ODF win

June 30, 2008 at 8:34 pm | Posted in Economoney, Software | Leave a comment

An interesting development on the standards front. The open source community developed a set of open document standards called “ODF” or Open Document Format. The idea was a standard set of formats that could be opened by any given office software, by web tools, and parsed by systems for categorizing and finding documents. It’s also designed to be readable long into the future. Ever try to open a Word 2 document recently? Wordstar? WP for DOS? What value is going digital if the files shelf-life is dependent on the whims of a software company?

Software like Open Office and Star Office jumped on the bandwagon but Microsoft, the dominant player in Office software products did not. In fact, they developed a competing proprietary standard. Shades of the browser wars – will they ever learn?

Over time, IBM and Sun expanded support for open standards and joined the OOo bandwagon. The examples forced Microsoft to open up their new standards (the formats that end in X, like docx) but they did not natively support the ODF standard in their products. The competition, including the free Open Office, supported Microsoft’s by comparison.

Recently, A Microsoft executive stated that “ODF had clearly won”. Market demand is forcing them to support ODF. Indeed, Microsoft is even having an ODF workshop in Redmond.

The free Open Office has been getting 1.2 million downloads a week and climbing as people realize they can get their Office suite needs for nothing. And if they have to go non-standard, they can save to MS formats for sharing.

More details and background, with links:
http://blogs.sun.com/dancer/entry/microsoft_invites_to_odf_workshop

Another victory for standards and computers that just work.

David

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