Open Documents

Open signThe debate about the OpenDocument format is just beginning. Massachusetts put a stake in the ground with their decision to adopt ODF for all employees in the Commonwealth and for anyone doing business with them. This may go down in history as a bold and important move. But Microsoft, which opposes ODF, will not give up easily.

There was an OpenOffice.org 2005 conference in Koper-Capodistria, Slovenia last week at which a professor delivered a keynote speech entitled: "Should I Adopt OpenOffice?". It is reported that after taking a few questions from the audience, a loud voice boomed out from the back of the auditorium saying "In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a Microsoft technical officer." The person then launched at attack on the professor about the information that had just been presented. The gentleman then claimed that the European Union had accepted Microsoft file formats as "sufficiently open" and finally, he directly attacked the new OASIS OpenDocument Format. It was further reported that the professor had not even mentioned the OpenDocument Format or Microsoft's "Office Open XML". Needless to say, Microsoft is very defensive about the subject. Why? They have a monopoly and they want to keep it. Maintaining some degree of control over the details behind the formats gives a vendor more flexibility in developing their software and in deciding when and how to offer upgrades. Having to work with formats that are controlled by an outside independent third party is definitely harder.

Microsoft's behavior is very reminiscent of IBM's behavior in the 1970's and 1980's. Numerous file formats were proposed by other vendors but IBM consistently maintained that the mainframe was the best place to keep data. IBM totally controlled the formats. The difference between IBM's behavior and Microsoft's is that IBM heard the market speak out about the Internet, open source, Linux, and other grass roots ideas and rather than fight the changes, IBM adopted them and in fact is leading the charge. Microsoft has done this in some ways, particularly in the area of web services, but when it comes to Office, they clearly want to maintain some hooks that are not open to the user. (read more)

by John R Patrick October 3, 2005 in Application Development, History
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