Perhaps not perfect, but Microsoft has done a decent job of trying to standardize its Open XML format. As Jason Matusow writes:
Customers have been very clear with us over the past few years (as have many other vendors including our friends in Armonk) that they wanted to see our Office document formats become more open and standardized. So we did that. (OSP-licensed, Ecma standardized)
Governments have been clear that they need the ability to have interoperability between ODF and Open XML. The Open XML Translator is now in production, and delivers interoperability. In fact, we built that to enable ANY ISV to use the technology - not just Microsoft. Novell has already announced (back in December) that they are going to build it into Novell’s OpenOffice. Sounds to me like customers are going to have greater choice.
I have attended open source conferences for the past 6 years, and sat on innumerable panels with various executives from IBM. I am really unclear as to the relationship between the rhetoric of openness and increased choice that they have been saying in that arena and how it lines up with the reduction of choice and closing of a participatory process in this arena. The message from IBM standards participants around the world has been consistant: don’t even consider Open XML for ISO/IEC standardization. That is less choice for customers.
Well, Jonathan Murray thinks it may have something (actually, everything) to do with IBM’s business model and its fiduciary duty to its shareholders:
IBM’s position on the Open XML vs. ODF standardization debate is in no way altruistic. IBM takes the position it does, not to make life better for the Open Source community or to advance the position of free software. IBM takes the position it does because this position ultimately creates more value for its shareholders. Period. It is a pity that they seem to be doing this against the best interests of their customers.
The question is why IBM would be taking this position when the risk to its reputation with its customers seems to be so high. My personal belief is that the 180,000+ hungry mouths in IBM’s global services division are a big part of the reason.
The importance of global services to IBM cannot be over stated. IBM is a services company far more than it is software or even hardware company today….
So what does this have to do with the IBM’s campaign against the Open XML standardization process? In a word: complexity.
[I]f you are in IT services business…complexity is your friend. Any reduction in complexity dilutes the value you can offer to your customers. This, in my view, is why IBM seems to be so focused on preventing customers from having to right to choose between two open standards for their document formats.
Jason has apologized for making snarky comments about IBM’s lack of enthusiasm for OpenXML, but he needn’t have. IBM should be called into account for its continued intransigence vis-a-vis Open XML. It’s not a perfect standard/process, but nothing ever is. I personally don’t believe that this opening up of OpenXML is a big deal, as I’ve written before. An open file format is not going to move enterprises off Microsoft technology any time soon, especially given that SharePoint, not file formats, is the new battleground.
Regardless, Microsoft should be given kudos for OpenXML, and IBM should be a bit ashamed. IBM has been given a lot of love for its open source support, but look a little closer and all you see is support for Apache-licensed projects (and, of course, Linux). Like any good corporate citizen, it feeds itself before it worries about feeding others. But word on the street is that IBM won’t consider buying an open source company unless its licensing is Apache-style. I guess it likes to consume open source but doesn’t like free source-requirements to give back….