MS-OOXML conversion hoax

Microsoft has been quite busy signing up various associates such as Novell, Xandros, Linspire and Turbolinux to work on its MS-OOXML converter. This was somewhat surprising.

To make myself clear: It was no surprise that Microsoft would try to enroll the help of other companies to make its proprietary format seem more interoperable than it is. It also came as no surprise that some companies were interested enough in improving their cash-flow balance to agree promoting the Microsoft agenda. What came as a surprise was the unquestioning acceptance of the possibility to achieve full interoperability through a converter when Microsoft had already stated that it did not support the Open Document Format (ODF) because it wanted features that ODF did not have.

Ignoring for a moment the point that ODF does not have those features because Microsoft remained a passive observer of the Open Document Format (ODF) standardisation process — something they could change with the investment of participating in two telephone conferences — there is a striking weakness to the idea of conversion.

So I wrote a guest commentary for Heise.de, titled "The Converter Hoax" which is online now. The core sentence is probably this one:

If these converters were actually able to do what they promise to do, they would be unnecessary.

The converters ultimately establish a one-way street into vendor lock-in on MS-OOXML, so they end up helping promote lock-in and dependency instead of supporting interoperability and freedom of competition.

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About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is a technologist and entrepreneur. Background as a software developer and physicist. Head of product development and Chairman at Vereign AG. Founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Previously president and CEO at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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