Microsoft's New Improved XML

Posted by swhiser on Jun 2, 2005 9:06 AM EDT
LXer; By Sam Hiser
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As the EU debates SUSPENDING Microsoft in Europe, the company throws them a bone: a new Office XML File Format

OpenOffice wins the file format design battle! Microsoft has announced that it has copied certain aspects of OpenOffice's file format implementation. But MS XML retains serious design and implementation problems which deserve to halt its acceptance as a standard.

The changes to MS XML are undoubtedly good for Microsoft users: it removes several of the practical obstacles to ease of access which the company had set up for users by earlier making the format a non-default selection and by not using the ZIP compression to shrink the size of document files. They are making life easier on their users now also by issuing software updates to Office 2000, XP and 2003 users to make MS XML files produced in Office 12 more compatible with those legacy office suites. These changes reflect the positive influence of Open Source software – and particularly OpenOffice – upon Microsoft's product designs.

These adjustments indicate that Microsoft actually wants their XML file format to be used; previously the indication was the opposite, triggering adverse reactions from enterprises, governments and particularly the European Union which has been pushing to define eGovernment technology standards that are sincerely and fully open, rather than nominally open or partially open.

Significant problems with Microsoft's faulty implementation of the format remain, making the OpenOffice's truly open implementation of the XML standard still the high-water mark, the standard bearer, of document open-ness and permanent seamless accessibility for enterprises, governments and educational establishments around the world.

Microsoft are declaring their new MS XML implementation to be open by name, “Microsoft Office Open XML.” This is a distortion of the truth since the new MS XML is just as proprietary as it ever was; now it is simply easier for Microsoft's software customers to access XML formats. MS XML still contains binary elements which require Microsoft application products to access. This is a perpetuation of the lock-ins upon which Microsoft believes it must trade as open standards gain ground globally and upon which Open Source software is dedicated to eradicating.

Here's the real trouble with MS XML. It's patented. That means users must agree to the terms of a license. The past MS XML license terms were RAND, royalty-free and non-discriminatory, but Microsoft maintained language in the license which permitted that company to alter the license terms at will (we don't know whether changes are proposed to the license). No reasonable person with free access to information would ever agree to such a license -- free or not -- and certainly, we can be assured, no reasonable government would ever sanction the signing of such a license on behalf of its citizens when OpenOffice's truly open implementation of the XML file format for documents exists without such onerous, dangerous, unattractive, abusive and illegal encumbrances.

Links:

XML is the new default file format for Microsoft Office 12

Reacting to market pressure, MS Office borrows from OpenOffice's pathbreaking open XML file format design

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Hint to EU: tell them to shove it AnonymousCoward 0 1,336 Jun 2, 2005 7:36 PM

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