ODF Defeats OOXML!

I became a fan of the OpenDocument Format when I was working on my Masters thesis in Computer Science, and needed to generate hundreds of report files in as Word and Powerpoint documents. Working on a combination of Linux and Windows machines, my best option was ODF… I could create OpenDocument files by outputting XML, graphics, and zipping them up, and then use OpenOffice to batch-convert them to Microsoft’s format. Since then I’ve followed the rise of ODF in some interested, and been curious about Microsoft’s uncharacteristic attempt to create a competitor format, OOXML.

Microsoft now seems to be conceeding that it backed the wrong horse. ODF support will be native in Microsoft Office from the next service pack on, while there’s no date for Office to support Microsoft’s own format:

Red Hat Summit panel: Who ‘won’ OOXML battle? | The Industry Standard
The Open Document Format (ODF) has benefited from the two-year battle over the ratification of Microsoft’s rival Open Office XML (OOXML) standard, which is native to its Office 2007 suite, Microsoft’s national technology officer said Thursday during a panel discussion at the Red Hat Summit in Boston.

ODF has clearly won,” said Stuart McKee, referring to Microsoft’s recent announcement that it would begin natively supporting ODF in Office next year and join the technical committee overseeing the next version of the format.

“We sell software for a living. The ability to implement ODF in the middle of our ship cycle was just not possible,” he said. “We couldn’t do that during the release of Office 2007. We’re looking forward and committed to doing more than [ODF-to-OOXML] translators.”

Panelist Douglas Johnson, an official involved with corporate standards at Sun Microsystems, said the attention caused by the debate has enabled other office-suite products to be competitive.

“The office-suite market has been ruled by one dominant player after another, but those markets were never governed by good open standards practices,” he said. “What has happened is that this dominant-player market has actually been upset and opened to competition that didn’t exist before.” Sun’s StarOffice product uses ODF.

The real winner is consumers. Once Microsoft Office natively supports ODF (meaning you can load OpenDocuments through File | Open, save them through File | Save, etc.), the same standard office format will be supported by OpenOffice, Microsoft Office, and Google Docs. This means that consumers will be able to use the productivity suite that meets there needs, and not be locked-in by a technical file format that is special to one company or the other.

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