Novell likes Microsoft Open XML -- shock! (and flame fractals)

Format this! It's IT Blogwatch, in which Novell irritates open source fans by supporting Microsoft's Open XML format. Not to mention some amazing flame fractals...

Elizabeth Montalbano reports from deepest Utah (not really):

Microsoft and Novell have wasted little time in demonstrating there is real work being done as part of their recent Linux interoperability pact. Just a month after the historic deal between the companies, Novell said Monday it will support the proprietary document format in Microsoft Office 2007, Open XML, in its open-source version of the OpenOffice productivity suite by the end of January.


Creating interoperability between the OpenOffice and Microsoft Office suites was a goal that was part of the companies’ deal, announced Nov. 2, to make Microsoft’s proprietary software work more seamlessly with Novell’s Suse Linux and other open-source software from the company.


The native document format in OpenOffice is OpenDocument Format (ODF), an XML-based file format recognized as a standard by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Microsoft so far has chosen not to support ODF and instead created its own file format, Open XML, for Office 2007.

Eric Bangeman adds:

The translators will be bidirectional: users will be able to read from and save to Office Open XML documents. At first, the translators will be made available as plug-ins for Novell's branded, but the Linux vendor says it will release the source code and submit it for inclusion in the product.

Microsoft also announced that its Office Open XML format has moved another step towards being certified as an open standard file format. Late in 2005, Microsoft submitted Office Open XML to Ecma International, a standards-setting body. Ecma is slated to sign off on the format at the Ecma General Assembly later this week. Following Ecma approval, it will be submitted for formal ISO approval.


With [ODF] just published as an ISO standard and Microsoft backing the development of an Open XML Translator capable of converting documents between ODF and Open XML, compatibility should become less of an obstacle for users of Microsoft Office and

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is watching:

The release candidate of Novell's modified version of 2.02 is now available for Windows for free download by registered Novell users ... The Open XML/ODF Translator project is hosted on SourceForge, and is licensed under the BSD open source license. The first component, the ODF Add-in for Microsoft Word 2007, which allows users to open and save ODF documents in Word, is now available as a 0.3-M1 beta.


There are at least two other efforts afoot to bridge the gap between the warring formats: the [OpenDocument] Foundation's "da Vinci," and Sun's "OpenOffice tap."

But Pamela Jones is incensed -- incensed I tell ya:

Well, if there are any Novell supporters left, here's something else to put in your pipe and smoke it. Novell is forking There will be a Novell edition of and it will support Microsoft OpenXML. (The default will be ODF, they claim, but note that the subheading mentions OpenXML instead.) I am guessing this will be the only covered by the "patent agreement" with Microsoft. You think?


Note the role Novell played in Massachusetts ... I think it's clear now what Microsoft gets out of this Novell deal -- they get to persuade enterprise users to stay with Microsoft Office, because now they don't "need" to switch to Linux. And they don't need to leave Microsoft products to use ODF. So, while Novell may call this "Novell" I feel free to call it "Sellout Linux". Money can do strange things to people. And Microsoft knows it.

What "role"? Your humble blogwatcher can't find it. But Carol Sliwa's article is fascinating:

Computerworld ... obtained ... 300 e-mails and attached documents ... under the Massachusetts Public Records Law. The e-mails provide a behind-the-scenes look at some of the hardball tactics used, compromises considered and prickly negotiations that ensued as [Louis Gutierrez, Mass. CIO] and [Alan Yates, a Microsoft Office GM] each tried to deal with the ramifications of the first-of-its-kind policy calling for state agencies to adopt ODF by Jan. 1, 2007.


Microsoft ... had been backing an amendment to an economic stimulus bill that would largely strip the Massachusetts Information Technology Division of its decision-making authority. For Microsoft ... the state’s IT division surprised the company with a controversial decision to adopt [ODF] as its standard file format. Even worse, from Microsoft’s perspective ... the standard [was] developed and promoted by some of its rivals — most prominently, IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc.


Microsoft’s concerns extended well beyond Massachusetts. Yates told Gutierrez in one e-mail that the state’s mandate carried “a lot of weight” with public policy makers around the world. And he repeatedly complained in his messages to the CIO that Microsoft’s rivals were misrepresenting the state as the “reference case for a mandatory ODF-only policy,” rather than stating its broader goal of embracing open standards in general.


As part of his e-mail exchanges with Gutierrez, Yates didn’t deny Burke’s involvement in promoting the amendment sponsored by state Sen. Michael Morrissey that sought to take away much of the IT division’s decision-making authority.


A March 30 e-mail from Yates indicated that he had received a phone call from Gutierrez and that the CIO wasn’t happy. Yates wrote that he had spoken with Burke after Gutierrez called, “and ALL activity in and around the capitol building next week is now being canceled.”


Long ago I remember a Microsoft that had nothing but contempt for the political process. A Microsoft that intended to dominate the market through mass, vendor lockout, FUD, giving stuff away, etc. You know, the Microsoft that got sued.

Having learned the lesson that ignoring politicians is not good for your health, is it any wonder that Microsoft is lobbying as hard as it can? Good luck to them. I'll be happy to see them take their lumps when they screw up their technology badly enough that the world moves en masse to something better.

But this Anonymous Coward disagrees:

I hope you're prepared for disappointment, because it's on the way. No matter what Microsoft does, they always win. Even the worst of their worst (WinME?) or the EU fines didn't even put a dent in their operations and profits. It's like the dreamers claiming that "Nobody wants Vista" or "MS miscalculated this time!", and "Who needs to 'upgrade' to Vista?"...the same [stuff] was said about every other Windows release, yet each very quickly became the new standard.

Dave Rosenberg has grudging admiration for Microsoft:

Even though MS did eventually back-off, this is a pretty wild story ... If nothing else you have appreciate Microsoft's efforts to protect its market share. And really, I don't appreciate anything else about it.

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Amazing flame fractals [hat tip: TechRepublic]

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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