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, 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 CEO and President of the Board at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV for collaboration and communication, also available as Swiss hosted service Kolab Now. During his 20+ year career in Free and Open Source Software he has been author of the Brave GNU World, one of the most widely spread columns on the subject, founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and provided input to various governmental and inter-governmental organisations. 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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