ODF Converters A Threat To MS Office?

Thursday, 2007-March-08 at 00:04

Zaine Ridling has a new take on the office file formats controversy: the availability of of ODF-translation software will eventually kill off the already unwanted and superfluous OOXML format.

However, Microsoft Office isn’t going away, and there’s no need for it to. Ten years from now, it will still be around, perhaps going strong. But its file format, OXML [sic], will not, or will be radically changed. I could care less which word processor you use. It’s the format that counts. ODF is independent of any specific office application, commercial or otherwise. Lots of people would gladly continue to pay for Microsoft Office will into the future if the[y] knew the files they saved were free from the control of the Microsoft corporation and its stockholders. As Stan implies, why save files in proprietary format when you can save them in a universal ISO-certified format, not dependent on a corporation?

The Stan reference is Stan Beer, who has some articles on I.T. Wire. Beer’s Novell drives nail into Microsoft Office coffin is the specific article being referred to here. In this article, Beer writes of Novell’s OOXML plug-in for OpenOffice.org, "With the translator, Microsoft cannot hold customers captive to Office 2007. OpenOffice.org users don’t have to worry about receiving a Microsoft Word (and hopefully soon Excel and PowerPoint) file they can’t read. Now the onus is on Microsoft to update Office 2007 to include open document format (ODF) capability, which OpenOffice.org already has and is being increasingly recognized as a global standard."

Beer believes that only the lack of a built-in e-mail & calendaring application (similar to Outlook) is keeping OpenOffice.org from displacing Microsoft Office. Having now tried the Evolution e-mail and calendaring application on Windows, Beer believes that this combination (OpenOffice.org plus Evolution) will begin to infiltrate homes and offices that were formerly staunch Microsoft sites, similar to the way it has become so prominent on the Linux desktop. Beer also covers the continuing movement toward ODF in governments within the United States, although our nation is still behind many other technologically-advanced nations in this respect.

Going back to Zaine Ridling’s blog, he says,

"word processors are no longer the first tool people reach for when communicating. Email and IM come to mind first. Word processors are now more suited for storing communications, archiving data, forms; that is, writing it down so that someone will read it in the future. …. But more efficient communication tools exist, carving away what was once the domain of the word processor."

I suspect, Zaine, that the speed of adoption of ODF will determine Microsoft’s fate. If ODF penetrates quickly enough this year, while OOXML struggles and adoption of Microsoft’s 2007 version of their office applications suite is low, they will have to make several changes in direction to keep that business going. I also suspect that one of the changes that they will have to make is to reduce the price of the software to under $100 (which would make Works superfluous), and that this might even lead to some lost market share for Windows on the desktop.

For most purposes, the Linux desktop (as portrayed by Xandros, Fedora, Ubuntu, Mepis, Mandriva, and Linspire) is at least as easy to use and set up as Windows. There are still the random driver issues, generally newer devices where the manufacturer has not made drivers or specifications available for Linux. However, GNU/Linux comes with absolutely the largest selection of hardware and peripheral drivers included. No one, including Microsoft Windows, comes with more drivers.

I believe that it would be better for Microsoft if some of its managers and officers were to change their minds and allow Brian Jones to stop pretending it is a tie–let their team add full and native ODF support to their office applications suite, with ODF as a full-and-equal peer to OOXML. Mini, are you reading this?

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