[Linux-aus] OOXML support (was: If you could ask Microsoft a question...)

Con Zymaris conz at cybersource.com.au
Mon Jan 14 05:22:56 UTC 2008

On Mon, Jan 14, 2008 at 02:25:45PM +1100, Karl Bowden wrote:

> Treading lightly as to not start any more sparks, my confidence is
> reassured by the position that Jeff (and others, but Jeff's opinion
> was more vocal) took on OOXML. It's not something we may want, and we
> have to do what we can to try and push open standards, but good luck
> trying to force Microsoft to support ODF. OOXML support is something I
> just see as being inevitable for Linux to support for business use.
> That does not mean we are promoting it, just enabling our users the
> best opportunity of interoperability. And the same to with a
> discussion with Microsoft reps at a SLUG meeting. Just because they
> will be involved in discussion does not mean we are supporting them or
> giving in on any of our standards.
> The fact is that weather we ignore them or not Microsoft will not just
> go away overnight (Unless they release another Vista).

There is an alternative perspective on OOXML support, which is somewhat
complicated, but goes something like this:

Due to the vast number of existing Microsoft Office users and even
greater volume of DOC, XLS and PPT files, resulting in an immense
inertia within user-land, migration to any new Microsoft Office format
(OOXML) will take many years, perhaps decades. 

It may also never occur at all. 

This is because the current situation with respect to the adoption of
Microsoft Office 2007 is very different to the last time there was a
substantial discontinuity in file-format versions in Microsoft Office -
which necessitated users having to make a hard jump/don't-jump decision,
namely when Office 97 was introduced. The difference with the current
situation is that most users see no functional advantage in upgrading to
the new Office 2007, and also that viable alternatives to Microsoft
Office now exist for sufficient numbers of users.

Therefore, doing anything which adds weight, impetus or could be seen as
supporting OOXML *before* it becomes obvious that an "eventual majority
migration" to OOXML is a fait-accompli, serves to make OOXML grow faster
than otherwise, and is disadvantageous to alternative file formats such
as ODF. 

In fact, our best strategy would be to help in pushing back OOXML
adoption and retarding OOXML adoption for as long as possible,
specifically showing no signs of supporting OOXML until a very clear
majority of the world's Microsoft Office users have adopted it. The
longer it takes for OOXML to reach any adoption momentum, the more
chance we have of more and more governments mandating real open
standards (ie, ODF) for document storage, further weakening momentum for

There is a risk that by not building OOXML support into FOSS tools early
enough, we could get caught out with inter-operation, however I believe
that this would be a small risk, because by the time that OOXML is
(maybe) the main format game in town, many/most users of Office 2007
will have become very used to "Saving As..." DOC, XLS and PPT, formats
which both pre-Office 2007 and OpenOffice.org users can access, and
would thus see no real difference in 'inter-operating' with either
OpenOffice.org users or pre-Office 2007 users.

Con Zymaris <conz at cybersource.com.au> 1/130-132 Stawell St, Richmond, 3121
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