ODF Nonsense

Let's continue my "bad argument" theme from yesterday with a news item from Slashdot. This one is regarding a ZDNet report that Microsoft representative Alan Yates claimed the MS Office XML format is preferable to the Open Document Format (ODF) for performance reasons. For support he cites this ZDNet blog by George Ou, which compares MS Office to OpenOffice.

Now, it may or may not be true that the Office XML format can be implemented more efficiently, in terms of space and manipulation speed, than ODF. I really don't know enough about the issue to say one way or the other. However, I do know that the ZDNet blog entry Mr. Yates cited doesn't say much of anything about it either. In other words, the argument is bad because the cited evidence doesn't really support the conclusion.

So what does the blog entry say about Office XML and ODF? Well, it gives an example of two 16 sheet spreadsheet files with the same data, one in Office XML format and one in ODF format. The author found that OpenOffice Calc used around three times as much memory and 100 times the CPU time as Excel.

Does this mean that Office XML is faster than ODF? No. It just means that Excel 2003 is faster than OpenOffice Calc 2.0. Given that OpenOffice has a history of being slow and bloated (version 2 is better, but still not great), this should come as a surprise to no one. I'm sure that if you compared the two programs using the same file format, Excel would still be faster.

So as far as the file formats go, this entry is comparing apples to oranges. And why shouldn't it? After all, Mr. Ou's original point was to compare the speed of OpenOffice to MS Office, which is exactly what he did. He's just had his words taken out of context by a Microsoft spokesman to support an argument he never tried to make.

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Comments #

    Microsoft and Slashdot

    While I completely agree with your point this is not very surprising. Firstly we are dealing with microsoft who are very good at making statistics say whatever they want (often by making them up, or as in this case just misrepresenting their meanings). Then the story was hosted by Slashdot. Even ignoring the fact that a topic about Microsoft on Slashdot is hardly going to get much informed debate, most of the posters will not have read the article let alone the article referenced by the article.

    I read the summary of that post, it made me smile to think of the ranting that would follow, but I followed the links to the articles for real* information.

    * for a given definition of "real"

    Over 99% of people have more than the average number of legs.

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