IBM vice president of standards and open source Bob Sutor has proposed what he calls the OpenDocument Format Commitment to Action. Currently, the Commitment is a six point credo (see below) that urges citizens, business users, and CIOs to demand that their governments, IT departments and vendors support ODF in policies, products and services. In open, public discourse-like fashion, Sutor has also invited anybody to suggest changes to the Commitment. The six points are as follows (and the graphic is further down below):
- Insist today that the provider of your office applications (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software) is committed to support the OASIS OpenDocument Format for Office Applications standard in their products by January 1, 2007.
- Insist today that the office applications you deploy allow users to easily set the OASIS OpenDocument standard as the default "save" format for your documents. That is, you should not have to go to a lot of trouble to avoid using proprietary formats.
- Get a commitment from your office applications provider to join and contribute to the OASIS OpenDocument standard technical committee.
- Ask your CIO when you will be able to use office applications that support the OASIS OpenDocument standard.
- Ask your local and federal governments when they will be supporting the OASIS OpenDocument standard.
- Insist that any XML document format you use is not encumbered by proprietary extensions, and that the format is freely available for anyone to implement without restrictions, including open source communities that use a GPL license. Ensure that if implementers must accept a license covering the format, the license is clear and unambiguous on these important issues.
An ethos like this obviously depends on a bit of viral distribution if it's going to play any sort of role in organically growing the ODF ecosystem to the point that takes on a life of its own. One proposal for Bob is to change the scope of ODF's application to include any application or service that's capable of creating business documents. In other words, this isn't just about word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software and the like. ODF has the potential to be the seamless transport mechanism between document generating products and services of all types. I know Bob agrees since your graphic caption says "whatever application you wish to use," but if this broader scope is specifically mentioned in the Commitment, it might help people to better understand the potential of ODF (that it's not just another format for saving a spreadsheet).
For example, what if, after several back and forth emails with some co-workers, you realize that you're actually building a valuable business document that needs to be retained and shared across an organization (replete with boldfacing, underlining, bullet points, and other basic formatting that most emails are capable of). Instead of cutting and pasting from e-mail into your word processor (a process which often loses a lot of the formatting), what if you could do an ODF export from e-mail to your ODF-compliant word processor. And then, when your done cleaning it up, you save that document to your ODF-compliant wiki where whatever parts of the organization need access to the document can get at it -- not just for viewing by someone who needs nothing more than a low-cost easily managed thin client with a standard everyday browser (because wikis render in HTML), but also for online or offline editing. Or what about if that document needs to be viewed by someone with a PDA of their choice. The open nature of OpenDocument really facilitates that sort of frictionless end-to-end flow of a document regardless of what the end points are.
I agree that the lion's share of the opportunity exists with typical productivity apps. But I also think that ODF can spawn a huge wave of innovation if many of us just step back and think about business documents and the tools we use to create them much more holistically than we ever have. By the way, for those of you who think this and my other blogs about ODF are purposely designed to marginalize Microsoft, they are not. I've routinely said that Microsoft should just go ahead and support ODF the same way it supports other non-Microsoft formats in its other products (imagine for example if Internet Explorer couldn't open a JPG or GIF file). Microsoft's file formats could very well be technically superior than ODF. If that's the case, then end-users will recognize that by using them instead of ODF. So, Microsoft has nothing to lose by adding support. Anyway, here's the diagram Bob came up with to show the seamless flow.