Sunday, April 20, 2008

The OOXML Controversy for Dummies

For Dummies to the Open source world like me, heres the issue in a nutshell..

Microsoft, the bully of the software world, brought out Microsoft Office in 95 along with the .doc format for documents, .ppt, .xls, etc. The format details and rules are known only to Microsoft and its Office developers, and no one else, as Microsoft is neither free nor open source.

If you go to the Microsoft site itself, you will see that Office is priced from $300 to $ 600 ! For a f@#$ing piece of software! I'm not devaluing Office, but its an atrocious price for a just a piece of code. So owing to its high cost (no ones talking about pirated ofcourse :-) ), the free software world developed several Open Document standards (.odf, odp etc) and softwares to use them, including Star Office, Open Office etc.

The free versions of Office, like Open Office, are

1. Totally Free
2. Open source, meaning you can go through the code of Open Office softwares, see the rules yourself, modify it if you want
3. Equal to or better than Microsoft Office from my own experience.

The odf got the ISO standard in 2006 or so, ensuring it was an accepted standard and would now gain more popularity. This ofcourse, dint stand well with Microsoft, whose very existence was being threatened by the FOSS world on all fronts. So Microsoft decides to bring out its trump card for the same game- money and influence.

Forward to the end of 2007, Microsoft gets an ISO standard for its OOXML document format. Majority of the countries voted for the OOXML standard. Surprised ?

Rewind back a few months, to where the game was played :-

1. In India, Microsoft tries to influence the NGOs to put pressure on the government to accept the standard. The alleged letter sent to NGOs is available.

2. In Sweden, the panel responsible for voting on the issue, which was supposedly against OOXML convened a meeting to vote on the issue, but this was adjourned. Then, the panel was extended from 9 members to 34 members based on payment within a space of 12 days. The bought out panel reconvened, and this time the additional 25 members voted in favour of OOML.

3. Similar game were played all over the Nordic states and in Europe in general.

The story in India is funny :-

1. All the IITs, IIMs, IISc who represent the academia in the voting panel, voted against OOXML.

2. Most of the software giants in India like IBM, Oracle, etc were against OOXML and voted against them.

3. Only Infosys, Wipro and TCS abstained in the voting.

The last 3 are now facing fire from the open source community for their decision. Read this Hindu newspaper report for details.

More about the effect of this event on us, situation in India, flaws in the OOXML standard in my next post on the topic..


Quest said...

MS must have been clearly felt the threat that the open source gave to their proprietary pdts..... with all the 3 ITES heavily depended on the US market it must have looked not to hurt the interests of people associated with them therefore abstaining..... The free software is here to rule....

have added u & naren as authors....chk mail and make a strt

Hari said...

Eventually, MS will take a beating. As Opensource opens up and becomes more dynamic, MS will fall!

We'll have to wait till then... :-)

Abhi said...

MS won't fall until the GOVT decides to adopt free software as i pointed out in the last post's comment. Only a handfull of firms and offices are having anything called open Software. Also for many people open software is just Linux. They never understand that mroe than the OS there are lot of apps that are open n free. Its hard to say that even in Sweeden, a country NOT-SO-CORRUPT, MS had the balls to give money and get its work done! So what'll happen to India and otehr such places where corruption is rampant?

Hari Vishnu said...

true.. foss is here to rule.. only if we wake up to the reality..and i dont blame the 3 big ITs so much after all this actually.. they did what they had to do for their sustenance..its business..

Hari Vishnu said...

yup.. lets wait for that day..

i hear ur college has a good open source supporting does amrita, mes, cet, vidya college, etc.. its nice to know the movement is catching up in kerala..

Hari Vishnu said...

isnt it amazing that in a 'corruption ridden' country like India, contrary to our expectations, democracy DID win fairly for once? its a credit to our system..

Quest said...

As for the Govt adopting free software, I think Kerala has clearly shown the way, implementing it in the schools & complete integration into the govt machinery going on....its only natural that when one adopts a change the others will have a tendency to follow eventually if not pretty soon...

Hari Vishnu said...

u do know that kseb is totally converting its computerised systems to open source dont you.. it is saving itself lakhs of rupees this way..

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