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

Con Zymaris conz at cybersource.com.au
Mon Jan 14 21:12:02 UTC 2008

On Mon, Jan 14, 2008 at 11:21:40PM +1100, Jeff Waugh wrote:

> But of course, because Microsoft is involved, there's a certain audience of
> people who will go absolutely off their tree in a mind-blowingly irrational
> rage about the whole issue.

I see no 'mind-blowingly irrational rage'. What I offered is (I believe)
a fairly-well thought out market analysis of the current office suite
landscape, and has nothing to do with any irrational rage towards or
against any individual firm.

> They're welcome to their strongly held opinions... but ultimately Software
> Freedom is best served by creating awesome Free Software that solves real
> problems for real users.
> It turns out, strangely enough, that not providing a compatibility bridge
> for proprietary formats and protocols in the FLOSS world means that the 97%
> of people *not* experiencing Software Freedom in their day to day computing
> life (read: desktop) won't be able to join the fun.
> Why has OpenOffice.org succeeded to the degree it has thus far? Well, it's
> not software quality, innovation or user delight. :-) It's *compatible* and
> cheap and therefore viable to play with and then ultimately continue using.

Times are different. 

OpenOffice.org had to be compatible with the user-level operation of
Microsoft Office 97/2000/XP/2003 as well as with the document formats of
that suite, because that office suite had unassailable market position
and momentum.

Microsoft have since decided to produce an office suite (Office 2007)
which is less interoperable and compatible with previous versions, in
effect, attacking their own previous product's unassailable market
position. Users and managers are struggling to find reasons to 'climb
the hill', as it were, to adopt Office 2007 for these reasons. 

In fact, migration to Office 2007, by most accounts published thus far,
is a major nuisance and headache. Most importantly, unlike the upgrade
from Office 95 to Office 97, back when Microsoft actually allowed
friction-free upgrades without the need for Software Assurance
contracts, there is no substantially good reason for most users to
upgrade. The impetus towards Office 2007 is quite low across much of the
industry. This inertia is compounded by the lacklustre uptake of
Vista, and the perception across the industry that Microsft has hatched
two turkeys, and not one. 

Because of this, a very large group of non-OOXML users will be around
for a long time. 

Office 2007 users will spend the next 10-15 years manually converting
DOCX (OOXML) documents to DOC documents on a regular enough basis, and
with corresponding loss of document fidelity, to place OpenOffice.org
users on the same compatibility playing field as pre-Office 2007 users. 

We should make use of this new 'compatibility shadow' to extend
OpenOffice.org's existing 100 million users into an unassailable base of
non-OOXML users, so that Office 2007 users will spend an *additional*
10-15 years manually converting DOCX documents to DOC documents. 

In doing so, we'll lend support to any and all existing Microsoft Office
users who don't want to migrate to Office 2007, by ensuring that they
aren't squeezed by the same compatibility 'pincer movement' which
occurred to users who didn't want to upgrade to Office 97 all those years

Unlike that time, there is now an additional group of users,
OpenOffice.org users, who can provide enough of a critical mass of
non-OOXML users to help ensure that OOXML never gains the mantle of
industry dominance that its predecessor did.

Con Zymaris <conz at cybersource.com.au> 1/130-132 Stawell St, Richmond, 3121
Cybersource: Australia's Leading Linux and Open Source Solutions Company 
http://www.cybersource.com.au/  Phone: 03 9428 6922  Fax: 03 9428 6944

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