IBM Urges OpenDocument Adoption...And?

october 18, 2005

IBM is asking begging urging support use adoption of the OpenDocument format for things like word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and other files. What is this strange urging all about? Of course, it's about knocking out Microsoft from the throne of office suite software. See, the reason that Microsoft office holds up in the market is because everyone is locked into their file format, right? Hmm...Maybe. OpenOffice, a free office suite, has great translators for MS Office documents. I use it on my Windows box for opening files from others and it works great (on my Mac, I actually have a purchased copy of MS Office). So, I have to ask, is it really the file format that keeps people coming? Should IBM really be urging people to adopt a different file format? Here are some of the suggestions from the blog of Bob Sutor:

That's all great and wonderful Bob, but you seemed to have forgotten something. In the whole blog posting you assume that people know where to get this software to support the OASIS OpenDocument Format. Here's how I see it, instead of pushing a file format -- something that normal people could care less about (like my mom) -- push applications that support that file format. When it comes to technology, I have my litmus test for things: Mom. If it passes the Mom test, then it will be a hit. If it fails the Mom test, then there's some work to be done. If I went over to my Mom's place and told her that she should support the OpenDocument Format, she would give me a puzzled look and say, "Uh, why? What is that? Why should I switch from Microsoft Office?" Hell, even if I went over there and told her that (and quoting Bob here): "They are your documents: you should be able to do whatever you want with them, whenever you want, with whatever application you wish to use." She would probably raise an eyebrow and ask why she should switch away from Microsoft Office? Everyone else uses Microsoft Office. All the files she gets from her friends work with Microsoft Office. Why switch? See, I am not arguing that Mom should stick with Microsoft Office, I am saying that Bob needs to come out with a more pursuasive blog entry than just "go convince your boss to support a file format by 2007". Why? If the reason is "They are your documents: you should be able to do whatever you want with them, whenever you want, with whatever application you wish to use", then that is not good enough. Here's a good one: Switch to OpenOffice and forget paying licensing fees to Microsoft anymore and save $300 per head at your office. Or maybe it's just me and the general public really does care about file formats.