Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 4th Dec 2006 22:26 UTC
Novell and Ximian The first fruit of the recently announced Novell/Microsoft interoperability agreement arrived on Dec. 4, with Novell's announcement that its version of the OpenOffice productivity suite will now support the Microsoft Office Open XML format. The release candidate of Novell's modified version of OpenOffice.org 2.02 is now available for Windows for free download by registered Novell users.
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Head in the Crocodile's Mouth
by segedunum on Mon 4th Dec 2006 23:01 UTC
segedunum
Member since:
2005-07-06

Having owned WordPerfect in the past, royally shafting it in the process, I do hope that Novell thinks back to the period when WordPerfect competed head-to-head with Word and Office and learns from the standards wars of that period.

Microsoft knows that as long as Office is still the dominant office suite that the weight of demand for the default formats in Open Office will be Microsoft's. As long as they can make OpenXML open enough for those wishing to legislate on using ODF then that will still be the case, and Novell are helping OpenXML look open by explicitly using it.

However, Novell are totally mssing the point here. The point is that the vast majority of Office documents in the world are old 97 and 2000 compatible binary ones, and they should not be ignoring that for what is actually fool's gold - "Ooooh, we'll be able to support Microsoft's new formats 100%. Interoperabilit!" - not. They should be continuing to make sure that those old Office documents open well in Open Office, and making sure that they can be converted equally well to ODF. If you want to open Microsoft OpenXML documents then fine, but only so that they can be converted to ODF when you save. Afterall, Microsoft Office is going to get an ODF plugin!

I really wonder whether Novell knows the game being played here, and if they do, whether they will have the backbone to pull it off. Based on past history, I'm betting that they'll be the clueless idiots they always were and that the new guys in their company haven't improved the situation.

Joel Spolsky had an article, which I can't find now, where he describes what happened when Microsoft were trying to get Office to overtake incumbant market leaders like Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect. The only difference was that they all tried to make it impossible for rivals to read their formats whilst trying to reverse engineer their rivals' at the same time. The difference here is that ODF is open, and OpenXML is allegedly open. Think about it ;-).

You have a situation one day where 80% of the formats anywhere are in your rivals' formats, and 20% in your own. You then wake up the next morning and 80% of the documents saved are your formats and 20% everyone elses'. It really does happen that fast.

If Open Office can be made good enough, as well as cheap enough ;-), and the ODF format can be made ubiquitous between Open Office, Microsoft Office and others then it will simply become the format of choice by being the easiest to deal with.

The alternative is that OpenXML will reveal itself to be the ploy it always was, Office documents saved in it will be embedded with binary-only undecipherable data and ODF will be strangled by virtue of the fact that it will never achieve enough critical mass to gain the upper hand. Yet another very brief false dawn.

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