The surprising decision of the ODF Foundation founders that ODF has foundered and that what we really need is a format that no-one uses &,dash;I guess that is real neutrality— has triggered a few interesting blogs recently. Rob Weir has one Document Format FUD: A Guide for the Perplexed (insert obvious joke here) and Gary Edwards gives his rationale in a comment here.
Edwards main bone is that he (and his mob) think that the main game has to be to develop an MS Exchange/SharePoint alternative, because the fight for an Office killer has been lost, both because the applications aren’t good enough and because the standard has not been completed along the lines needed, according to their strategy. His point is pretty cogent, but I think wrong, because even if an alternative to OOXML was developed to allow alternatives to stop the MS Exchange/Sharepoint monopoly of Edwards’ prophecy, there is nothing stopping MS from reading or writing the other standard language, once it got traction. A nice little open source project, perhaps, giving MS agility and plausible deniability for lock-in.
I think both the anti-OOXML pro-ODF people and the new anti-ODF, pro-CDF people both get it wrong, when they think that file formats can change the balance significantly. Open file formats allow conversion to and from different traditions or technical streams: they reduce technical barriers to adoption and to substitution, which in turn means that other quality and cost aspects dominate (as they should.)
However, quote from Edwards is good (though I am not sure who he is addressing):
OBTW, where were you when this was going down? If there’s anything we learned in Massachusetts it’s that if we’re going to defeat Microsoft, it will be in the trenches, with real world solutions that are competitive alternatives to MS-OOXML. Blogging MS to death isn’t going to get the job done my friend. When the call goes out for real world solutions, as it did with the Massachusetts RFi, you’ve got to show up with more than your keyboard and blog.
(IMHO there is a requirement for pro-active laws on long-term superprofits. Without this kind of legislative action to correct markets, file formats are just fiddling while Rome burns.)