"And in this corner ..." - can you hear Michael Buffer introducing ODF vs. OOXML in the boxing ring?

May 6 2009

Last week, Microsoft released 2007 Microsoft Office System Service Pack 2. And boy are the sharks swimming in the water.

Before I go on, I want to state where I stand - I really do not care about what games anyone wants to play when it comes to interoperability. Period. I have always been the guy who played in both sandboxes - Lotus and Microsoft. It started out as being the guy who figured out how to make Ami Pro drive Excel via DDE. Then it was Word Pro and Access. Office and Notes. Visual Studio.NET and Domino Web Services. SharePoint and Lotus Symphony. VSTO and XPages (coming to a user conference this August). I love being someone who isn't pigeon holed into one technology or camp. So as application automation morphs into document generation in the next couple of years - I want to work with both OOXML and ODF. PSC is already working with OOXML and ODF with our customers. In the end, I do not care which 'wins'

Since the release of SP2, both IBM and Adobe have come out and been very critical of the release. Adobe is taking aim at the PDF tools that are now included 'in the box' ... which you could download from the Microsoft web site for the past two years. Adobe's complete Acrobat toolset has add-in's for creating PDF within Office - which is a very good tool. Gray Knowlton covers a bunch of the details. Read for yourself and decide what you think.

With ODF, Rob Weir of IBM took Microsoft to task with issues that have come up with formulas in spreadsheets. Doug Mahugh answers back. After being poked by Nathan with his tests, I did some of my own and have found that both scenarios, the one that Rob and the one that Doug lay out, are repeatable.

I am not going to get into the middle of either discussion. I just want to point out something Doug has done - Microsoft

posted their guiding principles and their implementer notes. Microsoft invited folks to Redmond to discuss both ODF and OOXML - I know this personally because I was there. IBM decided not to show up even when invited. I do not remember if Adobe was in the room.

So yes, I think Microsoft is creating some issues with interoperability when it comes to a document standard. I also think that OpenOffice.org has bugs in it's ODF implementation - and everyone has decided to copy the bugs to make things work. Should Microsoft have done that - perpetuate known bugs just so files open? I know people who are on both sides of that discussion. I am not sure which side I am on - but I do know who is the loser.

There is a quote that I am reminded of here (not sure who said it) "It doesn't matter who wins the war, it is the average person that always loses" - and right now, the only thing for certain is that the average user is losing. Microsoft nor IBM is not winning here. Neither is ODF vs. OOXML. This is about a whole slew of folks who are not communicating. I wish both IBM and Microsoft would get in a room, ignore the freaking standards board bull shit and solve the problem. Yes, at the end of the day, it needs to come down to standards so someone has a blueprint to implement to. But right now, the lack of communication and professionalism is only going to hurt the end user. To everyone involved - please stop playing 'the game' and solve the problem.

It will be interesting to see what happens with ODF 1.2 becomes a ratified and Office 14 / 2010, OpenOffice.org 3.X, and Lotus Symphony 2.0 fully support it. When Open Formula is a real standard people can support. When the user can stop worrying about the format the file is in - all of the tools open the document no matter the format. Yes, that is my head in the clouds dreaming of a document format utopia, but hey, I can have my dreams :-) Until then, I will support both formats, both companies, three pieces of software, and build a document generation business that supports them all.