[photopress:Openoffice.jpg,full,alignright]To a not disinterested outsider, it would appear that Microsoft is trying to heavy China to see the world Microsoft’s way. It has a new standard document format Office Open XML (OOXML) and it wants everyone in the world to use that format. No exceptions.
Now, in China, major software developers, academics and industry associations have spoken out against Microsoft’s ‘monopoly’ on the format of digital documents.
Microsoft’s document formats — such as .doc, .xls and .ppt — have been widely used all over the world since the company first began its dominance in the 1990s.
In one sense its document format has helped it to unprecedented success, setting a formidable barrier for other software companies. You either go the Microsoft way or write off the American business market which is where the money is.
However, there are those who have fought against it. Often publishers find these formats almost impossible to work with, especially with academic works and prefer to use other coding. And they take up immense amounts of space.
Now Microsoft is making a move to have its format — OOXML — the official international standard.
[photopress:openoffice2.jpg,full,alignright]Ni Guangnan, an academic from the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said, ‘Microsoft’s move to make its OOXML format the international standard is an extension of its goal to maintain its monopoly in the world’s software market. We are calling on the government to veto the OOXML format at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).’
The OOXML format is a file specification released by Microsoft in December last year for its Microsoft Office 2007 suite. It would still be reprehensible and appalling if Microsoft was putting forward a solid, stable and easily accessible format to become the ISO standard. It is not.
Anyone who has used Microsoft’s Vista; anyone who has had to work with a document prepared in OOXML which has to appear in another style, will tell you it is fat, idle, makes too much of itself and has a nasty habit of getting things very wrong. As in inserting footnotes into academic work.
What is astounding, and shows the power of Bill Gates and his merry elves in Redmond, it that it is currently in a fast track standardization process with the ISO and will be subject to voting next month.
Unlike the current ISO digital document standard ODF (Open Document Format) and China’s national standard UDF (Unified Office Document Format), Microsoft’s OOXML format can only be run on a Windows platform. The Windows platform is fine for some work, not for others. With this ruling it will be Windows or nothing and that means Microsoft owns the printed word.
Over the past few months, Microsoft has been campaigning to get the new format approved as an ISO standard. It claims there are thousands of software companies in China that can support the format. There is a world of difference between being able to, and having to, which is lost on Bill Gates.
Ni Guangnan wrote a public letter to Chinese media on July 17 opposing the new format.
Microsoft did not respond to Ni’s letter until July 31 — it takes PRs a little while to get their act together and get all the essential approvals — when Tim Chen, senior vice-president of Microsoft and chairman and CEO of its China operation, said the accusation was ‘unfair’. He said, ‘We are promoting the new format in response to our users’ needs.’
Which is total, iambic nonsense and Tim Chen knows it. Most Microsoft executives would not know their users’ needs from a hole in the head. What they know are Microsoft’s needs. And, for them, Microsoft is the world. What is good for Microsoft, is good for users.