Corel and ODF/M-OOXML

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Corel’s announcement is official: they’ll support input of ODF and M-OOXML next year. I recommend you read this announcement carefully and see how they position the two specs. In my opinion, it is something along the lines of: we’ll support ODF because it is an important open standard that is being widely adopted, and we’ll support M-OOXML because Microsoft will and we want our users to be able to pull their documents into our products.

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  1. Oh, the tail is wagging the dog.

    Back at the dawn of the PC era, where Intel were pitching their new 8088 and 8086 microprocessors, I remember going to a couple of technical conferences. Round about 1979, I think.

    At one, the speaker explained how you could give a ‘Personal’ computer to a secretary, leave it programmed to calculate the lowest-cost reorder quantity for something that was consumed in an office or a production line, and the secretary would be able to make the most profitable decistions for the business rather than requiring a higher-paid engineer to make the decisions. (Imagine a fixed delivery charge and a discount for quantity).

    At another, the speaker showed how a ‘Personal’ computer suitably programmed would enable a draughtsman to be 300% more productive. How much more productive it was to create and revise technical drawings with a ‘Personal’ computer rather than pencil and paper.

    In both cases, this shows an appreciation of a ‘solutions’ business. The software wasn’t an asset; it was something that money had to be spent on creating and maintaining in order to transform your business into (as IBM would now call it) an ‘OnDemand eBusiness’. The relationship between ‘software’ and ‘profitable business’ was rather like the relationship between ‘mortgage’ and ‘house’; if you want the second, you have to have the first; but a mortgage is generally considered to come in the ‘liabilities’ column.

    Somewhere between then and now, most governments decided that ‘software’ was copyrightable, and some governments decided that ‘software’ was patentable. This tends to move the status of ‘software’ away from ‘something you create and revise to suit your needs’, and towards ‘commercial asset which you can take licence fees on when someone wants to use, whether or not it improves the value of their business.’

    It also makes it rather difficult to teach the next generation. Is ‘software’ something that you have to buy from Microsoft becuase they are the monopoly supplier, or is ‘software’ somethnig that you need to be able to revise because otherwise the solution won’t do the optimal thing for your business ?

    Transistors are now cheaper and more plentiful than grains of rice. ‘Personal’ computers are 5% of the price and 1000x the capability of the ones in those early days.

    So what’s next ? Do we get stuck thinking that value is in ‘software’ (and that Windows Vista, Microsoft Office 2007, and Corel WordPerfect will sell) ? Or do we skip to thinking that value is in ‘services’ (and that Linux,, Adobe PDF, Java, are a birthright for everyone, and we can demolish all the ‘commercial’ software from the last 20 years and put the rubble into the foundations of the new businesses) ?

    Where’s the value ? Is it in the book, or in the author who can write books ? Microsoft Windows Vista ships today. Is anyone buying, and if so why ?

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