Bob Sutor gave an excellent public lecture tonight here in Copenhagen. Even though it was announced just two days ago, around 80 showed up!
Bob gave a preview of his Finnish keynote, and then gave an update on the ODF situation in Massachusetts and elsewhere (Armonk, for example). If you follow Bob’s blog and all the other blog/news coverage, you’ll know that industry support for ODF is increasing, and some new initiatives can be expected which will further consolidate ODF as a mature, open standard for office documents.
Problems of a more technical nature will be solved (through OASIS), and although I didn’t hear Bob say so directly, I somehow got the impression that this “coalition” or “Open Format Freedom Fighters Forum” (Peter Quinn) silently (or loudly?) has said, “Hmm, OK, fuck them, we’ll take them on their own turf now”. Or, “Is this a competitive move? Absolutely,” as Stephen O’Grady is reported to comment last week.
Whatever the outcome of the Massachusetts case will be, there is no doubt that ODF is “for real” and that we can now start talking about competition in the office document format area.
So, basically, it is a “standards war” between two sides – ODF and Microsoft – but it’s too early to declare victory. ODF is central to IBM Workplace (where XForms has also become central, btw). And of course, ODF is central to Sun StarOffice as well as the open source office package OpenOffice 2.0 and several others, and Corel WordPerfect. David Berlind says “Microsoft will have little choice but to support it or turn its own MSXML-based file formats over to some sort of standards body or multi-party stewarded consortium”.
Microsoft now has to come up with something really clever to win this war. On the other hand, they have been around in this business for a long time (several years ahead in actual use of XML in office), and might have more up their sleves than support for PDF, which seems somewhat odd considering their Metro efforts, which I assume they still work on. So, embracing PDF is probably “just” a response to “user requirements”, not a strategic move as such.
Whatever moves we’ll see over the coming months and years, it is interesting to look at the larger picture:
– XML won the office war by near-total annihilation of non-XML formats. Implementations of XML differ, but it’s all XML. That’s worth declaring as victory, for all. Peace.
– (did Zip also win the war? for ODF yes, but not sure where MS stands)
– the politics of standards is evolving, at least in the US. It’s almost hitting main street politics, and has hit the mass media. I guess that’s basically a good thing, although it also has costs and consequences in general.
So, where is Denmark in all this? Well, in order to “warm up” my students before Bob came and we opened the doors to others, I had invited Danish MP, Morten Helveg Petersen, from the Social Liberals, to come and give his view on things. Morten has been driving the “IT-opposition” in parliament for several years. In 2003, he presented an open standards charter, and has been pushing for more ever since.
Morten told about his B64 Bill to Parliament, which would mandate the use of open standards in government, but which were “dropped” due to elections being called, but is being re-presented. He also told about a recent political agreement which means that a National Knowledge Centre for Software will be funded and established.
During a panel presentation at WSIS last week on our “Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems,” there was a discussion about the power and promise of ODF. Patrick Gannon, President of OASIS, joined us.
After watching the reaction of a small selection of governments also present (who have not yet taken an public position on ODF), my prediction is simple:
ODF will be globally accepted and MS will announce its support of the format within the next 2 years, and probably much sooner.
As Patrick mentioned during our Roadmap discussion, there are already “bridges” available that make ODF usable in the Windows environment.
It won’t be long before MS will have to support it, both because it will be supported de facto and because of user demands.
Founder & Director
Open ePolicy Group
Berkman Center for Internet & Society