Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 16th Jan 2009 08:45 UTC, submitted by stonyandcher
Features, Office Yesterday we ran a story on how educational institutions defaulting to Microsoft Office may stifle some people who do not own a copy of Office or Windows. A Forrester Research report now states the bloody obvious by claiming that organisations stick with Microsoft Word not out of necessity, but out of habit.
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RE: Why should people change?
by garyedwards on Fri 16th Jan 2009 21:25 UTC in reply to "Why should people change?"
garyedwards
Member since:
2009-01-16

I doubt that MSOffice ODF will make a difference. ODF was not designed to be compatible with MSOffice, and conversion from native binary to ODF will result in a serious loss of fidelity and business process markup. If the many ODF pilots are an indication, the real killer is that application specific processing logic will be lost on conversion even if it is Microsoft doing the conversion to ODF. This logic is expressed as scripts, macros, OLE, data binding, media binding, add-on specifics, and security settings.

These components are vital to existing business processes. Besides, Microsoft will support ISO 26300, which is not compatible with the many aspects of ODF 1.2 currently implemented by most ODF applications.

The most difficult barrier to entry is that of MSOffice bound business processes so vital to workgroups and day-to-day business systems. Maybe the report is right in saying that day-to-day business routines become habit, but not understanding the true nature of these barriers is certain to cloud our way forward. We need to dig deeper, as demonstrated by the many ODF pilot studies.

The report, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: The Microsoft Word Love Story," by analyst Sheri McLeish, suggests that businesses may still be using Word because it is familiar to users or because they have a legacy investment in the application, not because it is the best option.

"Because Word has become so entrenched in the enterprise in the last 25 years, organizations cannot easily move off of it," she wrote. "So despite the noise made by the new Web-based authoring tools -- most of which are free for a limited number of users -- they have failed thus far to realize enterprise adoption."

I wonder if Forrester is capable of determining when it is that necessity becomes habit? Or is it a matter of convenience? The evidence is clear from the many ODF pilot studies that it is the MSOffice bound business processes that are the impossible barrier. Years of client/server development around the Microsoft Office productivity environment has left Microsoft owning the "client" in "client/server".

No doubt these desktop bound business systems will transition to the Web. The productivity gains of doing so are extraordinary. The question is, will this transition be done through a "replacement" of MSOffice and the surrounding productivity environment? Or will it be a gradual re-purposing of that environment?

The ODF pilots scream loudly that rip-out-and-replace efforts are costly and disruptive. Which leaves us with this sad observation: if OpenOffice can't crack into existing MSOffice bound workgroups and workflows, then neither can the Linux Desktop.

Massachusetts and California determined from their ODF pilots that the only reasonable way forward was that of "re-purposing" MSOffice, moving to open and Web ready document formats using the same route that Microsoft used to transition to OOXML-XAML: the Microsoft Compatibility Pack ( a plug-in to MSOffice editors).

Replace or re-purpose? Unfortunately for Google, Zoho, BuzzWORD and other Web centric replacement efforts, there is still the workgroup problem of costly disruption. The truth is; conversion breaks documents. And does so at both the fidelity level and, most importantly, at the business process level.

Still, there is no reason for a non workgroup user to not move immediately to OpenOffice or Google-docs. HTML-CSS/JSSS is the most ubiquitously interoperable format ever to reach critical mass. For MSOffice bound workgroups though, HTML-JSSS is not an option. Microsoft has made sure of that. Instead, Microsoft offers users a very high level transition from binary to OOXML to XAML "fixed/flow". XAML is of course the proprietary Web format/layout model that is part of the platform specific Windows Presentation Foundation.

Users of MSOffice can of course choose Open Web formats, protocols, and interfaces; but at the cost of breaking both document fidelity richness and, the complex-compound business process richness of workgroup documents. Reuter's Rule: conversion breaks documents! Still, MSOffice users do have the choice between broken but Open Web compliant document formats, or, rich, compound business documents useful across the emerging sprawl of the MS WebStack-Cloud-RiA model.

One of the problems Microsoft Web competitors face is that there is no barrier to Microsoft's embracing Open Web productivity with proprietary formats, protocols and interfaces. Yet these same competitors are totally locked out of the MSOffice bound business system transition to anything other than the MS WebStack-Cloud-RiA model.

Does the Open Web even have a worthy alternative to XAML "fixed/flow"? I would argue that the WebKit layout and document format model is certainly rich enough (edge running HTML5-CSS3-JS-SVG-DOM2). But they still can't penetrate those MSOffice bound business processes!

Time to concentrate on Open Web re-purposing of MSOffice. Where's wiki-WORD when you really need it?

~ge~
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