How to force users to upgrade – the Microsoft Way.

For those of you who thought that Microsoft really did have your best interests at heart and believed my constant harping on about their terrible OOXML spec was just the ranting of a sad old geek; well, I think they have just proved my point for me…

A couple of months ago, Microsoft released one of their admirably named Service Packs: SP3 for Office 2003. Apart from fixing (I assume) a number of bugs, this particular SP introduced a great new feature – it disabled access to about 24 previously supported file formats! Microsoft themselves suggest that this is for your own security and benefit, but unsurprisingly, many users do not seem to agree with this. And Rob Weir’s analysis demonstrates just how bad Microsoft are at lying yet again..

Taken from this computerworld article

Among the blocked files are older Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats, as well as older formats used by Lotus 1-2-3 and Corel Corp.’s Quattro Pro — a pair of ancient and ageing spreadsheets — and Corel Draw, an illustration program. Word 2003 with SP3, in fact, blocks a staggering 24 former formats, according to Microsoft, including the default word processing file format for Office 2004 for Mac, the currently available edition of Microsoft’s application suite for Mac OS X.

Although for me, the final proof is here:

In a posting to a company blog yesterday, Tarpara recommended that rather than monkey with the registry, users convert documents in bulk to the OpenXML format — Office 2007’s default format — using the tools in the Office Migration Planning Manager (OMPM) kit, which can be downloaded from Microsoft’s site. “OMPM is great because it doesn’t overwrite the original files at all, it simply makes a copy of the file in the new file format so there is no risk,” said Tarpara.

So, let’s get this straight… Microsoft release a service pack that renders your application useless with 24 file formats which it was O.K. with before you applied the pack. You can’t uninstall the Service Pack. The “fix” is dangerous and not supported by Microsoft. Their “solution” is to migrate all your documents to their new Office file format which – guess what – is the default for Office 2007! Hows that for trying to cajole people into spending more money on yet another application?

And let’s not forget that Microsoft are still trying to force their new OOXML spec through the ISO and that currently, ECMA are marking whole swathes of the specification deprecated so those areas do not have to be published or publicly documented as part of the ISO standard. Also, M$ have said before that they might not even implement what ECMA manages to get passed ISO (if it passes) but stick to their own proprietary format. So when Office 2010 comes out you’d better get your wallet ready; for once Service Pack 3 appears for Office 2007 you’ll need to upgrade…

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