In early August I stated in this blog that after the OOXML JTC1 ballot closed on September 2, the sun would rise, the birds would sing, and so on. As we are now at the end of the month and about to move into October, I can state that those things all happened. Indeed, from my perspective, September was a very good month, maybe a historic month, for open standards and open source.
We even had beautiful weather in upstate New York this month. I hope it was good for you as well.
Starting with the defeat of OOXML in the JTC1 ballot, which I would term devastating, and continuing on to the release of OpenOffice.org 2.3 and IBM joining OpenOffice.org, which I would term thrilling, it was an exciting month that gives, I hope, a glimpse of the future. I was not there, but I hear that the OpenOffice.org conference in Barcelona was very productive and extremely positive.
While I know that there are still procedures (often ambiguous) to be followed and code to be written, I want to make the following assertions:
- Single vendor-dictated product specifications proposed as international standards are not acceptable. If not dead, they are dying.
- The need for a single open document standard is more clear now, and ODF is healthy, evolving, and will garner greater and greater participation and adoption.
- Convergence of technologies into standards happens at different times. The best and most optimal time to do this is in the initial standards collaboration and creation process rather than post facto because a given market leader refuses to cooperate and “play nicely” with others. While I appreciate the argument about standardizing too early, I don’t think anyone can claim that the office suite market and technology is immature and not yet understood. No one is creating new, bleeding-edge kinds of paragraphs, as far as I can tell.
- There will still be a market for office applications like word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation programs, but the price point will be much lower, probably less that $100. Indeed, the excellent Apple iWork ’08 suite is $79 with the family edition for up to 5 installations selling for $99. The Lotus Symphony offering, still in beta, is free. OpenOffice.org and KOffice are open source and therefore free.
- This lower price point will affect development investments and cause the majority of office suites to include open source code. This is true today, but not if you measure by market share.
- “Upsell” ability and upward compatibility from open source applications to commercial offerings will be based on open standards. That is, you might be willing to pay for a commercial implementation if you know you can use exactly the same data as you do with an open source application. Similarly, you will want to use standardized, non-proprietary application programming interfaces.
- Reform of the international standards process is necessary. The Fast Track procedure is deeply flawed and needs to be either significantly modified, or scrapped entirely and reinvented, or abandoned as a poor idea.
I like to say that every day, every week, every month, the world gets more open. In September this was measurably true.