It's official! Recovering from hangovers, people are yawning back to work or just returning from their two-week holiday breaks and before the year 2008 has begun we can safely put it to bed as "The Year of Microsoft Office & OOXML".
Not two days into the new year and Microsoft's indefatigable marketing machine has ticked over twice -- through the rote, pre-set drills of service pack and new product roll-outs from the Office department.
On January 2nd we were accosted by the news that ...
"Microsoft Office Drops Support for Older File Formats" | Scott Gilbertson | (Wired News, January 2nd, 2008)
And just this morning we find out that ...
Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac will be available to bricks-and-mortar on January 15th for just under $400!
... [the] service pack 3 release for Microsoft Office 2003 contains a hidden "feature" — it disables support for older Microsoft Office formats. If you've got any old Word, Excel, 1-2-3, Quattro, or Corel Draw documents hanging around your hard drive you'll need to delve into the Windows Registry to open them.
Even though the lingua franca, the fuel of Microsoft's whole new software stack -- that format called OOXML -- is struggling to gain approval at ISO, they are selling it through as a hidden component within that famous Trojan Horse called Office 2007 and Office 2008 for Mac. (Yes, I said hidden because despite the very public blogging about it and the efforts within the trade to counter the format phenomenon the general buying public are blissfully ignorant of the toxicity embedded within this software.)
What do these marketing events mean? Why are they doing this?
OOXML is being reviewed in an ISO process called the BRM (Ballot Resolution Meeting) that's scheduled for a week in February. The OOXML format specification is so bad that it failed an ISO voting round back in September 2007. And when the howling died down and the fruits & vegetables were cleared from the stage Microsoft immediately proceeded to set up a website and process to start dealing with feedback on comments so numerous (over 1,000 unique comments) and objections so material that they could not be dealt with in the few hours allotted to the BRM meeting in February. Consequently, ECMA (the OOXML format's responsible development body) is announcing the changes or feature deprecations planned for the OOXML specification.
Trouble is these changes to the format will never make it into the Office 2007 software products -- which are shipping as we speak. And Microsoft has never intended for the new XML formats (with file extensions .docx, .xlsx, .pptx) implemented in Office 2007|8 to fully reflect the OOXML specification.
Along with disabling the legacy document formats in Office 2003 through service pack 3, these measures together represent on their face Microsoft's "Customer Pull-Up" strategy designed to coerce customers to move into the company's next-generation lock-in tank. The Pull-Up is insidious because customers, under what appears to them to be their own free will, purchase new Microsoft software fearing that to be without access to Microsoft's newest document formats they will not be able to do work.
Apart from OpenOffice.org & ODF and a few almost-finished "Office 2.0" Web applications (Gdocs, Buzzword, Zoho, et al.), the only thing we have to stop this is the quixotic & flaccid "Just Say No" campaign.
Even if Microsoft's efforts to get OOXML passed at ISO fail this coming February, Microsoft will keep trying. This will add to indefinite uncertainty ahead for IT decision-makers. A better outcome might even be to have OOXML succeed in February! Such an outcome would probably create such a frenzy of standards reform that all existing ISO standards would be put under question.
Our only practical hope for finality is to put a bullet in the temple of OOXML.