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LibreOffice: ignore Microsoft's "nonsense" on government's open source plans

Westminster

By Shona Ghosh

Posted on 26 Feb 2014 at 09:56

The makers of LibreOffice have slammed attempts by Microsoft to derail the government's move to open source, accusing the company of protecting its own interests rather than users.

The government is consulting on plans to switch to open file formats, with the aim of making it easier to switch away from proprietary productivity suites - notably Microsoft Office.

Microsoft has opposed the move and asked its UK IT partners to fight the proposals, saying open formats would cost the government more money. It argued for the inclusion of its own standard, OOXML, among the government's chosen file formats.

A spokesman for the Document Foundation, the organisation behind LibreOffice, claimed Microsoft had opposed the government's adoption of open file formats, such as the open document format (ODF), because of the potential impact on Microsoft Office - and that the company's counter argument didn't make sense.

"Microsoft’s business model is based on selling licenses - of course it’ll be heavily affected," Italo Vignoli told PC Pro. "I perfectly understand Microsoft's position – if I were a Microsoft employee, I’d support that position. But I think this isn’t in the interests of users, it’s in the interest of Microsoft."

Double standards

Vignoli said adopting two standards would confuse users.

"You basically don’t solve the problem - there should only be one standard," he said. "It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have two standards for the same thing."

While OOXML was ratified by the International Standards Organisation, critics suggested Microsoft pushed the standard through. "It was not a regular standardisation process," said Vignoli. "It's two standards for the same stuff, which is nonsense."

Since Microsoft's call to arms, the number of comments on the Cabinet Office's consultation on adopting open file formats has risen to more than 100. Most have opposed including Microsoft's OOXML.

Developer Rich Marr pointed out Microsoft's flawed implementation of its own standard would mean most government PCs would need to upgrade to a newer version of Office.

"This doesn't seem like an effective course of action," he wrote. "It would also benefit Microsoft in several ways, at the expense of vendors who have invested in open formats."

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User comments

It's all in the last line

""This doesn't seem like an effective course of action," he wrote. "It would also benefit Microsoft in several ways, at the expense of vendors who have invested in open formats."

Well yes, so we should benefit those who HAVE invested in his version of an open format, at the expense of Microsoft?

Given that today's Civil Service barely has the technical expertise to switch on a computer, let alone evaluate an issue as complex as this, it all going to be about lobbying.
If Mr Soames's contribution is anything to go by he seems to have been bough... sorry effectively lobbied by those who see a quick buck in shifting to a different standard....

By wittgenfrog on 26 Feb 2014

Absolutely agree

If I open a docx created by Word 2010 using Word 2007 some spaces disappear. What MS want is to regularly upgrade your office not to just enhancements but also to perform basic tasks... I hope British Gov will be an example to the rest with this transition...

By HopeLESS on 26 Feb 2014

Monopolist has a vested interest

I think its so obvious that when a company can 'extort' Billions of $s from people it would love to extend its monopoly.

I feel if that standard, which many say is not as good as ODF is implemented, then developers from all over the world will have a big headache supporting it, chasing formatting errors & whatnot. And the worst part, when other programs get better compatibility, another standard may be introduced by monopolist.

ODF should have been the standard ages ago. It will offer a level playing field. Even Microsoft is a foundational sponsor of ODF: https://www.oasis-open.org/member-roster So I believe it should not ask for another standard & needlessly complicate matters. Besides MS Office does not run on several Operating Systems.

Like many websites that offer PDF documents to download & have a link to the free download of Adobe Acrobat Reader, similarly when Govt. websites when offering document files in ODF, could have a link to the free App/ program like LibreOffice / OpenOffice etc.

By IndainArt on 26 Feb 2014

Expect a Vicious Fight till the Finish

Lots of shills and lobbyists will be at work and their dirty tricks spreading FUD.

Oh, the curse of "filthy lucre"...

Do the right thing, give a chance to all programs by adopting ODF.

By FUDbuster on 26 Feb 2014

Microsoft has also invested in ODF

@wittgenfrog MS supports ODF: "In April, Microsoft hosted the 8th ODF Plugfest in Brussels, Belgium, where representatives from most ODF implementers gathered to test interoperability of our implementations of ODF 1.2," Microsoft wrote on Monday, noting that the new Office version allows users to open, edit and save" http://www.zdnet.com/microsofts-office-2013-odf-1-
2-support-could-be-true-catalyst-for-openoffice-ad
option-7000002689

Besides, Microsoft is a Foundational Sponsor of OASIS, "The work of OASIS is supported by organizations from around the world. Membership levels include Foundational Sponsors, Sponsors, and Contributors." https://www.oasis-open.org/member-roster

So why can't MS support ODF wholeheartedly.

By FUDbuster on 26 Feb 2014

@FUDBuster

If this were actually ABOUT "standards" then MS might support it. Unfortunately it's just the usual "Open" suspects promoting their own selfish interests.

Of course MS has its own axes to grind, but they are all pretty much out in the Open, something that this particular lobby can't even aspire to.

The crux is that the "LibreOffice" gang & cohorts will make a LOT of money if they can get their software installed in place of MS. Maybe not in licences, but in Training, Consultancy "Support" contracts etc. etc. etc..
If you want to replace a rather unpleasant, but visible pseudo-monopoly with an equally grasping and unappetising, but hidden oligopoly, this is a good way to achieve it.

And that's before we start comparing the usefulness and\or quality of the software....

By wittgenfrog on 26 Feb 2014

@HopeLESS

And if you open a Word document created in LibreOffice in Word, you will have no end of problems. And hence lies the problem - most people in the real world use Word, the closest to a "standard" is DOC or DOCX.

By halsteadk on 26 Feb 2014

Lets have everyone do ODF right

@halsteadk Why are there inconsistencies in some documents when it is opened by different versions of the same program, MS Office? Is it deliberate, is it mischief? Isn't it unethical?

I think you may find this very revealing:
"On Office documents: In a memo to the Office product group in 1998, Bill Gates stated: "One thing we have got to change in our strategy—allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other peoples [sic] browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company. We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure that Office documents very well depends [sic] on PROPRIETARY IE capabilities. Anything else is suicide for our platform. This is a case where Office has to avoid doing something to destroy Windows." [emphasis in original][16]" Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embrace_extend_exting
uish#Examples

By IndainArt on 26 Feb 2014

Level Playing Field

@wittgenfrog
Let's open up the competition. Competition is good, monopoly is not.

As already recorded in the comments here, MS is supporting ODF, so it can do so wholeheartedly.

Let all companies play fair using ODF & let the best ones can win.

By IndainArt on 26 Feb 2014

End of Microsoft?

Expect Microsoft to fight this with very dirty trick in its voluminous bag. Just like they did during OOXMLS's farcical ISO "standardisation" process.

Microsoft and its shills - and we have some here already, it seems - will deliberately confuse standards with products, so they can push forward the go with the flow agenda that's raking in a huge amount of money for them.

I mean everybody uses Office already, why change anything? Just because they have to pay through the nose for it every 3 to 5 years, not forgetting the mandatory OS updates that go with that, of course.

Oh, and that's only for now. Microsoft really wants everybody to pay a 365-style monthly subscription for Office. How long before they mandate that as the *only* way you can get Office, just like Adobe is about to do for Photoshop? And if they get their way on that with Office, expect monthly fees just to use Windows to follow.

Can anybody actually name, off the top of their head, a single new, must-have feature released in Office in the last fifteen years? (No, the ribbon isn't a feature!!!)

Let's face it, the only reason that people keep shelling out for Office is they don't trust any other product to correctly format their Office-created docs. Microsoft has deliberately engineered things that way, first by keeping their formats as binary blobs that are difficult to reverse engineer. Then by following that with an "open" XML format, that turned out to be nearly as difficult to implement as the binary blobs!!! Microsoft itself only implemented the full, "strict" version of OOXML - i.e. the one that got the ISO stamp - in Office 2013, and even then it's not the default!!! And Office 2013 requires at least Windows 7, and around and around we go....

By BrownieBoy6 on 26 Feb 2014

I used to receive journal articles from a copy editor who used Open Office.

They were such an annoyance to work with that I gave him one of my (legal) MS Word serial numbers so that he could install and use Word and thus I wouldn't have to work with those types of file ever again.

THAT'S how strongly I felt about it.

By Alfresco on 27 Feb 2014

Please don't blame the victims.

@Alfresco
Why should the burden of compatibility & formatting consistency fall on the shoulders of developers of office suites like OpenOffice, Kingsoft office, Kate, LibreOffice etc.?

Are you sure they are not being 'tripped' deliberately???

Here is another email from Bill. Do these actions or 'tricks' sound fair to you?
"1993 Microsoft uses Monopoly power to kill Word Perfect
The next challenge to the Microsoft Monopoly was a word processor called Word Perfect – which until 1993 had a higher market share than Microsoft Word. One of the purposes for the constant model changes in Windows was to create incompatibility with Word Perfect. Novell, which owned Word Perfect, recently brought a lawsuit against Microsoft for this predatory practice. As evidence that Microsoft used model changes to give Word and Office an advantage, Novell produced a 1994 email from Bill Gates that states:
"I have decided that we should not publish these extensions. We should wait until we have a way to do a high level of integration that will be harder for likes of Notes, WordPerfect to achieve, and which will give Office a real advantage . . . We can't compete with Lotus and WordPerfect/Novell without this.".... Bill Gates 1994
The failure to publish the extensions meant that Word Perfect was not compatible with Windows 95 when it was released in 1995 – and that led to the death of Word Perfect as shown on the following chart:"
Source: www.freeyourselffrommicrosoftandthensa.org

Regarding the journal articles that you received from a copy editor who used Open Office. You could have simply downloaded a 'legal' & free copy of OpenOffice or LibreOffice and easily installed it in a few minutes and then all the so-called “such an annoyance to work with” need not have been there. By the way with regards to “those types of file”, I think all versions of OpenOffice or LibreOffice work with .doc, however, the same can't be said about all versions of Word & ODF.

The beauty of OpenOffice is that even on the most popular smart-phone OS, Android, you could use AndrOpen Office. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.
andropenoffice I like using it on Android tablets.

I feel unless you just don't believe in fairness, have stock in this company, are a paid shill, work for it or are its tool then you can support such unethical (or perhaps even illegal) behavior of somehow maintaining a monopoly which makes billions from some people who I think act like sheep.

By IndainArt on 27 Feb 2014

All very well, but....

....you're all getting bogged down in a 'Open vs Microsoft' debate and seem to be forgetting that the main thing here is that we're talking "Government".

The government have a woeful track record when it comes to any IT project and I see no reason to expect this to be any different from any other debacle. If we could guarantee that the WHOLE of government would change over then fine, do it, and I'll even vote for the party who saves us taxpayer's money.

But I can forsee a situation where different departments, maybe even different offices within the same department, will have different mplementations and will not be able to communicate with each other. At least it (sort of) works now, but chaos will ensue if it goes ahead.

By darkstar2004 on 27 Feb 2014

Erroneous Logic

@darkstar2004 "But I can forsee [sic] a situation where different departments, maybe even different offices within the same department, will have different mplementations [sic] and will not be able to communicate with each other."

Why do you assume this? ODF already works well. ODF will not exclude Microsoft because MS already supports it. If ODF is not implemented correctly catch the errant program or App.

We would on the other hand 'foresee' problems if OOXML is used and several reasons for that are well documented here: http://standards.data.gov.uk/proposal/sharing-coll
aborating-government-documents?page=13

darkstar2004, you needlessly have a poor opinion & some fixed ideas which wrongly foresee that people "will not be able to communicate with each other". Look at the World Wide Web & you will see if things are done honestly, with due care, different browsers running on various OS, can communicate seamlessly with various websites. So there is no need to be so cynical otherwise we would be stuck with only one browser, Internet Explorer. Imagine being forced not to use Firefox or Google Chrome!!! ;)

Some of these formatting incompatibilities look suspicious, as if engineered by design & this would be devious & plain wrong. Please read my comments above, which has documented proof of 'dirty tricks' that appear to be done to somehow protect their or even your (if you are part of them) monopoly, which is clearly unacceptable.

By IndainArt on 27 Feb 2014

If only Micro$oft had not been so greedy

Micro$oft's greed has inevitably caught up with it. MS is only interested in relieving it's customers of their money and wants to do it on an increasingly regular basis.

I'm certainly no fan of this current government but this is certainly one move I wholeheartedly support.

next in the firing line should be Adobe. It would be good to have open source software to compete, functionally, with Adobe Creative suites.

By shrek59 on 27 Feb 2014

Monopoly is never in the interest of consumers

Microsoft is for all practical purposes a monopoly and is illegal under EU, UK and USA laws But is so powerful no one takes them on. I hope this is a case that changes things, but suspect HMG will back down!

By absthame on 27 Feb 2014

@ darkstar2004

"...different departments, maybe even different offices within the same department, will have different [i]mplementations and will not be able to communicate with each other. At least it (sort of) works now, but chaos will ensue if it goes ahead."

I should call that a feature, not a bug.

By arichter on 27 Feb 2014

Closed standards are a monopoly

Quite right absthame. The UK taxpayer (and those of most other gov'ts in the world) have been getting robbed due to poor procurement processes. Putting all your faith (and *data*!) in one overseas vendor is utter folly. The current gov't must recognised that the lion's share of the "cost of migration" away from MS was created BY Microsoft and their businesss practices. That's how monopolies become (and remain) monopolies. In the IT world, they create lock-in strategies, which inevitably include proprietary standards which only they can unilaterally change and control to suit their profit motive (e.g. OOXML). The UK gov't (and others worldwide) should be looking to shift the "cost of migration" to a different vendor onto the current vendor, not the subsequent one. Otherwise, the current vendor does everything in its power to ensure those costs are as high as possible. And with those incentives, open standards never have a chance.

By dangerpossum on 27 Feb 2014

Open Standards

I predicted this mess in my article that was published in the journal of the Cambridge University Computer Society back sometime around 1990, and that IT professionals had a responsibility to set common and open standards for the storage formats for all kinds of data if monopolistic practices were to be avoided.
Sadly, I was a voice in the wilderness back then.
In the intervening period, it must have cost the UK economy billions of pounds in licensing, retraining, upgrading and data conversion to NARROW the choice of vendors.
So, it's been a long time coming, and is well overdue.
Microsoft should just accept that they couldn't get away with it forever, and thank their paid lobbyists that they managed to get away with it for so long.
But the party is over - if they want to compete, there is nothing to stop them from doing so fairly (if they can remember how).
Other software authors manage it.

By LeePW1 on 28 Feb 2014

@indainart

I'm curious that you feel the need to quote emails from 16 years ago. The world has moved on and Microsoft is not the same company. They are very aware of their image and have deliberately moved in the opposite direction.

@Shrek59: The company is Microsoft, not Micro$oft. 'The company is only interested in relieving customers of their money?' No, their interested in selling services, like every other commercial organisation out there. Do you think Google is giving stuff away for free? No, Google is selling a product, only in this case YOU are the product. Personally I'd rather pay than be sold, but the choice is yours.

By jgwilliams on 28 Feb 2014

Shill spotted

@jgwilliams Folks think its because of TOOLS like you that crushing monopolies thrive at the expense smaller and honest companies.

You may say Microsoft has 'deliberately moved in the opposite direction' but that does not necessarily have to be true. We don't think so.

In my book Google is a million times better than MS and Chrome OS will hopefully break a monopoly.

"Don't be evil" is the informal corporate motto (or slogan) of Google.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_be_evil

By stickler on 28 Feb 2014

Open means Open

The key point here is that not only are ODF formats an open standard, but the implimentation of them in LibreOffice, Open Office etc is open source. This means that anyone (including Microsoft) can easily code full compliance to the standard (implying that Microsoft have chosen not to). To make MS propriatary formats universal is very difficult becuase the code required to impliment compliance is closed. That in itself is good enough reason to make ODF the standard, and exclude OOXML and other MS formats. If something goes awry with MS, all the MS code out there becomes instantly vulnerable and all the doc docx files become potentially inaccessible. If something goes werong with LibreOffice, someone can fork the code, fix it and still access odf (and most MS formats too if you can accept some formatting issues)

By whatep on 28 Feb 2014

@jgwilliams

We believe your claim that Microsoft has "deliberately moved in the opposite direction" is not even tenuous but obviously false. If MS has changed then why has it argued for the inclusion of its own standard, OOXML, when it clearly supports ODF anyways?

Again, your other claim that "Google is selling a product, only in this case YOU are the product" is complete hogwash. Silly man!

By 7ate9 on 28 Feb 2014

@whatep

"If something goes werong with LibreOffice, someone can fork the code, fix it and still access odf"

Clearly you've never worked in a business environment where you are concerned about proliferation of different versions. So one site has one version of LibreOffice, another site has a 2nd, a 3rd site doesn't have a feature of LibreOffice because someone took against it. And you, the IT department, have to deal with this mess. It sounds attractive but it goes against all agreed process.

By AdrianB on 28 Feb 2014

That's why we need ODF

@AdrianB Regarding 'proliferation of different versions', well, that problem is also present with Microsoft Office.

However, to upgrade all PCs to the latest version of LibreOffice should not cost you (there is no license fee). Further, there is no requirement of using only Windows or upgrading the OS. For example, certain versions of MS Office, like Office 2013 and Office 365 ProPlus do not work on Windows Vista as per their System requirements.

I feel that's all the more reason why we need ODF, so all programs / Apps that honestly implement this standard will be on the same page.

Those that do not implement ODF properly in future, be that MS Office, LibreOffice, AndrOpen Office or any other should be named & shamed.

By 7ate9 on 28 Feb 2014

A warning from the past

Here’s a salutary warning from 7 years ago:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6265976.stm

The British Library had "partnered" with Microsoft to store its documents in digital format. End result? Years later, they couldn’t open them with the then modern versions of Windows and Office. They ended up having to run Windows 95 + Office 97 in a virtual machine to open them.

There’s a risk of a "digital dark age" spoke Microsoft UK, conveniently overlooking the major part that Microsoft itself had played ushering in that "age".

Not to worry though. By that time (2007) “Microsoft had shifted its position on file formats” with the creation of MS OOXML. Yeah, right.

Anybody who followed the ISO standardisation of MS OOXML will know what a farce the whole process was. Thousands of pages long and, initially at least, full of nonsense tags like AutospaceLikeWord95, with no explanation of what they meant or how they might be implemented. In fact, MS OOXML was nothing more than a quickie brain dump of Microsoft’s existing binary file formats into XML. Unlike ODF, it paid zero attention to leveraging existing standards in its headlong rush to get an ISO stamp before ODF got too established. For example, ISO 8601 is the standard for date format, and ODF adheres to it. Not so MS OOXML, which went its own way, incorporating long standing bugs such as interpreting 1900 as a leap year. How many other standards are there that perpetuate a single company’s own bugs, I wonder?

Now we have “strict” MS OOXML, which supposedly eases that situation, but surprise, surprise, it’s only supported in Office 2013 (more money to MS). Office 2013, in turn, is only supported on Windows 7 and higher (even more money to MS, plus likely hardware upgrade costs). And even then, “strict” MS OOXML is not the default in Office 2013! How many users will care to set it as the default, or even know what it is?

By BrownieBoy6 on 28 Feb 2014

Not the same company?

@jgwilliiams,

> The world has moved on and Microsoft is not
> the same company.

Oh no, not the same company at all:

http://www.gamespot.com/articles/microsoft-paying-
youtubers-for-positive-xbox-one-coverage/1100-6417
235/

By BrownieBoy6 on 1 Mar 2014

Microsoft defence

@BrownieBoy6
To be fair, xp should not be in use any more as an unsupported OS. That leaves win7.

@stickler - name calling? A person has an opinion - whether its right or wrong, if they don't air it, it can never be discussed.

Other questions - not knowing a whole lot about journalism...
@Alfresco - couldn't the journalist have submitted in rtf or something similar if its just copy?

By khellan on 6 Mar 2014

Don't force upgrades

@khellan why did you disingenuously leave out Windows Vista? There are so many people who use Vista and they may need to interact with the Government. Thus, another reason in favour of ODF.

Kingsoft, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Kate can run on Windows Vista (and even on XP) so why can't Microsoft support ODF on these versions of its own OS. In fact, LibreOffice & OpenOffice can run on Linux & Mac ('cross-platform'), however, MS Office cannot run on Linux.

Yes, anyone can have opinions, but the question is are these paid or biased opinions?

And finally, khellan something we can agree on, yes, the journalist could have submitted in RTF.

By Catottom on 8 Mar 2014

It's Micro$oft, people

Any time anyone tells you a traded company is not purely driven by profit, you know they are not someone whose opinion can be relied upon.
Certainly, these days, profitability can be dependent on such things as public awareness of bad behaviour, which is why we see the deliberately misleading pro-M$ comments above.
PS wittgenfrog, I'm very disappointed in you. Bad frog!

By dubiou on 20 Mar 2014

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