I kept waiting to weigh in on the ISO approval of Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) format, searching for some kind of silver lining for open source. Sure, there are those that say technical and interoperability issues will limit uptake of the standard. But this is Microsoft and Office we’re talking about, so it seems clear that there will be some pretty widespread adoption. While Microsoft will likely be penalized to an extent for any perception or reality of gaming the system, this will also be limited largely to its most ardent opponents. So we’re still in need of some truly silver-tinted lining.
Then I saw Paul McDougall’s report on the nations that represent emerging markets and how they voted against OOXML approval as an ISO standard. (Fittingly, Gartner’s Michael Silver is quoted, so this works as ‘silver’ lining on a couple of levels). OOXML opponents were headlined by Brazil, India and China (the BRIC minus Russia, which along with the U.S. and three-quarters of nations voted in favor). Others in opposition included South Africa and Venezuela. While they may not represent the most lucrative markets at present, these are in many ways the markets of the future. Why? First and foremost because they represent brand new users. They also lack some of the more elderly technology characterisitcs, such as a preponderance of proprietary software. These are new markets with new users and they are among the biggest opportunities for all IT vendors right now.
They also make up a more level playing field for Linux and open source software. This has emerged as a trend across desktop, server and office software with global popularity of OpenOffice and Open Document Format (ODF), ISO approved since 2006. In our report, CAOS 5-The SMB market opportunity, we found that opportunity is limited, particularly compared to the enterprise market and particularly in the case of Linux. However, one big exception was emerging markets, where both Linux and open source are better positioned and even at an advantage sometimes against Windows and other proprietary software.
There will certainly be adoption of Microsoft’s OOXML, and this highlights the need for ODF interoperabiity and support. However, we may find that in these emerging and greenfield markets, Microsoft faces its fiercest competition from ODF and open source.