Office Not-so-open XML Loses This Round
Kurt Cagle has an interesting and informative post over on O’Reilly’s XML blog.
Simon, I disagree. WordPerfect 7 was the most usable word processor I’ve ever used, up to and including Word 2003. (Haven’t used 2007 enough to have an opinion.) WP was killed more by dirty tricks (such as suddenly changing the APIs in Win95 just before the release date) and bundled software than anything else. Microsofts complete success against WP is the root of the many other questionable deeds over the years.
As for Office Not-so-open XML, I hope that this partial defeat will motivate Microsoft will sit down with OASIS and China and create a totally open, universal, internationalized, extensible format (hopefully based on ODF 1.2) which reuses a number of existing standards and which is adequately specified and no more. It has to be IP-safe for all implementers and users, so that ten or twenty years from now, someone finding an old document can implement tools to read and display it. (Assuming that the software vendors will have moved on to something even better by that point.)
I’m currently reading a book called Echo Park, by Michael Connelly. In this book, a police detective discovers that one of his long-term cases was an early victim of a serial killer. When I look back at the line that says “Microsofts complete success against WP is the root of the many other questionable deeds over the years”, I saw a connection. Bad actors don’t spring up fully formed. They think about their misdeeds before they attempt it, and then if the attempt produces a favorable result, they may repeat.
I think that a defeat for Microsoft might be the serum that helps to reign in the corporate bad behavior. We might help save the company if we reject their ugly daughter (Office 2007 with OOXML-based file formats). In their case, it might take multiple injections of rejection before there is any visible change. If, for example, rejection extends to Windows Vista, and corporate types insist that SharePoint have “hooks” for ODF documents, it might be enough to prompt a wholesale conversion in Redmond.
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