Bonum Certa Men Certa

Is the Open Document Format (ODF) Now Dead?

You want interoperability? Sure, but on our terms...

As noted in this article on WinBeta, with the 3 top word processors in the world supporting Office Open XML "Suddenly the landscape looks very different, as by the end of this week, the world's most widely distributed and supported document format will at last be an open standard...but it won't be ODF."

Of course, that is because while Corel will support both ODF and DOCX and so will Novell OpenOffice, Microsoft Office will not feature native support for ODF.

For its share of this morning's statement, Microsoft began referring to its suite's format without the word "Office," using instead the designation "Ecma Open XML." Last Wednesday, a version of that format was submitted for general approval by the ECMA standards organization - the same one which helped Microsoft institute its version of Netscape's JavaScript as a standard. A vote on approval of Ecma Open XML is scheduled for this Thursday, and today's announcement of Novell's support most likely all but assures its passage.

As evidenced by the lengths that Microsoft went to influence the Massachusetts Open Document decision, it was probably worth a few hundred million dollars to Microsoft to continue their Office domination under the guise of an open standard file format, and it seems it was definitely worth it to Novell.

Complete Open XML?

As pointed out by Bob Sutor months ago, Open XML is a huge specification and is unlikely to be completely implemented by anyone other than Microsoft themselves, leading to limited interoperability - which we were told was the whole point of this exercise.

In my opinion, suggesting “choice” among ODF and Open XML by governments who are seeking control, true choice, and interoperability is nothing more than maintaining the status quo — a requirement for Microsoft products under the guise of supporting a “standard.”

In reaction to today's announcement. Sutor is unwaived in his assessment:

I’m ready to stand corrected when they demonstrate full translation of arbitrary documents that use all the corner cases of the gargantuan Open XML spec. Presumably they would have a test suite that demonstrates full coverage. If they are just doing a partial translation, then this is just what I said would happen in the blog entry: the only consumers of complete Open XML will be Microsoft, and even that is questionable. The extreme bloat of the Open XML spec will only preserve the network effect when full fidelity is required. Gosh, do you think that could possibly be the point, I wonder?

Geez, what's with all the conspiracy nuts?

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