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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Why Office Formats Matter

Tim Bray of Sun recently called for one standard Open Document Format (ODF) based on the current Oasis standard.

After smearing Mr. Bray with a hypocrisy label, Dare Obasanjo of Microsoft explains that Microsoft needs to move forward with a legacy compatible format (O12X) as soon as possible and can not wait for the standards process to plod forward.

Dare's answer sounds reasonable, but it is clear that Microsoft's primary business objective is to retain control of the enabling Office architecture (O12X). Even after Microsoft's ECMA approval, they will still effectively control the direction of the standard.

Dave Winer complains that he doesn't care about this issue and therefore it's not important.

The reason this is important is that every year businesses of all sizes spend billions of dollars on Microsoft Office for features they never use or could live with out. This is due to Microsoft's brillant lock-in strategy which Mr Winer often complains about.

If the Oasis ODF standard is widely adopted by the business community, we will see increasingly improved Office Suites at one tenth the price and great free versions as well. The money no longer going into the pockets of Microsoft will be used on development projects that add real value to the business and help their customers.

In addition, developers of all stripes will create unbelievable mash ups of Office Docs which will make Google Map mash-ups look like the toys that they are.

So this is an issue that does matter and it is clear that the Oasis Open Document Format is best for almost anybody who is not a Microsoft employee. So do all you can to push for ODF adoption in your organization.