back to article EU investigates Microsoft's OOXML campaign

Microsoft's failed attempt to get its Office Open XML (OOXML) file format adopted by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) could land the software giant in hot water with the European Commission (EC). Last month, the anti-trust arm of the commission began formal probes against Microsoft in two cases where it …

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  1. Geoff Mackenzie

    Ha, ha!

    These are coming in so thick and fast now it boggles the mind.

    Here's hoping this is one of a sufficient number of nails in OOXML's coffin and the format dies a death. That would knock a nice chunk out of MS. Wouldn't it be great if they eventually had to admit defeat and implement ODF? Realistically they're not going to can Office but it would be the beginning of the end for it if they made it interoperable with free alternatives.

    Fingers crossed anyway.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Is there really any doubt?

    If you look at what happened to the voting committees and what has happened since then. The whole playing field is mis-balanced and its causing major problems as getting things ratified is proving to be difficult because the pro MS voters don't care about anything so don't bother to even take part.

    So MS in its greed to force its crap on the world as an ISO standard has actually shafted the whole ISO process . Brilliant move Bill... and you wonder why people don't trust your company.

    I think Ballmer's statement that Linux is a cancer is wrong - Microsoft are the cancer.

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    Yet more delay

    This will provide M$ with more excuses to sit on its hands and not release the specifications that it has been ordered to ... mean while stopping effective competition by use of obscure file formats.

    BTW: can we have a chair throwing button ?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love the EU!

    No one should get away with crap like that, especially Microsoft with it's history. So kudos to the EU AC Commission for taking a peek at these OOXML voting "inconsistencies".

    Combined with their previous MS ruling and them getting Apple to lower their iTunes prices in the UK (not that i live there) makes me think there's someone out there trying to help the consumer!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Microsoft Giveth... Microsoft Taketh Away

    I'm sick and tired of all this anti-competitive nonsense.

    Microsoft have created the operating system. They have practically given away the tools for creating applications. Now, instead of creating great, original pieces of software which people want ot use, we have companies creating copycat apps lacking originally, and any compelling reason for users to switch. Then these companies go whinging to the EU that it all not fair. Well, from a consumers point of view, I say WE DON'T CARE.

    A modern operating system isn't just about moving files from one place to another anymore. It's about web browsing, viewing your photos, watching DVD and other encoded video and audio. All that should be available out of the box.

    Do Microsoft whinge that they can't bundle IE7 with MacOSX? No! They wisely decided to pull out of IE Mac development. Does anyone for that matter complain that a Mac user can view DVD's, browse photos using a half decent photo application, or listen to music on iTunes? No, because it's expected on a modern PC.

    Should windows be bundled with IE, Windows Media player, Windows Live Phot Gallery - without the EU trying to stop them? Yes, it should, and if you don't like it, go create your own OS with your own rules and stop causing problems for the consumer.

  6. Paul Fleetwood
    Gates Horns

    re:Microsoft Giveth... Microsoft Taketh Away

    I'm not sure you've got the hang of ISO standards?

    Proprietary formats are fine, but not if you're trying to make them the standard when a standard is already accepted.

    That they tried to force through their "standard" (one so complicated it is impossible to properly evaluate) by a form of ballet stuffing does show they need to be watched, especially considering their track record for behaving nicely and allowing proper competition in the marketplace isn't exactly exemplary.

  7. Mark Rendle
    Gates Halo

    OOXML FTW

    Maybe if ODF wasn't entirely controlled by $un Micro$y$tem$, Microsoft would have considered using it. Except even if it was entirely open, it's still a lightweight format that doesn't even come close to handling everything Office 2007 needs to store. (See the Burton Group report for more info. Then come back and shout about how it's wrong and biased...)

    For years people have been bitching about MS Office's proprietary, closed document format. Microsoft spend a fortune designing an open, interoperable format, submit it to the independent standards groups for ratification, and what do those same people do? They carry right on bitching.

  8. J Davies

    Re: Microsoft Giveth... Microsoft Taketh Away

    "..now, instead of creating great, original pieces of software which people want ot use, we have companies creating copycat apps..." this does rather ignore the fact that Microsoft copied everybody else.

    Do you think MS invented the internet or web browser or operating system or office applications?

    Microsoft got to be be big by giving stuff away for free and then using this base to entrench its monopoly.

    The integration of Internet explorer into Windows opened up a massive security hole in windows that it has never really recovered from. In a Xnix environment a web browser security flaw can wipe out a single user. In Windows it can total the entire installation.

  9. Paul Talbot
    Linux

    re: OOXML FTW

    "Maybe if ODF wasn't entirely controlled by $un Micro$y$tem$"

    Erm, I'm getting a sarcastic tone from your message but maybe you'd like to revise that statement before being branded a shill...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument_standardization

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: Microsoft Giveth... Microsoft Taketh Away

    "I'm sick and tired of all this anti-competitive nonsense."

    I'm sick and tired of all those who have no idea of *why* every major capitalist economy has laws regulating the behaviour of monopolies. The most important ones are those surrounding "barring entry to the market" and "extending the monopoly to other markets".

    Without these laws, a monopoly once acquired would never face competition on its home turf and would be able to extend that turf without limit. Funnily enough, those who believe in freedom reckon that's a bad idea. Those who just want a free lunch from their local benevolent dictator don't care.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Even if they did

    So What?

    Welcome to the world of big business people. There isn't a single corporate entity anywhere in the world that has not used industrial espionage/bribery/hostile takeovers/general underhand tactics to get where they are today.

    Hate to stick up for MS, but it does seem that they are the easy target at the moment

  12. Cris Page
    Jobs Horns

    Microsoft can stuffeth it

    @ Anonymous Coward. Sheep.. I mean speak for yourself, as a consumer I reserve the right to CHOOSE what apps I use to browse...view photos... listen to music etc, and I object to being forced to install stuff that I have no wish to use simply because it is bundled by the architect of windoze. I dont want it on my drive, hell its bad enough that I am forced to pay for that which I am not going to use. Media player-less windows isnt enough, I want it without IE... Media player... "Lookout Distress" etc.... I dont use any of them! So why not add them as a free download on installation for those who really want them? - even though there are better applications out there.

    Anyhow this is about office software and Micro$oft trying to subvert the due process of spec ratification for its own overpriced unstable interests. There are equally good and far cheaper alternatives - Clearly Redmond realise this and thats why they were trying to sway the standard their way in the hope that it would damage the competition. At least now thereis the chance that we will see a level playing field rather than one that slopes steeply towards micro$ofts bank account.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Astro-turfing AND standards bodies packing eh?

    Are you the same Mark Rendle employed by Microsoft at Lionhead Microsoft Game Studios? Didn't realise MS were into astro-turfing as well as packing standards bodies...

  14. Kevin Hutchinson
    Gates Halo

    Soon to be Yahoo!?

    I bet those nice purple peeps in Sunnyvale can't wait to be associated with this good-old clean-living corporately-responsible ethical op-sys giant called Microsoft that we all know and love. If Yahoo! gets gobbled, I will seriously consider closing my Yahoo mail, Del.icio.us and Flickr accounts.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: OOXML FTW

    You are 'avin' a laugh, no?

    I'm guessing you are deliberately winding everyone up, but in case you're not (God help us!), I can only assume you've not read the ODF point-by-point rebuttal against the Burton report...

    http://www.odfalliance.org/resources/BurtonGroupResponseFinal.pdf

    As for ODF being a lightweight format... well, that's the point isn't it? It's NICE to keep things simple. Things tend to work better that way. ODF can easily handle anyone's word processing requirements. You simply don't need all the other crud that MS Word uses. Can you enlighten us all about some killer feature of MS Word document format (.doc or .ooxml) that can not be represented in ODF?

  16. Mark

    "Microsoft have created the operating system"

    And get to tell you what you can DO with that operating system only because government have granted powers to them called "copyright".

    If you really want government out of the picture, start there.

    Oh, amd Mark Rendle, Sun DOESN'T control ODF. There is a forum (Microsoft were invited to have a chair on the committe and refused) where they are the minority. Stop talking shite.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    But it was SHUT, not open

    You have an existing standard -- lets suppose its ODF. But there's something else you'd like it to do.

    No problem with that -- you design something that's based *on* ODF but has a couple of extra hooks where you can hang the data you need for those additional functions.

    Did microsoft do that? No, it started from scratch, made something completely NON-standard and then tried to mislead everybody into adopting it AS a standard, despite it having no third-party input.

    Not only that, but MS seems to have known it would be voted out, to the extent that it tried to bulldoze the standards group with additional bogus participants who were there for no other reason than to pervert a rational decision. Which, thankfully, failed.

    And now, its hopefully an open AND SHUT case. Hurrah for that!

  18. d

    @Anonymous Coward

    In response:

    I'm sick and tired of all this anti-competitive nonsense.

    Microsoft have created the operating system.

    >No.

    They have practically given away the tools for creating applications.

    >GNU/Linux, BSD et al. *actually* give away the tools.

    Now, instead of creating great, original pieces of software which people want ot use, we have companies creating copycat apps lacking originally, and any compelling reason for users to switch. Then these companies go whinging to the EU that it all not fair. Well, from a consumers point of view, I say WE DON'T CARE.

    >I'll break it down:

    >>I believe that all of the Office tools were copied/bought out from elsewhere.

    >>What is the most compelling part of an MS O/S now? It is a serious question, I use OS X.

    >>I think that you are stuck in a blinkered world of Open Office -- yes that does mimic. But there is a lot of open source software out there that does not mimic.

    >>Any compelling reason to switch? How about not having to pay money to keep up. Word '97 was fine for me when I had a PC. I'd still be comfortable using it.

    >>The fact the MS paid companies to vote for them seems a bit odd and counter to my idea of fair and transparent.

    >>If you live in the EU, then YOU don't care. Please contact your MEP.

    A modern operating system isn't just about moving files from one place to another anymore. It's about web browsing, viewing your photos, watching DVD and other encoded video and audio. All that should be available out of the box.

    >Yeah, this is a difficult one to pin down, we'll let it slide.

    Do Microsoft whinge that they can't bundle IE7 with MacOSX?

    >Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Look there is a lot of history of Apple needing MS back in the dark days. They needed MS for a browser, Netscape was pants (yes I did use Macs back then). Your point is way off. But see the bit for the next point.

    No! They wisely decided to pull out of IE Mac development.

    >FireFox, WebKit, Opera. It was a bit silly for them to pull out though. Mac IE had the best CSS support back in the day. But with OS X, porting to the new platform was a bit tough. Office for Mac took ages to port over -- but that makes money, IE did not.

    Does anyone for that matter complain that a Mac user can view DVD's, browse photos using a half decent photo application, or listen to music on iTunes? No, because it's expected on a modern PC.

    >No. But since Apple are the only OEM, they can get away it.

    Should windows be bundled with IE, Windows Media player, Windows Live Phot Gallery - without the EU trying to stop them? Yes, it should, and if you don't like it, go create your own OS with your own rules and stop causing problems for the consumer.

    >They should be allowed, but an OEM should not be punished by MS if they make a deal with a competitor to put something else on the machine. That was the whole point of the antitrust case.

    Maybe you should calm down a bit. The EU is helpful overall. Yes, there are more important cases for competition -- the mobile sector is one.

    The sad thing is that the relevance of MS has faded now. They have not made any compelling product for a long time.

  19. J Davies

    Re: OOXML FTW

    Last thing I heard, Microsoft will control OOXML it will not reliquish control to the standards organisation.

    Sun has only three votes out of 8 to 10 in the technical commitee. Even if Sun wanted to prevent that certain proposals from getting added to the specification, Sun would not have the power to do so.

    Microsoft have not even stated that they will use it. At present there are zero implementations of OOXML. The current MS document (docx) format is not OOXML. So much for interoperability.

  20. Nick Woodson
    Gates Horns

    Not in this lifetime.......

    Somebody help me out here. I thought that standards were something that MUST be implemented, adhered to readily available for review in their entirety. Proprietary, semi-closed implementations like OOXML shouldn't qualify just because of the money involved in their development/ownership. It's another example of "embrace, extend, extinguish" disguised as a tactical "fair play".

    Frankly, it's up to you folks in Europe and Asia to do something about MS because our government won't enforce existing laws let alone getting involved in technical standards battles.

  21. Adam Williamson
    Gates Horns

    Paul Fleetwood, AC 16:03

    Paul: ballet stuffing, eh? Is that what keeps ballet dancers' pants from falling down? :)

    AC 16:03: You didn't realize Microsoft was into astroturfing? Wow. :)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ISO approval may not be

    The legality of MS actions in ISO-committees is only of secondary interest. MS seems to assume that an ISO approval automatically transform into an universal recommendation of the format. That may not be the case:

    * ISO is not a formal inter-governmental organisation and has no formal authority.

    * EU countries are pushing for other criteria to choose a preferred standards in areas where there are multiple alternatives. Like:

    - true open processes wrt standards development and maintenance (IETF-model).

    - free use (no licenses, patents or other restrictions)

    - there must be at least 2 independent reference-implementations with at least one as open.source.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Mark Rendle

    Quote: "For years people have been bitching about MS Office's proprietary, closed document format. Microsoft spend a fortune designing an open, interoperable format, submit it to the independent standards groups for ratification, and what do those same people do? They carry right on bitching."

    ... that the supposedly open, interoperable format is still in fact a closed and non-interoperable format, because that is precisely what it is! If OOXML was actually designed to be fully open and interoperable, with MS relinquishing control in how it is developed and evolves in the future, then we could all agree to stop the bitching. However, it is very apparent that all OOXML was designed to do was to obfuscate and deflect attention by having the word "open" in its name.

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. Paul
    Flame

    Re: Microsoft Giveth... Microsoft Taketh Away

    "I'm sick and tired of all this anti-competitive nonsense."

    I'm sick and tired of *Microsoft's* anti-competitive nonsense.

    If you don't understand why a company in a monopoly position is a terribly bad thing for the industry they dominate, then you need a good beating with a suitably large clue-stick.

    "Now, instead of creating great, original pieces of software which people want ot use we have companies creating copycat apps lacking originally, and any compelling reason for users to switch."

    Windows was one of the *last* GUI-based systems to market. MSDOS was hacked together from an OS they bought the rights to. They weren't the first to market a spreadsheet, or a word-processor, or develop a web browser, or integrate TCP/IP with the OS. They weren't even the first to put BASIC on a microcomputer...

    In fact they haven't innovated or been first at anything in the IT field throughout their history. Everything they've ever done has either been a copycat work or something they bought and stuck their own name on.

    "stop causing problems for the consumer"

    A company with a total monopoly in an industry can cause major problems for the consumer, and for everyone else around them.

    A monopoly can dictate whatever terms it feels like regarding it's product, release whatever sloppy crap it throws together in 5 minutes, and the consumer is powerless, because they have no other choice.

    A monopoly has total control over everyone else in the industry it dominates. Others do business on it's terms and at it's pleasure, or not at all.

    If MS had 100% of the market for desktop oprating systems, they could effectively block competition by forcing the PC makers to include authentication systems in hardware. Require that the PC cannot boot unless the OS keys match up, and if any PC maker won't comply, then they don't get an OS and are therefore screwed, because their possible market share just dropped to 0%. They could do the same in software, and thus have total control over development too, even to the point of being able to disable an application that they wanted to "compete" with.

    Luckily there are laws to prevent this sort of abuse, sometimes they're enforced, and I for one am glad of that, as a consumer *and* a coder who *doesn't* have to do it Microsoft's way, or not at all.

  26. Rick Stockton
    Pirate

    slightly ON-TOPIC, for a change....

    I'm not thrilled to read posts by IDIOTS trying to redefine "Web Browser" as an operating system function, just because somebody pays them to shill here. (Firefox and Opera are clearly just application programs, and do a far better job than IE.)

    Now back to the topic of the article: The really weird and unfortunate thing is that after all of these months, with the committee no longer able to do *ANY* business at all because they can't establish a quorum for voting on any non-OOXML proposals, (because these new "members" don't take part in anything except OOXML)---

    Why on Earth hasn't the ISO taken action *by itself* to correct this ballot-stuffing, committee-destroying problem? It's THEIR organization, THEY should defend it from this crap.

    - - - - -

    BTW, my country (USA) voted *for* OOXML in spite of the obvious fact that it can't be "implemented" by anyone except Microsoft now, because the "standard" depends on VAST amounts of undisclosed proprietary information. Microsoft is also free to implement "extensions" to the standard whenever they like, guaranteeing that nobody elsewhere who attempts to follow the "standard" will inter-operate successfully. My ISO "expert representatives" blithely ignore these facts, being either dumber than the average Jr. High School student *or* OWNED by Microsoft. (BOTH, I think... they aren't qualified to hold High School Diplomas.)

  27. BitTwister

    @Mark Rendle

    > Maybe if ODF wasn't entirely controlled by $un Micro$y$tem$

    It's not - it's an entirely open ISO standard and anyone can contribute to it and use it - even Microsoft.

    > lightweight format that doesn't even come close to handling everything Office 2007 needs to store.

    It's hardly lightweight, but no one system could handle absolutely everything in one go - which of course is why ODF has several mechanisms to allow for extensions that *would* handle manufacturers' specific requirements.

    > See the Burton Group report for more info.

    Discredited as utter tosh - see article published by ElReg within the last couple of months, IIRC.

    > Microsoft spend a fortune designing an open, interoperable format

    Open??!! Interoperable??!! Oh puleeze, that has to be a joke - or wait; maybe you can provide us with an answer to one thing Microsoft somehow 'forgot' to define (amongst *many* others) in their "standard" - which is supposed to contain everything anyone would need to implement it, including competitors. So - what does "autoSpaceLikeWord95" actually *mean*?

    Surely with your gushing support for OOXML you'll know exactly what that refers to and astonishingly, you'll be able to implement the unimplementable. Maybe you can also help out with defining all the other proprietary crap included in Microsoft's "open standard" and who knows - with *another* 6,000 pages it may even become open and interoperable. Huh, fat chance. This is Microsoft...

    > submit it to the independent standards groups for ratification

    Along with certain er, 'assistance' to people who previously showed no interest in ISO ratification just to er, 'help' them make the 'right decision' and give OOXML the nod-through without a considered reading or thought for the *mess* they'd be passing.

    In other words, Microsoft simply attempted to do what it normally does everywhere else: coerce users into adopting its proprietary technology at the cost of interoperability with *real* open standards.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a waste of energy

    Anyone who believe that ISO's word is law, and that an approval-stamp is equivalent to an universal recommendation of a format needs to check what ISO really is:

    http://www.iso.org/iso/about.htm

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Results of the OOXML Ballot of 2nd September

    That list is very insightful, the list of YES voting countries reads like the list of countries " of where the bad guys come from" a Hollywood movie producer where have.

    Similar to Microsoft, Japan do a "branch stacking" exercise with with the international whaling commission, inviting smaller than a dot on a map, tin pot nation states onto the commission to vote in their favour with special "incentives".

    ( Pity your comment appears so low on the list, but the provocation of the "Microsoft Giveth... Microsoft Taketh Away" comment has other wasted posters comments on dealing with that flame. Which was no doubt the intention of that comments author, was it not? )

  30. David
    Jobs Horns

    To Anonymous Coward

    "Well, from a consumers point of view, I say WE DON'T CARE."

    Speak for yourself Anonymous Coward. I am a consumer and I care.

    I don't want Microsoft and their antics to end up lessening my choices and making me pay more.

  31. Svein Skogen
    Happy

    What to do WHEN they find that Microsoft has bent the rules too far.

    I think we all know what the findings will be. What they must be, given the facts.

    The real issue, is what to do about it. So far, Microsoft has been able to smile and laugh about the fines EU has come up with. Because Microsoft quite frankly makes too much money by breaking the rules, to care about the fines (it still chalks up as a net win for them). It's about time that this changes.

    I propose that Microsoft should be fined 3 times the retail value, of every product they have shipped, that defaults to use the offending ooxml format. This will teach them a lesson, and it will make it worth something for Microsoft to become standards compliant.

    If we continue the analogy, Microsoft should also be fined 3 times the retail value of every product shipped after the last EU judgement regarding standards, that doesn't use WELL-DOCUMENTED, OPEN STANDARDS. And make bloody sure that unless the fine is paid in full, there are warrants for the arrest of all the board members (for contempt of court), filed under international law. Of course, we know that USA don't care about international law, but should they set foot outside their safe-haven for criminals.

    //Svein

  32. Mark
    Go

    @Mark Rendle

    So I can implement an office suite (I'll take koffice as the basic code) with OOXML and I don't have to pay royalties or worry about allowing free sublicensing, because it's an open standard?

    And if I've imlpemented "AutoWordSpaceLikeW95" in some fashion that seems appropriate for me (because I don't have Word95) you've either specified it, got an indepentant checker or are happy with an implementation that does auto word spacing, yes?

    If the answer to my questions above are no, please give me the name and number of a standard that does.

    (with apologies to Kev Wilson for the coda there).

  33. Mats Koraeus
    Alert

    Re: OOXML FTW

    I'm not entirely sure how OOXML can be "for teh win" when there is exactly *zero* software that supports it. None. Zilch. Not even MS' own Office Suite fully works with OOXML.

    As was shown on numerous occasions during the whole voting debacle, it's fully possible -- and, in fact, quite easy -- to create a dead-simple, "hello world" kind of document that follows the (supposed) OOXML standard to the letter, but which cannot be opened in Office 2k7. ODF, on the other hand, is already supported by a number of office apps.

    So, again, the question is, how can a format that currently has no software support whatsoever be "for teh win" over a format that *is* well supported.

  34. Paul
    Go

    EU has the balls that USDOJ misplaced

    At least the EU is willing to go after MS. The USDOJ had to back off because in this country it doesn't matter what you do if you make a ton of money doing it.

  35. Quirkafleeg
    Coat

    @Mats Koraeus

    Office 2700, eh? Well I never.

  36. Mark
    Joke

    @Paul

    Nah, the DoJ hasn't lost them: GWB replaced the DoJ with balls with eunixs when he took over.

    (misspelling deliberate, for the pedantic)

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