Yesterday, I wrote a blog entitled Let the file format hairsplitting begin. The blog is about how Sun Microsystems director of corporate standards Carl Cargill sent a letter to Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance Thomas Trimarco in hopes of influencing the outcome to a hotly contested debate over file format standardization in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Today, Cargill's counterpart at IBM -- Big Blue's vice president of open standard and open source Bob Sutor -- has also sent a letter to Secretary Trimarco. Similar to Cargill's letter, Sutor's letter implies that by standardizing on Microsoft's yet to be released XML-based file format for Office 12 -- a file format that Microsoft has promised to turn over to Ecma for multi-party stewardship and eventually the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for ratification as an international standard -- Massachusetts would essentially be standardizing on vaporware. Wrote Sutor:
Within OASIS, ODF was both developed and will be maintained in an open fashion by multiple stakeholders. This is not just a promise that might come true in a year or two, this is what has already happened.....As you have done so far, you should require evidence of broad implementation of a standard. ODF has real, multiple implementations and there are more organizations building in support for it right now. This broad acceptance of and support for ODF is fact today and not something that is wished or hoped for in the future.
The full text of IBM's letter is available here. It is true that ODF has real, multiple implementations in the market now (and Microsoft's yet to be released XML file format has none.. not even its own). But what Microsoft has is 90 percent of the world's desktops. As I've written already, my belief is that "the battle for supremacy between Microsoft's Office XML Reference Schema and ODF will probably come down a battle of Microsoft Office's pervasiveness (as a vehicle for its new format) versus any groundswell of ODF support from Microsoft's competition, who's a part of that groundswell, and whether or not collectively they're able to loosen the grip that Microsoft Office has on the majority of the world's desktops (including Macintosh PCs). While IBM and Sun have been the two key ODF movers and shakers, I can't help but wonder if Google's swing vote is the one with the most potential to affect the outcome." At this point, it would be interesting to see if Google comes forward with a letter to Secretary Trimarco as well as an articulation of its yet to be announced plans.