Microsoft ODF and Cross-Platform RIAs

Microsoft ODF and Cross-Platform RIAs

Summary: Is Ray Ozzie already starting to change the direction of the ship? On Thursday Microsoft announced that they would begin support third party tools which will allow users of Microsoft Office to create and view ODF files. Let's step back for a moment and analyze this with the "sunglasses of RIA" (We have to use sunglasses because the future is bright).

SHARE:
TOPICS: Microsoft
4
Is Ray Ozzie already starting to change the direction of the ship? On Thursday Microsoft announced that they would begin support third party tools which will allow users of Microsoft Office to create and view ODF files. Let's step back for a moment and analyze this with the "sunglasses of RIA" (We have to use sunglasses because the future is bright). One of the things that has helped the web grow so quickly and organically is the plethora of relatively open standards. RSS, HTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript - the building blocks of the web are all very open and very accessible. This has kept any one company from "owning" the web (though at times Microsoft has tried) and helped foster a lot of innovation.

With the announcement that Microsoft is going to be working to provide some support (via third parties) to ODF we're seeing the same openness of the web translate into the desktop. As readers here know, I think the desktop as an application platform is an old model that won't survive the end of the decade in its current form. But Microsoft's Office suite is something that is still very entrenched in corporate America. The decision to incorporate some level of ODF into Office is a huge boon for RIA developers.

As our web applications start to look like desktop applications, we need to have the same kind of openness for the desktop that we have for the web. The tools that business users are working with every day can't be replaced overnight, but if you make sure that they can access their data - and they don't see any change in how their documents look - then you will be able to focus on the things that RIAs do better: cross-platform, web accessible, ubiquitous and tiny. Bring the openness of the web into the office and RIAs will be in a position to take advantage of it.

Topic: Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

4 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Incoming!

    [i][/i]
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • The Internet does not threaten the client OS: it breathes new life into it

    I believe MS? government customers want translators for Open Office XML and ODF files. Therefore MS is just catering to some of its important customers.

    As for openness, I believe open standards are important for interoperability. However beyond that, proprietary solutions are important for companies to differentiate themselves from one another and make money. There is no escaping this. You cannot have a utopia of open everything, or else companies would be unable to compete, and would go out of business left and right.

    Regarding the desktop drastically changing form in 10 years: the most widespread computers and devices will always have fat local OSs, and over time, they will necessarily continue to get fatter, in order to deliver ever richer experiences demanded by users. (There is no escape from this either.)

    For the most part, all MS has to do, is be keen on adapting Windows and its other software, as the computing landscape changes. MS can in large part do this by incorporating the advantages of threatening solutions into its products.

    I personally believe that home desktop computers should evolve into servers, and allow for the easy synchronization of data among devices on home networks and over the web. Also, I think Windows programs should be able to export data in an XML format that can be read by readers that come on various Windows and other platforms. The readers could allow for mark ups and maybe limited collaboration over these documents via the readers, using whatever network options are available. This would allow e.g. two people with UMPCs to sit down and collaborate over a spreadsheet using an ad hoc network they quickly set up; or someone going over a bill with his (remotely located) parents, which was output by a utility company?s RIA; or someone sending an output of a CAD program to someone?s smartphone via email, several thousand miles away.

    I believe MS is going in the above direction, and that is great. My point is that desktop apps are anything but dead, and the Internet, rather than undermining them, is providing a great opportunity for them to significantly increase their value. Therefore it is myth that the Internet will eventually spell the death of the desktop OS and apps. Rather the opposite is true, and MS should be salivating over the ever growing opportunities provided by the Internet for its desktop OS and other software businesses.
    P. Douglas
    • But Aren't Those Really RIAs

      P, I think we have the exact same "dream" if a different interpretation. The home computer should act exactly like a server, that synchronizes data and works seamlessly with all kinds of house hold devices. When you have all of these different platforms, you need something that can work well with all of them and provide a customized user experience. The RIA does that, and it should ideally run on the desktop, devices, and other parts of the home.

      All of these applications, because they're leveraging the web and not the file system of the computer, are moving to a layer above the OS. I think MSFT has done a great job recently of helping this along. There is going to be a blurring between desktop apps and RIAs, but I think the application of the future will be thought of as more RIA than desktop.
      ryanstewart
      • I guess it depends on how you define things

        I guess it would be helpful if MS and the computer industry define what they consider to be an RIA. I guess if they consider an RIA to be simply a desktop app that exchanges data with (or is managed from) servers on the Internet or on Intranets, then developers could adjust their apps accordingly, and have their software considered RIAs. However if RIAs have to meet a vendor or industry standard (e.g. be compatible with set of APIs, and fall within a range of architectures), then we could have some desktop apps being RIAs, while others simply having Internet / Intranet extensions ? though being very comparable to RIAs. Whatever the case, I believe most desktop apps will evolve to have Internet / Intranet extensions in one form or another.

        One other thing: it seems to me that most desktop apps will continue to have access to the local file system ? they will just have in addition to this, Internet / Intranet extensions.
        P. Douglas