Why you should never use Microsoft’s OOXML pseudo-standard format


Swapnil: What are the risk of governments and organizations using Microsoft format in long term? What if Microsoft goes bankrupt in 10 years?
Italo: I do not see Microsoft going bankrupt at any time in the future, although this does not change the size of the issue. By choosing Microsoft formats, governments and organizations are delaying the era of the “empowered user”, and procrastinating the era of the “empowered vendor”.

Unfortunately, the “empowered vendor” does not care about the users as much as it does care about the shareholders. The history of the last 30 years tells us that any vendor tries to reach the market share that makes it possible to twist the user’s arm if the user tries to escape from lock-in, and this is true for office suites as much as databases or any other enterprise application.

Governments and organization, by procrastinating this situation, are not only creating a problem to users but also to themselves. Hopefully, the UK Government decision will foster the growth of a different mindset focused on interoperability.

In fact, there are already organizations and governments which have recognized independent standards such as ODF, but so far no one of them has been capable to take a firm decision such as the one taken by the UK Government. This is the reason why we are so excited about it, and look forward to the positive effects for the global office suite ecosystem.

Swapnil: What are the benefits of using ODF? Why should a government, organization or individual care about it?
Italo: ODF was developed as a standard document format by OASIS, a non-profit consortium that drives the development, convergence and adoption of open standards for the global information society, based on the document format (as it was based on XML). As such, has always been a vendor independent format.

OASIS members broadly represent the marketplace of public and private sector technology leaders, users and influencers. The consortium has more than 5,000 participants representing over 600 organizations and individual members in more than 65 countries.

ODF represents the solution to vendor lock-in using document formats, because it is supported as a native format by LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice, and as a recognized format by MS Office (and many other free and proprietary applications).

Using ODF, governments, organizations and individuals become the sole owners of their contents as there will always be an open source application able to read and write the document format. In this way, they will not be forced to buy the license of a proprietary application to read and write their own contents.

Swapnil: ODF also means a vendor neutral standard which mean a lot of European companies can build business on top of documents, whereas OOXML means only one vendor to lock us all. How true is this?
Italo: Actually, ODF does not represent an opportunity only for European companies but also for companies based in other continents, including North America. In fact, switching to ODF triggers an independent approach to document formats we have never been used to, as for many years we have been induced into thinking that interoperability had to be based on MS Office formats.

Being ODF vendor independent, it represents the interests of the users against the interests of companies willing to protect their business by locking in the user into a document format in order to lock him into a specific application. ODF fosters competition amongst office applications, and this can only be beneficial for the end user (independently from the end user being a government, an organization, an enterprise or an individual).

Swapnil: How hard or easy is it to migrate OOXML (?) documents to ODF?
Italo: LibreOffice has improved OOXML compatibility to the point that today most documents open without any perceivable difference from the original application, and vice versa. This makes the migration of OOXML documents to ODF an extremely simple operation for over 90% of all the documents, with minor tweaks for another 9% and major tweaks for the remaining 1%.

Swapnil: Google and Apple don’t support ODF: is there any interaction between TDF and these companies?
Italo: We have been talking with Google about ODF support in Google Docs for quite a long time, but it looks like the group of open source supporters is disconnected from the group developing Google Docs (which is only listening to end user requests). The situation might change (and hopefully will change) after the UK Government decision, as otherwise Google Docs would be cut off from the UK market.

Apple is a different story, as there have never been contacts between Apple and TDF. Of course, Apple products will be hit as well by the UK Government decision, but I cannot speculate on the consequences as I do not know how the products are developed.

In both cases, the UK Government decision is going to be a game changer, because the request of handling ODF will soon be raised from UK end users not only of Google and Apple products but also of enterprise applications such as SAP.

Swapnil: Google is trying to push its Docs to schools and governments. How will ODF’s bad support affect that?
Italo: At the moment, I do not think that lack of ODF support is what affects Google Docs adoption in governments and schools, as much as the concerns about the confidentiality and the “ownership” of the contents once the documents are stored on Google servers. Of course, in perspective the lack of ODF support will be a problem, especially after the UK Government decision, but today the major issue seems to be another one.

Republished from TheMukt