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Subject: Re: [office] Proposal to amend TC charter, re interoperability with non-conformant applications

On 5/3/07, robert_weir@us.ibm.com <robert_weir@us.ibm.com> wrote:
> Remember, even OOXML doesn't make this guarantee.  Using Office 2007, when
> you load a DOC file and save it into OOXML format, you get the warning
> message, "You are about to save your document to one of the new file
> formats.  This action will allow you to use all of the new features in Word
> 2007, but may cause changes in the layout of the document.  Click Ok to
> continue."
> So, if Microsoft, knowing the full details of their binary formats and the
> internals of Word, is not able to achieve "full fidelity conversions", then
> I wonder how this would be accomplished in a standards committee that does
> not have access to this binary format specification.

Rob, I am not proposing that we have a goal of perfect replication of
visual layout. My proposal is aimed at the data loss problem in
conversions, such as the renumbering of list items. I want a TC
charter requirement of enabling the least lossy data conversions that
are feasible.

Given this clarification and the others below, does IBM support or
oppose a charter change along the lines I have proposed? What specific
changes would be necessary to obtain IBM's support? Or are we ready
for a vote?

> Another practical problem is that there are many binary formats out there
> and they may not all be reconcilable.  What if, hypothetically speaking,
> Wordperfect does lists according to Oliver's proposal and Word does it
> according to Florian's, and WordPro does it a 3rd way.  Then what?

And what about all the outliner developers? By my count, there are
more than 100 of them out there who have yet to be heard from. I think
your argument highlights the critical need for more inclusiveness of
relevant developers in developing the standard, not in plunging ahead
with a damn-the-torpedoes mind set.

I don't think we're going to be able to avoid much longer the need for
compatibility profiles in ODF and corresponding compatibility modes in
implementing applications. We are not designing a file format
specification for a single app; we're designing a specification for
the world. And at some point soon we also need to start addressing the
round-tripping of documents between less featureful apps and between
them and the more featureful apps. As it stands, we are doing nothing
for them in the way of round-tripping documents. Maybe there is a way
to address such issues without interoperability subsets and
compatibility modes, but I haven't thought of any way and no one has
suggested one that I'm aware of.

> If you really mean MS Office and only MS Office, then we have a different
> problem.  IBM has voted against charter requirements requiring compatibility
> with a single vendor's formats before, and no doubt would do so again if the
> need arose.

No, I'm concerned with interoperability across the entire office
productivity scene and with migrations from legacy formats to ODF. I
think it's a crying shame that Corel and Stellent, for example, jumped
ship on the TC back when. But no one on the TC seems to be working on
a converter for going between WPD and ODT. As it happens, though,
we've got three organizations represented on the TC that are working
on tools for converting between ODF and Microsoft formats, with only
one of them aiming to satisfy the market requirement for lossless
conversions. That one is complaining that an action just taken by the
TC breaks their application and at least Sun, per Michael Brauer, is
now on record saying that they're indifferent to the perceived need
for lossless file conversions. Viewed from Mars, a cynic might suspect
that Sun just sabotaged a competitor that aims to produce a better
product. If Corel should reappear and register a similar complaint
that TC action was breaking their interoperability, I'd have the same

Please understand that I admire your brilliance and am doing this
reluctantly. But I have to ask. Where does IBM stand on ODF satisfying
the market demand for full fidelity conversions between MS Office and
ODF apps in the migration to ODF and business processes interaction
with MS formats use cases?  See e.g., E-SIGN Act, 15 U.S.C.
7001(d)(1)(B) (electronically preserved records must "accurately
reflect[] the information set forth in the contract or other record"
and be "in a form that is capable of being accurately reproduced for
later reference, whether by transmission, printing, or otherwise");
Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 15 U.S.C. 7261(b) (financial information must "not
contain an untrue statement of a material fact"). See also the page I
maintain linking reports to over 70 units of government
internationally that are trying to migrate to ODF.
<http://opendocumentfellowship.org/node/91>. Does IBM have -- or want
-- a solution to such requirements, given Microsoft's existing market
share? Is it a concern that the Foundation's plug-in would make it
possible for governments to install plug-ins rather than purchasing
IBM Workplace licenses?

> In any case, I am pleased to see us take the list proposals through process
> and let both sides fully make their argument.  Sure, one side one and the
> other side lost.  But no one can say that they didn't have a full
> opportunity to make their points.  Now we need to move on.  We have a lot of
> work needing our attention in ODF 1.2.

You can deal with me here or IBM can deal with me in the press and in
its potential customers' offices. Your choice.

Best regards,


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