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Format findings highlight ODF challengeJay Lyman, January 16, 2008 @ 2:37 pm ET
The Burton Group put out a report praising and recommending Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) document format over the Open Document Format (ODF). The report says choosing the ISO-approved ODF amounts to a political statement against Microsoft (which may count for more than stated given new investigations and sentiment in Europe). Burton Group concedes that ODF represents the only real competitive threat to Microsoft’s OOXML and says it should remain a competitive bargaining chip. However, Burton’s analysts describe OOXML as the superior format and standard.
One of the main reasons for that superiority: compatibility with prior Office document formats. Burton Group also complains that Sun Microsystems’ stewardship of OpenOffice.org and its impact on ODF will slow the format’s progress. It should be noted, however, that there are a number of other ODF backers that include Google, IBM, Novell, Oracle and Red Hat.
I see this as another call to ODF supporters to give the format full compatibility with Microsoft’s Office file formats. I wrote last year that the departure of some ODF backers was unfortunate, but also might prompt ODF’s remaining proponents to work on making the format fully Office-compatible.
That compatibility is key because whatever format that enterprise, government, educational and other users adopt, it will most likely have to work with their existing or others’ Microsoft Office formats.
That was the biggest factor that drove me to non-Microsoft office software: compatibility. While I had to worry about different Windows versions and incompatibilities using Microsoft Office software, I found OpenOffice worked with any Microsoft Office format, old or new. I still find it fascinating that Microsoft was not providing compatibility for its own formats and open source software was.
I believe in order to continue presenting a viable alternative and competition to Microsoft, ODF must maintain this type of compatibility with Microsoft’s formats. I realize this is no small task, but given the new antitrust investigations in Europe that include OOXML, Microsoft should be more motivated to do its part. ODF proponents should do theirs.
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