Is ISO 26300/ODF About "Conformity"?

Saturday, 2007-January-20 at 11:10

According to Microsoft's Doug Mahugh, those who support ODF but not OOXML want to enforce conformity and stamp out diversity.

If you’re curious why IBM has suddenly started making the case for lack of choice in file formats, Brian Jones has a post that explains where things stand in the ISO certification process. IBM is trying to influence the ISO certification process to convince various national standards bodies to not allow ISO certification of Open XML. After all, who needs another format?

It seems to me that the reason for OOXML is to "retain compatibility with 'legacy' documents that were saved in older binary formats."  That is a smokescreen.  Dealing with the quirks of most of those formats should be handled only by an application's import filters.  In the case of files saved by Office 2000 and later, the application should also have export filters for said formats.  Documents saved in formats from ten years ago only need to be converted once, and that is from the legacy format into an open, long-term access format such as ISO 26300.

Years ago, one of my favorite songs was Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.  If I want to hear the song the way it was, I can do so, but because the original artist is no longer with us, I cannot hear what his current interpretation would be like.  This is what legacy file formats are like.  So rather than asking K-Fed to try to sound like Jim Croce would, we prefer to let someone reinterpret the song for current audiences.

What does that mean in the context of our discussion?  MSFT-ECMA OOXML is supposedly designed to preserve compatibility with legacy file formats.  Since it is not bi-directional, meaning that someone who still has a functioning Windows 95 computer with Word 97 cannot open a file converted to OOXML, this is just a smoke screen.  All we are really talking about is incoming conversion, so there is really no need to have all of those "compatibility features" (doThisTheWayWord95Did and so on).  

I have already shown that Windows and Office are the only profitable parts of Microsoft.  I have shown that having almost anyone able to create applications that can read and write the standard file formats could threaten your profit centers (Office/MBD, and Windows/Client).  And that shows why Microsoft refuses to put in full, native support for ISO 26300 (ODF, the OASIS OpenDocument file Format specification for office applications)—it threatens your company.  It would be good for users and good for developers, but it would mean drastic price cuts and market share losses for Microsoft, and you know this.

If Microsoft is interested in a diverse set of Internationally-approved file formats, then add full support for ODF (in Office 2000, XP/2002, 2003, and 2007) and put it in an automatic update labelled "critical" the way you did when Office 2003 had some fonts that were deemed unacceptable.  Otherwise, "diversity" is just noise.

Entry filed under: ODF, Software.

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