OOXML, the past. ODF, the future.

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It’s old news now, but ISO has announced that OOXML failed to meet both of the criteria for success in the Five Month Ballot Period. Andy Updegrove and Pam Jones have the details.

Congratulations to all who worked to secure this result in the goal of high quality, non-vendor dictated open standards. The story is not over, of course, as the Ballot Resolution Meeting in February will attempt to get agreement on fixes to OOXML to make it acceptable. A lot will happen between now and then. Nevertheless, this was a truly historic vote and result.

But that was so yesterday.

What about tomorrow? Well, for starters, I predict we’ll see even more adoption of ODF by governments, large and small; by users, young and old; and organizations, both commercial and non-profit. We’ll see more active development and evolution of ODF within OASIS and all are welcome to participate in that. We especially invite Microsoft and others to lend their expertise to this important standardization effort.

Along the way we’ll see and hear the various stakeholders make impassioned arguments for what they want in the next versions of ODF. This creative and intellectual fervor will lead to an ever better standard as some ideas become codified and others get put aside. This is good and this is normal in an open and transparent standards setting.

There have been many lessons learned in the last few months. Let’s use that knowledge to improve how we make standards. Let’s innovate. Let’s write some great new code. Let’s give our users a superb choice of applications that can all share the same information, no matter who writes the software.

ODF was already doing well and now has renewed momentum. Go with it.


  1. Good job, Bob (and everybody else). Despite a lot of wrongdoings at Microsoft, the world was able to see that the “O” in OOXML does not stand for “Open”.

  2. As a quite longtime user of OO Calc, I’m delighted that ISO has kicked out M$ rubbish, but I am far less impressed with the way Sun is handling compatibility issues between Word and OO Writer…

    I was lucky that I never used Excel, so I don’t have any legacy XLS files hanging around, but I’ve got several hundred Word documents, most of them simple letters saved as RTF. Despite their simplicity, many of these will not import correctly in OO!

    My only complaint about OO Calc? It suddenly starts changing column widths if you install a printer in Windoze…

  3. Robert,

    That is the beautiful thing about Open Source – you now have the opportunity to either fix those RTF import filters by contributing code or just filing bugs with test cases and documents that show the problem. Even if you aren’t a C++ developer, you can still constructively contribute to the overall improvement of the products.


  4. The future is ODF without question.

    OOXML is dead in the water and was not really meant to be for use anyway. You just can’t make any format standard overnight (with the intention of not using it as a standard), and expect it to be an excepted as a ISO standard. It just don’t work like that.

    Love Linux and 3D Linux Games (Because OpenGL Rocks)

  5. There are indeed compatibility issues between Excel/Gnumeric and OO Calc. For example, look at this file: http://jk.ufisa.uninett.no/date-bug.xls. It’s in Excel format, made by Gnumeric. In Gnumeric and Excel, it looks like this:

    59 28-Feb-1900
    61 1-Mar-1900

    In OO Calc, it looks like this:

    59 27-Feb-1900
    61 1-Mar-1900

    Admittedly, a contrived example. But it demonstrates how the ODF / OO Calc decision not to carry forward the infamous “1900 as a leap year” bug comes at a price.

  6. They will be back next year and that vore will likely pass since M$ will jump through hopps to get it passed. This is sad since OOXML is hardly open since it was from ground up designed for M$ Office and Windows. This will most likely mean proprietary extensions that will ONLY work on Windows and obfuscation so that implementing the standard for other products will result in documents looking slightly wrong, and M$ will say they implemented it wrong.

    We’ve all seen it berfore…

  7. Great. Lets hope that ODF and the applications that support it (OpenOffice, Koffice, StarOffice) will become more and more popular and the monopoly of Microsoft in the Document world will end soon.

  8. I just came across this thing http://promethee.eu.org/ , an open-source portal system aimed for collaborative use by educational institutions.

    Arguably, it can do a broadly similar job to IBM Lotus Notes http://www-306.ibm.com/software/lotus/notesanddomino/ and IBM Websphere Portal http://www-306.ibm.com/software/info1/websphere/index.jsp?tab=landings/portalbuzz&S_TACT=103BEW01 .

    The OS/2 story is over. Linux won.
    The Lotus SmartSuite story is over. http://openoffice.org/ won, with ISO 26300.

    And, as usual, the ‘university-developed’ software is chasing the ‘corporately-developed’ software up the value chain. Closer to home now.

    This industry is getting interesting again.

  9. I found the UK schools’ ‘standard software procurement framework’ list here http://procurementtools.becta.org.uk/ .

    If you search for IBM, you will note that top of the list comes the “IBM DB2 Cube Views Processor, 12 months’ maintenance”.

    A bit further down, Novell are listed as selling “SuSE Linux SLES9 for IBM S/390”

    All of it is true, I’m sure. But not particularly relevant. Everything that IBM sells http://www.ibm.com/shop is available to UK schools, at an ‘academic discount’. But I’ve never heard of the DB2 Cube Views Processor being deployed in a school, nor an IBM S/390.

    I think we ought to make it easier for schools to buy IBM Lotus Notes http://www-306.ibm.com/software/lotus/ . Perhaps one or more of IBM’s business partners could come up with a ‘bundle’ of everything a school would need to deploy Lotus Notes ? IBM warrants the IBM components of the solution in the ordinary course of business, but persuading IBM to warrant anything which isn’t an IBM product causes the price tag to go through the roof. Good business for IBM, but it tends to be only global corporations who can afford to buy, and not schools. That makes it an opportunity for someone else.

    IBM doesn’t market Lotus SmartSuite. IBM doesn’t sell OS/2. IBM doesn’t sell Personal Computers. IBM doesn’t sell Selectric Typewriters any more, hasn’t done that for decades. All those products have saturated the market; the profitable ‘burn’ on their rocket engines has completed, has used all the fuel up.

    From an engineering point of view, http://openoffice.org will do the job of Lotus SmartSuite. Linux will do the job of OS/2. Loads of other vendors make Personal Computers, IBM recommends Lenovo http://www.lenovo.com or recycling an old one http://rethink.ebay.com/. Nobody makes typewriters nowadays.

    The engineering is not a problem. That’s done. Communicating the message, opening the distribution channel, is the challenge now.

  10. Innovation Happens Elsewhere
    Read more at http://dreamsongs.com/IHE/

  11. So what’s the deal with http://www.openoffice.org/press/ibm_press_release.html , IBM joining the OpenOffice.org community ?

    Personally, I think it’s a great idea; it’s like ATT saying that ‘handset rental’ is really not their business, whereas ‘dial-tone provision’ is.

    Scrapping Lotus SmartSuite and recommending OpenOffice.org is like scrapping OS/2 and recommending Linux. Moving up the stack. Can anything be salvaged from the wreckage ?

    On to Lotus Notes, then.

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