This is something I do not know a lot about, and hope to get a better grasp. However, from what I am reading online, I am not excited by the moves Microsoft seems to be making agains OASIS and the Open Document Format (ODF). Here’s what I see:
Microsoft just made a major move by submitting its OpenXML specification to International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS). Generally, this wouldn’t be so bad, but the move is beat ODF in the race to becoming the standard in the open document race. Why is Microsoft designing another spec aside from ODF? Why not just adapt an older and already successful standard? IBM and Sun Microsystems for one- major competitors of Microsoft and advocates of ODF. But if a standard has already been submitted, why another? One word: licensing.
With ODF, any corporation, person, community, team, etc. is allowed to implement the standard without any restriction. It is designed to provide future compatibility and stability for corporations, goverments and individuals. By keeping the standard 100% open, the text may be opened and modified by any text editor, any time, any place. In other words, it won’t die if the company providing its spec goes bottom-up.
What is ODF, anyway? Simply put, it is a compressed file with XML text files, not only defining the data, but describing it too. It is designed to replace the proprietary .DOC, .XLS and .PPT that are popular with the Microsoft Office suite of applications. In other words, it will allow any user to create word processor, spreadsheet or presentation documents. But the benefit is that of the lack of “vendor lock-in”. From Wikipedia, who puts it better than anything I have read anywhere else:
Organizations and individuals that store their data in an open format such as OpenDocument avoid being locked in to a single software vendor, leaving them free to switch software if their current vendor goes out of business, raises its prices, changes its software, or changes its licensing terms to something less favorable.
Beautiful. Simply beautiful. But beware, the OpenXML standard does infact come with licensing that could keep competitors from using it. So it isn’t as open as they would want you to believe. Microsoft hopes to pull the shades over the casual users eyes, to keep them from knowing about ODF. Even worse, Microsoft is going to keep ODF busy with meaningless questions and overhead, while OpenXML pushes forth. Microsoft will bully ODF, just as it has every other competitor, until all of the sudden, OpenXML either beats ODF to the finish line, or reaches it neck and neck.
I wouldn’t care, if it weren’t for the licensing, and the lack of a trully open platform.
Frankly put, support ODF. Refuse anything other than ODF personally, and advocate it professionally. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t. OpenOffice.org is a powerful, and free (both as in beer and freedom), alternative to Microsoft Office that uses ODF by default. Tons of other applications do too. When I receive email with a proprietary format document attached, I send it back. I don’t deal with proprietry software, or its implementations. I am nice about it, however, and you should be too. There are other options, such as .TXT and .HTML, and of course, ODF.