert, undermine, or otherwise sabotage the open source community.

Microsoft cannot be trusted. Ever.

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