Not Dancing Yet
Those who cannot see this [PDF] have their eyes closed. This wasn’t some anti-Microsoft frenzy. It was Microsoft realizing that they hadn’t planned for the market coalescing around a non-Microsoft controlled, vendor-neutral standardized file format, ODF. They then unleashed their attack dogs to try to chew up anyone and anything that supported ODF while they crammed OOXML through Ecma and ISO.
As PJ pointed out, Massachusetts forces it to rethink this strategy, and Microsoft came out fighting. OOXML passage through ECMA and ISO is a war. May be not the big crash of superpowers, but at least a guerilla war fought between a superpower and local, disorganized fractions such as this fly-by blog. Interestingly, most anti OOXML/proODF people do not see Microsoft supports for ODF in Microsoft Office’s next service pack, and its decision to rejoin the ODF committee at OASIS as them winning the war. Do I believe this is a turning point in the war? Not yet. It will depends on what is delivered in the service pack, and Microsoft behavour in the committee. However, it can potentially be a turning point. — CTRambler
I also agree with CTRambler that the result (whether Microsoft support for ODF brings it to a happy end) depends very much on the implementation of ODF that Microsoft uses in Office 2007 SP2.
It is only those in Redmond who feared that ODF would so damage their office suite market share that they’d all be joining MLM plans. The rest of us already know that Microsoft will do quite well in a fair competition, gradually losing share (the way that AT&T did the first few years after telecom deregulation). This would actually help the company, as it would force them to jetison money-losers like Zune and MSN/Live and to change the way the company is managed.
In fact, those of us who deal with end-users want Microsoft to be one of several popular options for office software, because this is best for end-users, even if it is uncomfortable for some vendors. Those who use software benefit from single format-multiple vendor standards (SFMV). We want Microsoft to be a part of our SFMV universe.
Let me repeat it in case anyone might have their eyes closed: We want a strong, profitable Microsoft to be part of a competitive market for office software, because this is best for end-users, assuming SFMV. The second we throw in multiple vendor-specific formats (MVSF), of which OOXML is an example, it becomes possible for a single vendor or a small number of vendors to abuse end-users over and over with impunity. (Remember, OOXML is a proprietary format in drag.) To claim that opposing OOXML’s attempt to monopolize the market and revealing its crucial design flaws is being “anti-Microsoft” requires either self-deception or dishonesty.
So, I am looking at Microsoft’s announcement with cautious hope. I am hoping that they are really going to integrate ODF into their product, and not make it a half-baked “me-too” addition. I am hoping that they will participate in the OASIS TC without any intention of sinking or polluting the format, but of making it better. Better for their needs (including accurately representing content imported from previous editions of their software), better for the needs of StarOffice/OpenOffice.org, better for the needs of KOffice, better for the needs of AbiWord/Gnumeric, better for both commercial entities that wish to utilize the format AND for free software projects using GPL and other FSF/OSI approved licenses. And I hope that the results are so good (including the financial results) for Microsoft that they never need to continue with OOXML, and instead quietly make ODF the main default format for their office products.
If / when that happens, I’ll be dancing …