MS competitors gather to fast track ODF's evolution

MS competitors gather to fast track ODF's evolution

Summary: Within days of OASIS' OpenDocument Format (ODF) suffering a political setback in Massachusetts (a drama which has yet to fully play itself out), many of Microsoft's competitors gathered in IBM-stronghold Armonk, NY on Friday, November 4 to plot the next steps for the fledgling XML-based document standard.  Because some of what was discussed was apparently confidential, the press was not invited to observe the ODF Summit.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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Within days of OASIS' OpenDocument Format (ODF) suffering a political setback in Massachusetts (a drama which has yet to fully play itself out), many of Microsoft's competitors gathered in IBM-stronghold Armonk, NY on Friday, November 4 to plot the next steps for the fledgling XML-based document standard.  Because some of what was discussed was apparently confidential, the press was not invited to observe the ODF Summit. 

According to Redmonk's Stephen O'Grady who was present and who has published the best high level FAQ of the day's proceedings, the list of attendees went well beyond the shortlist of Microsoft competitors that were in one way or another involved in the deliberations that took place in Massachusetts.  Whereas the names IBM, Sun, Adobe, HP, and Novell came up at one point or another in Massachusetts, Computer Associates, Corel, Google, Nokia, Oracle, Red Hat and Exchange-killer Scalix were present and accounted for at Friday's gathering. 

The agenda apparently looked to address some of ODF's biggest challenges including a key weakness when it comes to how accessible ODF-compliant solutions are (or will be when they ship) to those with disabilities.  By way of support from commonly used third party accessibility applications like JAWS that don't support anything in the ODF ecosystem, Microsoft Office is the first choice for those with disabilities such as visual impairments when it comes to working with electronic documents and productivity suites. 

Lack of equally compelling ODF-compliant solutions for the disabled will be a major barrier to adoption by governments -- particuarly US-based governments like Massachusetts that have enacted legislation mandating the availability of highly accessible solutions to state employees with disabilities.  The group that gathered in Armonk is apparently well aware of the obstacle and is making it a priority to fast track the development of tools that meet or beat products like JAWS.

Although O'Grady doesn't cite JAWS by name, he does say that "the vendor producing the tool used to make Microsoft Office accessibile via a tightly integrated scripting interface has been less than receptive to overtures from non-Microsoft vendors. That's worth watching."  Should Microsoft be looking to use accessibility as a lock-in leverage point at the same time that Microsoft's competitors need ODF-compliant applications to go from 0 to 60 in terms of accessibilty prowess, the two camps could end up in a bidding war to acquire JAWS developer Nanopac, Inc. in order to secure their respective agendas. 

Meanwhile, the cast of attendees to the Armonk was significant for another reason: many of them are not traditionally thought of as players in any of the major document technology ecosystems.  That said, at the end of the day, what isn't a document? As I've suggested before, a standard like ODF could evolve into a form of digital DNA that not only allows information to easily interoperate between different vendors' products, but also between thick, thin, and service oriented offerings.  For example, and email that's created in a thin-client based email system like Google's or Scalix's could be saved in ODF format as it evolves to more of a mission critical business document and then edited by thick or thin office solutions on PCs or in browsers as well as on mobile devices such as those from Nokia.  As the roster of supporters grows and as more organizations begin to appreciate the potential that a standard document format like ODF can achieve, my guess is that 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. 

Topic: Microsoft

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  • hahaha

    so much for openess (Because some of what was discussed was apparently confidential, the press was not invited to observe the ODF Summit).
    zzz1234567890
  • hahaha

    so much for openess (Because some of what was discussed was apparently confidential, the press was not invited to observe the ODF Summit).
    zzz1234567890
  • Why?

    "Because some of what was discussed was apparently confidential, the press was not invited to observe the ODF Summit."

    What could be confidential about such a meeting? I thought ODF was supposed to be an OPEN format. How can these companies have any kind of closed meeting concerning it? Would that constitute collusion?

    A conspiracy-minded person could theorize that this meeting was really about how to utilize ODF to further exclude Microsoft from future technical consideration (similar to MA), and the press wasn't invited because ... well, what would that say about the process in MA? Fortunately, I'm not conspiracy-minded. :)

    Carl Rapson
    rapson
    • Could be about strategy.

      Remember a few years ago when those advocating desktop Linux gathered to set a strategy? No company was willing to risk much to beat Windows, but the press was encouraged to report a major initiative.
      As Mr. Berlind pointed out, I recall, it's now or never for desktop Linux before the new version of Windows is issued. Turned out to be never.


      In the next year Microsoft is producing new versions of Windows and Office and other products. There's a good chance they'll hit the opposition like cannons fired into down pillows.

      The competitors have to figure out a way to keep their ... stuff together.


      Remember how European farmers were alarmed about genetically modified food reducing costs and thus prices because of huge increases in yields?
      In response, they started the "frankenfood" campaign based on no science, but on people's easily aroused mistrust of technology. Seems to have worked pretty well; many Europeans are rejecting cheaper foods.

      Maybe the response to Microsoft's new formats and what they can do is a frankenfood approach.

      That means, the formats will provide such significant improvements that they will never, could never be matched by any other company. So any user of Microsoft's formats will be stuck with Microsoft forever.

      Just substitute Microsoft for Monsanto and you have the campaign.

      Well, something to think about.
      Anton Philidor
      • Loved the analogy...

        This isn't my most in depth talkback post ever made, but I loved the analogy:

        [i]There's a good chance they'll hit the opposition like cannons fired into down pillows.[/i]

        The visualization was great.
        John Carroll
      • No science on frankenfoods, huh?

        Anton Truthophobic,

        Where is the decades old, large body of clinical trials that says that frankenfoods are safe? Why aren't food companies willing to label their food as genetically modified if they're so frickin' proud of them? How can they patent life when the prior art exists in life itself?

        Consider this: If you make a mistake manufacturing a coffe mug, you can change the design and only manufacture the design. You can stop making the mistake. If you make a mistake with frankenfood and notice a year or two later that you've wiped out a large part of the food chain (that humans just happen to be dependent on), the mistake reproduces without your help, sometimes beyond control. Ooops. Roundup Ready soybeans, anyone?

        Humans will *never* be smart enough to anticipate the consequences of genetic engineering. Whoever said that there *was* science backing up benefits of genetically modified foods, anyway?

        Scott
        Scottman_z
  • Sooner or later people will demand Open Standards

    based document formats with increasing intensity. A word doc passed around to a few folks at an office or between clients and companies may be sufficient for daily communication. Alsmost everyone is using ms office so its "OK".

    When LARGE amounts of information with complex structure needs to be organizaed effectively, gets indexed and be easily accessible from different parties which use different types of s/w, the vanila .doc format is NOT sufficient. Simply beacuse it REQUIRES OTHER MS APPS to render it CORRECTLY. MS docs with embedded objects that link to OTHER documents (such as excel spreadsheets, etc) ARE DEPENDEDNT on the presence of the ENTIRE MS APP suite to carry out the dyncamic document linking.

    In the long run you need a COMMONLY UNDERSTOOD MEDIUM that can be interpreted by s/w from DIFFERENT VENDORS. Locking in public information to the MS office suite and the whims of their developers is UNWISE.
    michael_t
    • But it's not locked in...

      ...as I've explaind in some of my posts, the format is available for free, documented, and grants a perpetual license to make readers and writers of the format.

      How is that lock-in? Granted, Microsoft controls the evolution, but don't you think they may know just a tiny bit more than the assembled grandees at IBM (most of whom, as David noted, have little to do with office document formats)?
      John Carroll
      • Which format?

        Neither format fits this description John.

        DOC is most certainly not documented (unless you count the source code of the projects that import and read it).
        Readers/writers are available for it.

        The new MS xml format is documented, but it only grants a license to read (refer to the analysis of the legal agreement by Marbux).

        So I'm still unclear about which format you are referring to.
        John: aren't you the least bit curious why a large number of companies who have nearly nothing to do with office document formats are supporting ODF?
        (Oracle, Intel, Nokia, and Computer Associates)
        Steve Z
      • ... as long as you like black

        [i]...as I've explaind in some of my posts, the format is available for free, documented, and grants a perpetual license to make readers and writers of the format.[/i]

        And as many of us have pointed out, someone who actually knows the law and how to read a contract profoundly disagrees:
        http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20050330133833843&query=marbux#A4
        Yagotta B. Kidding
      • MS wants its own format

        Fine. And IBM has microchannel.

        What does that have to do with the rest of us? Nothing unless we choose their products.
        IT_User
      • Perpetual competitive advantage

        The devil of course, is in the details. Microsoft's protestations of openess and freedom to implement MSXML fall flat when you see that the license is designed to exclude Microsoft's #1 competitor, FOSS.

        The MSXML license and the total control it gives Microsoft then a perpetual competitive advantage over everyone else. There is no guarantees of future timely disclosure. If Microsoft decides to change the format, they can easily choose to delay releasing documentation until their implementation is complete and in the market.

        ODF has neither of these flaws. It treats all comers the same, regardless of development philosophy or business model. Everyone has equal access to all specifications at the same time.

        One of the things that has always annoyed me most about Microsoft is their attitude that they know more about how to run my business than I do. I want Microsoft to assist me, not dictate to me.
        mosborne
  • JAWS

    JAWS may wish to re-think their strategy at this point because either they support ODF and OO or we will code them out of existance. I highly suspect that there are already projects starting up to eliminate JAWS from the software landscape.
    jjanks
  • Passport vs Liberty, now MSXML vs ODF

    When is MS going to learn that it can't plant itself against the entire rest of the industry? I don't care what type of desktop monopoly you have, there are way too many big companies on the other side that MS better get on board with.
    Techboy_z
  • Passport vs Liberty, now MSXML vs ODF

    When is MS going to learn that it can't plant itself against the entire rest of the industry? I don't care what type of desktop monopoly you have, there are way too many big companies on the other side that MS better get on board with.
    Techboy_z
  • Passport vs Liberty, now MSXML vs ODF

    When is MS going to learn that it can't plant itself against the entire rest of the industry? I don't care what type of desktop monopoly you have, there are way too many big companies on the other side that MS better get on board with.
    Techboy_z
  • Passport vs Liberty, now MSXML vs ODF

    When is MS going to learn that it can't plant itself against the entire rest of the industry? I don't care what type of desktop monopoly you have, there are way too many big companies on the other side that MS better get on board with.
    Techboy_z
  • Please don't mis-use the term "MSXML"

    MSXML is Microsoft's XML parser, aka Microsoft Core XML Services (see http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/xmlsdk/html/b24aafc2-bf1b-4702-bf1c-b7ae3597eb0c.asp). Please don't use the term "MSXML" to refer to the Office XML formats--you're only confusing things and looking unknowledgeable.
    PB_z
    • Embrace etc.

      [i]MSXML is Microsoft's XML parser, aka Microsoft Core XML Services[/i]

      Too late. MS* has been the worldwide convention for Microsoft's incompatible mutations of established standards for at least a decade (MSHTML, MSTCP/IP, MSLDAP, etc.) MSXML is just the latest, and the "correct" usage is what people actually use.

      You should have a clue as to which is the more common usage from the fact that this is the first most of us have even [b]heard[/b] of the one you cite.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Many vendors make the mistake of trying to butt heads with MS.

    Just ask Sun how well it worked for them.
    No_Ax_to_Grind