Open Letter to Alan Yates of Microsoft

In his reply to the Massachusetts decision to use only documents in OpenDocument format, the Microsoft manager Alan Yates writes:
(paraphrased) Star Office, Open Office, KOffice and IBM Workplace are all derivatives of the same codebase. Thus there is only one program that supports Open Document, and that is illegal.
This is, of course, not true, and here is an open letter written by KOffice Marketing Coordinator Inge Wallin on behalf of the KOffice team which clarifies these facts.

Open Letter to

Alan Yates
General Manager
Microsoft Corporation

Dear Mr Yates,

It is with great interest that I have followed the debate that started
with the Massachusetts decision to
only exchange data with other parties in an open format, namely Open Document.
I must say that personally I find the reasoning behind the decision to
be sound, but I fully support your right to disagree with this

In your rather long, and doubtlessly well researched, reply
to the declaration, you make many points which I will not address
here, since others,
better suited than me, have already
. There is, however, one point where I feel that you have been
gravely misinformed by your research staff.

That point is the following. On page 7, and continuing on page 8 you

The draft policy identifies four products that support the
OpenDocument format: Sun's StarOffice,, KOffice, and
IBM Workplace. In reality, these products are slight variations of
the same StarOffice code base, which Sun acquired from a German
company in 1999. The different names are little more than unique
brands applied by the vendors to the various flavors of the code
base that they have developed. In essence, a commitment to the
OpenDocument format is a commitment to a single product or
technology. This approach to product selection by policy violates
well-accepted public procurement norms.

I understand your worries, but fortunately I am able to put your mind
to rest: KOffice is in fact
not related to StarOffice or OpenOffice. It is a completely
separate product, and a very fine one at that. One of our team
members, David Faure, was an active party in the creation of the OASIS
OpenDocument standard, and KOffice was the first office suite that
publicly announced support for it.

Just to add a bit to your knowledge of KOffice, I would like to
mention a few points:

  • KOffice is the most comprehensive of all office suites in
    existence, comprising no less than 11 different components in one
    well-integrated package.
  • These components include core office applications like KWord,
    KSpread and KPresenter, but also creativity applications like Krita
    (an advanced pixel based drawing tool), Kivio (flowcharts), Karbon
    (vector based drawing) and Kexi, an integrated environment for
    database applications not unlike to your own Access.
  • KOffice is very well integrated into KDE, the multiple award
    winning desktop environment on Linux, Solaris and other UNIX
  • KOffice is fully network-transparent and all components can send
    documents as mail, print to PDF files and store and load documents
    from countless different network servers.
  • Last, but not least: Within a year, KOffice will likely run on
    Windows as well.

In case you think that even two competing products will not be enough
to satisfy the "well-accepted public procurement norms", I can assure
you that they will soon not be alone. The fine word processor
AbiWord and the spreadsheet program Gnumeric, will
also soon support Open Document
due to an independent effort by a Nokia research lab.

I am sure that you are now much calmer, and if you want to know more,
you can always go to the KOffice
. You can also write to the KOffice mailing list and ask your
questions there.


Inge Wallin
Marketing Coordinator
On behalf of the KOffice Team

Dot Categories: 


by manyoso (not verified)

I am sure that Mr. Yates will be greatly reassured and uplifted by your letter. Hopefully, this will assuage the horrible anxiety Microsoft has suffered and continues to suffer, in the wake of this OpenDocument announcement, for it's good friend... the honorable State of Massachusetts.

Watch out! The Massholes will soon jump on you for mistaking their Commonwealth as a State.

Yes Massachusetts is a Commonwealth. One of only four in the US. The others are Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky. Whether or not they will jump on this mistake is anther question...;)

by Haakon Nilsen (not verified)

As you may have heard, Massachusetts yesterday made its final decision to standardize on the OpenDocument format for all productivity applications. Check out for some comments.

by Gerry (not verified)

The approach you rebut here seems rather tired - haven't we all been here before? (e.g.,

Does anyone who isn't a fanboy react any differently to the way journalists did here?

Indeed, the penny is beginning to drop in ordinary society,13270,1550922,0...

by Segedunum (not verified)

"The approach you rebut here seems rather tired - haven't we all been here before?"

No, because if you'd actually read it he's talking about KOffice and the fact that it supports the Open Document format. It is not a derivative of Star Office.

And when you can pay Cap Gemini and all sorts of other 'consultancies' a serious amount of money to go to these very impressionable local authorities and tell them the error of their ways, then they're going to buckle somewhat. Certainly in the UK, government agencies are very weak when it comes to listening to consultancies and large software companies. I've struggled to wonder how they came to use Star Office at all (and they weren't using it everywhere) in the first place.

However, you can only go doing that for so long, and eventually, over the next ten years we'll feel the effects of Open Document and the efforts of those promoting it. Fifteen to twenty years ago or more, large companies charging a great deal of money for proprietary networking solutions and stacks was the norm. No one thought that, or those companies, would ever end. These days, if you promote a proprietary networking protocol over TCP/IP, or any IP standard protocol, you'll simply be laughed out of business. How many of those companies are still around or actually selling those products?

by gerd (not verified)

The intresting issue is: What will it take to convince Microsoft to support Opendocument?

If we attack on all levels and fora in lobbying it must be possible to convince politicians of Opendocument.

But: do we have an advocacy paper?

by Berra (not verified)

But would we want MS to adopt Opendocument? Wouldn't they just make their version slightly incompatible and turn things into a mess?

by Segedunum (not verified)

Well then we'd know wouldn't we? It would also quite clearly be Microsoft's fault that they are breaking something, rather than creating their own formats, expecting others to use them and and whinging "Oh, but all these other office suites simply aren't compatible and are implementing our open standard wrong!"

Microsoft sees this as rather dangerous territory, and it's clear that their knees are shaking quite a bit over how to deal with it.

by Andy (not verified)

> and it's clear that their knees are shaking quite a bit over how to deal with it.

I sadly highly doubt it. to get their knees to shake youd have to place a 50mt nuke in Mr. Gates office, which is controlled by a embedded linux system (which means double danger). THAT would show them fear, nothing else.
I guess they will just place a big "loser" stamp above Massachusetts on their big world-domination... ehm market-share map and have a good laugh.
Getting Seattle out of lockin would probably rise their attention, but maybe not. They will just throw their hordes of zombies... ehm lawyers at whoever annoys them. finito.

by tepy (not verified)

... 50mt nuke ... embedded linux system

embed a Microsoft system and see Bill really shake, rattle, and roll

by Mario Miyojim (not verified)

Microsoft had adopted Java and introduced "extensions" that only worked well for Windows. Sun brought MS to task and was forbidden to use the Java name, and had to pay a big fine. The response was the creation of C# and .Net, which is not doing well. The world is aware.
If MS now tries to corrupt the OpenDocument standard with extensions that work well only for Windows, there will be jurisprudence to support a similar prohibition. This time, the world public will clearly notice this fact.

by Ivor Hewitt (not verified)

Perhaps there should also be a letter to the fine people of Massachusetts congratulating them on their decision and letting them know all about KWord and letting them know of its Open Document support... perhaps someone over there could present them with a box full of Kubunty CD's ?

by Ivor Hewitt (not verified)

Who moved the 'y'. Obviously Kubuntu.... although Kubunty does have a nice ring to it.

by Anony Maus (not verified)

The newest version of Textmake from Softmaker at least can import OpenDocument format and as far as I know they will fully support it in future versions.

by Rex Bachmann (not verified)

That's ***not*** what they told me.

> I have some questions about the forthcoming version of Textmaker.
> [1] "NEW: Imports (1.x and 2.0) and OpenDocument
> documents"
> What about EXPORT to same???? We need 2-way conversion for proper
> document exchange.

"We wrote an import filter to read a lot of files. An export filter is a lot of
work, about the same work as an import filter. So at first we decided to write
in import filter. ***We don't know if we will do an export filter in the future.***" [emphasis mine]
(20. Sep. 2005)

by Lochball (not verified)

This seems to be a political issue initiated from the Commonwealth of Masssachusetts probably to gain more freedom of selecting more than one software product for the future for governmental work and obligations. The right and only way in my opinion...

by stumbles (not verified)

Hmm I'da never considered document retention and retrieval political.

by don (not verified)

> Hmm I'da never considered document retention and retrieval political.

It's political to the extent that it's economic public policy, and therefore politicians are involved. Anytime significant amounts of money, or influence that may translate into money, are involved there will be politics.

by Brian Thomas (not verified)

It took the Peruvian official's letter to make this plain to me (and, I suspect, to a lot of people), but there's a serious matter of freedom involved here. The recent embarassment of FEMA and the PTO over IE-only web pages underscored its importance as well: the ability to communicate with government is incontestably an aspect of free speech - certainly more so than porn, or spam, or telemarketing or lots of other detestable things that have hidden behind the First Amendment.

The real, non-negotiable issue for a sovereign State (or Commonwealth, though to the rest of us they're a State, thank you very much) is that requiring citizens commmunicating with government to use a file format that is controlled by a single private party, whose use requires a license from that party, is unacceptable.

The reasons would be merely theoretical had not that very party itself provided ample proof that they not only could but would make unacceptable use of their advantage.

by Zero (not verified)

That's an easy task for them. Just one month worth of work. They'll feature discriminate; when selling to Mass, they offer that to them, when selling to everyone else, it would just be Office 12 format only. Unless all of US and Europe decide to mandate this. Then, hehee, Microsoft will be forced to support OpenDocument as a default standard. =)

Another tactic Microsoft would take is to attack the inferiority of OpenDocument, that it didn't include advanced features in today's office productivity. This may be their only strong point.

OpenDocument doesn't have inferiorities, it just doesn't have some features that can be easily adopted after they are approved and agreed to by its committee. OpenDocument is XML based and the "X" stands for eXtensible, meaning, it is flexible and can be enhanced at will and any features and capabilities that it doesn't have yet can be added very easily. So where are the inferiorities? MS Yates would like you to believe it is but in actuality, OpenDocument is very powerful.

by Boemer (not verified)

OpenDocument has a few problems, like formula's in SpreadSheets. But I think it is a good start, maybe in a version 2.0 of OpenDocument, they can solves such problems.

Can you please be more specific? Someone from OASIS wrote that in 2004 too and they had to bang their heads a lot to solve it. But nobody spits out _what_ that problem actually was.

by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

If I understand the issue right, the format and meaning of formulae in the spreadsheats is not defined in the standard. So products are left in the open, implementing some or other look-alike of the Excel's formula implementation. Portability? Interoperability? Scriptability? Forget it.

To keep ti short: they are undefined.

Bu I did not really go and checked with the standard text, so I might be completely wrong.

by Jess Sightler (not verified)

I'm not familiar with the spec, but I think most opinions on the weaknesses for spreadsheets have come from this article:

It appears that some fairly important things are left missing or underspecified by the spreadsheet specification.

by richlv (not verified)

points raised seem valid (though i haven't read the specification to verify them), but i don't get one thing - why didn't he give his input when od was created ?

also, i would really like to see a response and/or explanation to these points by od-tc member, anybode seen something like that ?

Regarding the inferiority of OpenDocument, I'd like to point out that all versions of MS Word, past and present, also support reading and writing plain text files and rich text files (RTF). MS doesn't have a problem writing to file formats that don't support all of Word's features.. they only have a problem writing to formats that are close enough that they threaten to loose the stanglehold of their proprietary document formats.

by me (not verified)

Marketing koffice to MS.. I hope his response will also be posted here (if any)

by Daniel (not verified)

I am also concerned by the fact that OpenDocument's only representative on Windows is OpenOffice. Together with microsoft, I find it terribly unjust that we are sort of forced to use the only one available fully-featured application for creation of the OpenDocument documents.
I hope Microsoft will correct this terrible injustice by implementing OpenDocument support into its Office line.

by Mark (not verified)

You know, everyone seems to forget there are OTHER Windows office products than MS Office. WordPerfect for example. All that needs to happen is these other native Windows office products support the OpenDocument format and there will be more than one native product doing so. IBM could even get in there and tell their Lotus division to get the Lotus SmartSuite updated and support the format.

In addition, MS stating there's really only one codebase supporting OpenDocument is rather specious. After all, MS Office is the only product which supports all the features of the Office document formats. That would eliminate Office as a product, under Yate's argument.


by LaGrosse (not verified)

And Microsoft wanting to keep government as well as corporate entities locked into MSWord format is different,......... how?

by cm (not verified)

You may want to read the post you replied to once again.
Maybe after reading:

by LaGrosse (not verified)

And Microsoft wanting to keep government as well as corporate entities locked into MSWord format is different,......... how?

by David (not verified)

Doesn't AbiWord ( support the OpenDocument format? It's avaiable for MS-Windows as well.

by George Staikos (not verified)
by Segedunum (not verified)

Goodness. Was it that long ago?

by Vlad Grigorescu (not verified)

First off, excellent letter. Secondly, sorry if I'm a little behind the times here, but KOffice is moving to Windows? Does this mean that it will lose most of it's KDE functions (DCOP, for instance) and be ported? What about QT?

by nemo3383 (not verified)

The QT libs have been ported to windows and they are now under the gpl with version 4.

by Dhraakellian (not verified)

I think the letter is referring to when KOffice (as well as the rest of KDE) will be ported to Qt4 and thus be legally portable to Windows.

by Corbin (not verified)

For a few years now people have been porting KDE/QT3 to Windows (at first to Cygwin then going for native), so that means when KDE is ported to QT4 the port to Windows shouldn't take to much more work.

by rinse (not verified)

Qt is available for Windows

by gerd (not verified)

some nice developer's insights of microsoft:

Outlook Express to be renamed windows Mail, finally adds spam filter / Video


Screenshots of Office 12

by Me (not verified)

> Screenshots of Office 12


1. this will definitively frighten nearly 100% of their "normal" users to hell.

2. some IT admins in business may already try to estimate costs and (their own) time to explain the hordes of typists the new UI... ("yes, baby, that button is now just at another position on the screen. Yes, I know it used to be up there, but now it's a bit more left... ")
btw.: did you notice the little cross on the top right corner of the tabs on the screenies? You can actually close the tabs! Yeah! This will be total horror for all admins around the globe as every typist will eventually press it "Ayayay... my word vanished.. Dunno, what I've done, but now it looks so different, I'm sorry, I fucked it up..."

3. in the bigger companies they already book the "retraining lessons"... Well, we have the big wallet's over here and who cares anyway...

4. Some geeks may simply think, "fuck' em, they replaced menus with tabs, but so what, as long as it's somewhat usable"

5. On windows, after 3+ month everybody got used to it and will have to use both menus and tab interfaces for a transition periode of at least 2 years, as most windows software will change their UI to resemble MS's new "invention" (just to look more "up to date", ya know)

6. my humble opinion: I don't think you'll save a second when typing a letter using tabs instead of menus. It all boils down to a different "look" using some more pixels for the UI.

7. It's o.k. to give the UI more space on the screen (bigger icons, buttons, menu), because screen resolution is now better then 10 years ago. KDE's UI has been (moderatly) changing over the years and won't stop to do so in the future. I strongly "plead" for something like an "extended Toolbar" much like what we already have (configurability), plus resembling some of the functionality of MS new UI (but without the possibility to accidentally close a tab)

by renox (not verified)

>1. this will definitively frighten nearly 100% of their "normal" users to hell.

I don't know: it was said the same thing for the 'fisher price' default look of WinXP but I think that a majority of the home users are using the default (many enterprise configures it at classic mode though).

One could say it is because that they have no clue of how to do the change (or fear that it would 'break things'), still they managed to use the new look without too much fuss I think.

So, I don't expect users to have too much problem, only an even bigger reluctancy to switch, but that has been the case since Office97: further version have bring nearly nothing useful (except maybe the groupware features, but very few users use them).

by Markus Heller (not verified)

I see that Sharepoint, Exchange and the BizTalk Server are going to grow together. At least, they will be highly complementary. And there is a need, too:

- The companies will want email access through the web, not only through outlook.
- They will want to have file data exchange.
- They will want to have calendaring and ressource planning, possibly via the web...
- They will want to have workflow planning that is tightly integrated in email communication.
- They will possibly want to have a neat corporate website which is easy to constuct. Preferably as a modular portal solution, and Sharepoint will have to do that.

But nevertheless, I also see from colleagues who work for M$ that the giant is nervous. OpenSource is tackling M$ on the desktop now, and the community is constantly getting better. At the same time, users are reluctant to learn new applications all over again and feel well-served by existing software (with maintenance expiring). And a great number of Computing Science students have been brought up on Linux, not on Windows.

In this sense we should really start to work on applications and on the age-old problem of application integration. We will have to see what apps are running in the enterprises and how we can attach to them. The OpenSource world will have to become an application integration world. BTW, why don't we shed more light on OpenSource ERP and CRM software? This is a core reason for small companies to stay on Windows.

by Me (not verified)

> The OpenSource world will have to become an application integration world.
> BTW, why don't we shed more light on OpenSource ERP and CRM software? This
> is a core reason for small companies to stay on Windows.

I strongly second that! Some month ago, I already did a prototype of an ERP-solution with Gambas, which is planned to be tranformed into a real KDE-app. It could fit some 1-20 employees, but not more. As I have my own "company" (5 employees) I have some experience, but not enough time to work on it (to be honest I have no free time atm).

by jmfayard (not verified)

Great news.

OpenDocument is a major opportunity for KDE. If you have some time available, consider writing a bit about it on Wikipedia in your mother language. We actually have :
* (very complete)
* (complete, my humble contribution)
* (not too bad, but need some updates)
* Nothing in other languages

by TxemaFinwe (not verified)