I think you have a point here. It's really a day late and a dollar
short. OpenOffice has been providing access to MS-Office documents for
several years now, and fixing the problems based on complaints made by
customers. The result is that it is now quite easy to use OpenOffice
to convert MS-Office closed source documents to Open Document format
very quickly. Remember, it doesn't have to be a perfect rendition, it
just has to be good enough that it can be "fixed" or "touched up" in
less than 10 minutes and then saved into a public format archive
standard - Open Document format.
The issues related to storage and retreival of Microsoft documents has
been heightened in the last few years as people downloading Open Office
begin to open official documents. This isn't a new problem. The
Federal Government used WordPerfect format for years because they
needed a format which could be viewed and parsed with text tools to
manage and record revisions to federal documents such as court
proceedings and statutory revisions. MS-Office has never beet suitable
for these types of functions and as a result, have been unsuitable for
The issue of Microsoft format ambiguity has been a problem for over a
decade. Even before Linux or Open Office, customers who had already
purchased WordPerfect were unable to read MS-Office. When Corel began
supporting Linux, they offered WordPerfect Office as part of a
commercial package - and that also highlighted the problem. IBM
included Lotus Office Suite - which also didn't do a very good job of
reading MS-Office formats.
Now we have Open Document format, and because the standard is open and
public - with not nondislosure agreements required, it can be
referenced as a FIPS standard, ISO standard, IETF standard, and ANSII
standard. This makes it possible for Lotus Smart Suite, WordPerfect
Office, StarOffice, KOffice, and OpenOffice as well as Microsoft Office
(if they choose) to comply with the standard.
Ironically, this is the foundation of the GNU manifesto. Back in 1985,
Richard Stallman warned that documents could be taken hostage of the
vendor who provided the proprietary software. 20 years ago, Stallman
called for published industry standards for documents, backed up by
references model implementations in source code format - and offered
his Emacs text editor as a reference model. Over the years, thousands
of open source programs have been published under Open Source licenses,
establishing de-facto standards such as SGML, HTML, XML, Ghostscript,
TeX, DVI, IETF, Internet, and of course, Linux distributions.
To be accepted as a standard, Microsoft would have to give up the
right to make proprietary changes without publishing these changes to
the standard. It would have to specify subsets and supersets in terms
of industry standard formats, as well as take out platform specific
features such as embedded executable code and calls to executable code
(OLE, COM, and ActiveX objects) which depend on a specific operatiing
system and specific hardware platform.
Ironically, this may be doing Microsoft a favor. By providing platform
independent standards, there is a better chance to migrate to 64 bit
processors and the operating systems that support them. Look at the
huge mess when NT 3.x was released. Most 16 bit applications wouldn't
run on the new platform, and even documents had to be converted.
Third party software was an even bigger problem. Many people were
unable to access previous tax records and other critical financial
A public standard like Open Document, which does not require
executables, provides the flexibility to use any combination of 32 bit
or 64 bit systems, including Windows, Linux, and Unix.