Microsoft's battle with backers of the Open Document Format (ODF) standard could end up going the way that so many contests do: Won by Microsoft as much -- if not more -- because of the ineptitude of its competition than by Redmond's prowess.
Just as Netscape and Sony ended up their own worst enemies, the ODF camp might unravel before Microsoft's rival Office Open XML (OOXML) comes up for final international standardization vote early next year. Microsoft lost a vote earlier this year to get OOXML on the ISO fast track.
A number of ODF backers are abandoning ODF and throwing their weight behind the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C Compound Document Format (CDF).
Microsoft Director of Corporate Standards Jason Matusow blogged recently about the splintering of the ODF coalition. Matusow pointed to a post by former ODF champion (and now CDF advocate) Sam Hiser. Hiser, a systems consultant who has served as Vice President & Director Business Affairs at the OpenDocument Foundation, blogged earlier this month:
"It may be news to some -- not to the ODF Community, certainly -- that we at the OpenDocument Foundation have been displeased with the direction of ODF development this year. We find that ODF is not the open format with the open process we thought it was or originally intended it to be....
"Among ODF's weaknesses is its provenance from a specific application and the unwillingness of its originators to release it into the Bazaar. Merchants of irony will note this is the identical problem that paralyzes the incumbent gorilla's (Microsoft's) format."
Microsoft has been arguing that ODF never was a single, unified standard and that developers and customers had no way of knowing which version of it (1.0? 1.2? other?) to use.
As a result of the latest infighting, is Microsoft now all-but-guaranteed that OOXML will sail through the ISO standardization vote in Feburary 2008 because ODF -- and its backers -- will be in disarray?