At various times in the three years in which I’ve been working on OpenDocument Format (ODF) adoption I’ve asked myself “What would success look like?”.
In full, success would mean that
- consumers, governments, and businesses would recognize the value of open standards developed in a transparent, community-based, and collaborative way,
- they would really use those standards, and ODF in particular,
- different software providers would provide multiple, interoperable native implementations of ODF that run on several operating systems,
- ODF could be set as the default “save” format in applications so that the number of ODF documents achieve critical mass and a network effect,
- these software providers would all come together in a common standards effort in OASIS to continue to evolve ODF to meet everyone’s needs, both future and past, and
- competition would be based on the quality of the product, adherence to standards, and value for the money instead of tired lock-in strategies around data formats.
ODF has made tremendous strides over the years but a lingering question has always been “What about Microsoft?”. Despite gestures involving converters and because of their heavy handed promotion of their own alternative OOXML/Open XML format, the ODF victory did feel like it was getting closer but was still tantalizingly in the future.
Maybe things have changed. We might be closer to ODF and open standards success today than we’ve ever been before.
From what I understand, Microsoft now plans to provide native read/write support for ODF 1.1 in an Office 2007 service pack within the next year, allow it to be set as the default format, and they will join the OASIS ODF technical committee.
If this is
- a real and not an empty promise,
- not a public relations stunt,
- well executed in a timely manner according to their announced schedule,
- not meant to only gain short term Office product sales or force upgrades,
- a high quality and well performing implementation, and
- a good faith OASIS participation intended to advance and not stall the development of ODF
then, well, ok!
There is no reason for more governments and organizations not to start mandating the use of ODF. If you are not using ODF today, you should put adoption plans in place.
Last Spring I said the following in a blog entry:
As I’ve said before, ODF is the future and that’s where we should be focusing our efforts. … The only thing we are all doing in the process now is speeding up or slowing down the eventual broad adoption of ODF. I’m for speeding up.
With OpenOffice.org, Lotus Symphony, KOffice, and now (presumably, fingers crossed) Microsoft Office, the ODF gas pedal just got slammed to the floor.
With this development let’s not forget that we still have a lot of work to do to reform and modernize the standards process, as OOXML illustrated so often and so well.
In the interest of providing a bit more to think about beyond what was evidently said on this, here are a few open questions:
- What are the plans for supporting ODF 1.2, now reaching completion in OASIS?
- Will it be extraordinarily easy for users to set ODF as the default save format so that this becomes regular practice for most people?
- Will there eventually be backwards native support in versions of Office before 2007, or will people need to upgrade?
- Hey, Apple, what about you? Let’s see you do this in iWork!