Respect for our esteemed ODF community friends & colleagues encourages me to take cover from today's anti-Foundation PR Blitzkreig in the nicest possible way.
UPDATE: Florian's take on the anti-Foundation PR campaign is humorous and, typical of his incisive wit, guns down the contradictions in the ODF community's position.
The message of the day -- give or take -- reads: 'OpenDocument Foundation is helping Microsoft and Microsoft OOXML by promoting the CDF format in lieu of ODF!' 'Great Rift Seen!' Whatever.
This is unfortunate for the ODF community because we, and CDF, relish a stage we were not intending to take. In short, if the ODF community is looking for who's helping Microsoft, they needn't look far.
You hardly need a link since most of y'all are already on these feeds...
Martin Lamonica | CNet
"Former OpenDocument advocates bolt for W3C Standard"
UPDATE: "OpenDocument Foundation abandons ODF"
Mary Jo Foley | blogger
"ODF infighting could help Microsoft's OOXML"
My comment to Mary Jo's piece ...
Mary- As we've pointed out to our colleagues & friends in the ODF community, both OOXML and ODF v1.2 are having (going to have) difficulty at ISO. ODF v1.2's problem is that it doesn't respect ISO's "JTC 1" directive mandating interoperability. Same OOXML.
So, the dream of a single universal document format (around which all applications have equal access) has, for the time-being, gone sideways. We tried really hard working within the standards process (for years) and our interoperability proposals were rejected by Sun (who leads the ODF OASIS TC by governing the schedule of what proposals will be discussed and what and when voting will or won't occur).
They read our whitepaper published in Spanish in Dec 2006 ... "Interoperability: Will the Real Universal File Format Please Stand Up?" ... where we first clearly articulated our vision for ODF v1.2 and the necessary changes to the ODF specification to align it with ISO interop directives as well as the high-level of document fidelity required by the enterprise market (simply installing OpenOffice is not enough).
Experts were able to grok that the OpenDocument Foundation's interop proposals were necessary also to make the Foundation's ODF Plug-in viable at the ODF format level. We knew it would take Sun's Hamburg engineers 2 to 3 years to catch the OpenOffice application up to our proposed changes in the ODF spec, but hey, that's life. Sun blocked the changes we believe to avoid embarrassment if the ODF spec should be able to do things that the application could not handle; and they did it also to honor their $2 Billion hardware & server commitment to Microsoft (in the 2004 pact, meaning to prevent or delay perfect interop with MS documents) and, therefore, to keep the Foundation's plug-in from the playing field.
All this is merely historical arcana to many observers, and the open source chorus seems to think it's a good idea to avoid extending the life of Microsoft's legacy applications with an EXCELLENT-QUALITY (**INTERNAL**) plug-in ... only weak plug-ins (Microsoft's, Novell's, Sun's) are wanted.
What seems missing from the discussion is that the market is going to give the de facto standard back to Microsoft, regardless of events at ISO. That is, unless we provide a clean way for enterprises to access their Microsoft formatted documents and play with an open document format standard within BUSINESS PROCESSES.
While part of the world is swallowing the ODF story, those enterprises who are testing ODF implementations and hitting the brick wall of business processes (Mass ITD [with whom I am under NDA], Denmark, Belgium) are finding it impossible to implement across autonomous networks of decentralized government agencies (each with its own CIO) for practical reasons. People wonder why the ODF policies are drifting back to ODF + OOXML. Wonder no more.
It's true -- I was a vociferous supporter of ODF, and among the most passionate and committed people to identify the importance of OpenOffice's file format back in 2002. But this year the vendors' tendency to use open standards and open source applications as a bargaining chip to extract (some would say 'extort') money from the deep-pockets Gorilla [that's your client, Microsoft] seems to have won out over good software that works for people.
CDF is better. It's governance is with the W3C: does anyone dare question the integrity of Sir Tim? And it is a format -- or I should say a framework for open formats -- which does something ODF can't do at all and OOXML can only do with Microsoft products -- it can go Mobile.
For one thing, it would be impossible to help Microsoft get the 1,000-odd unique comments through a five-day Ballot Resolution Meeting process in February at ISO. I'm not sure what force of nature could possibly help that, unless convener Alex Brown is seen along the quaint cobblestoned environs of the Bristol quays anytime soon driving an Aston Martin DB9. Microsoft will undoubtedly fail to get ISO approval for OOXML. They don't need my help, either way.
(And if by some sleight of hand they do get OOXML approved, ISO will go into such a spasmodic reform mode that there will never be another important standard from Microsoft.)
Among our difficulties with ODF is that ODF v1.2 is headed for failure at ISO, too. And if the ODF community is tone-deaf to the necessary enhancements (which the Foundation has proposed), then we can't help ODF either -- much as we would like to and much as we have dedicated years of our lives in order to influence.
More to the point, it is our view that if you want to help Microsoft, you will do nothing to fix the interoperability problems of ODF; you will do nothing to help ODF address the enterprise market's requirements to work cleanly with the existing documents and business processes of almost a half-billion document authors; you will stop, obfuscate and delay the efforts or others to introduce the material to enable the ODF standard to interoperate with the installed base of MS Office documents. This is what one does to help Microsoft.
Back in the languid torpor of summer, Sun's John Bosak made the statement explaining Sun's puzzling vote at the American standards body, INCITS, a vote which benefitted OOXML's case in the run to the failing round in September ("Black September"). His confusing announcement can be read in its moment as a message to all NB's that they should follow Sun's lead to submit "Yes with Comments." Bosak made this declaration in full knowledge that only "No with Comments" can force ECMA to address the comments in the later ballot resolution phase. Bosak knew that a "Yes with Comments" was a piss in the wind.
We wish to make it completely clear that we support DIS 29500 [OOXML] becoming an ISO Standard and are in complete agreement with its stated purposes of enabling interoperability among different implementations and providing interoperable access to the legacy of Microsoft Office documents.
At the recent GOSCON panel on ODF, Sun's Doug Johnson joined Microsoft's oxymoronic argument in favor of multiple formats, including OOXML, because of the market requirement to interoperate perfectly with legacy Microsoft documents. (This left IBM's representative, Arnaud Le Hors, stunned as he was surprised to be caught between Sun's and Microsoft's bullshit sandwich.)
If you parse their actions in the development of ODF at OASIS, you would actually understand Sun's position is that full high-fidelity interoperability is "outside the scope" of the ODF specification. (I have links for this on the OASIS mailing list archive if you'd like.) IBM for reasons I grope hopelessly to understand has acquiseced in this deception.
That's helping Microsoft. With help like that, there's not much more rope left for us poor sods at the Foundation to pull on.
It is beyond question that no organization -- except perhaps SCO, Novell or Microsoft themselves -- has done more to help Microsoft than Sun Microsystems in their conduct of the leadership of the OASIS ODF TC and their failure to encourage the kinds of innovations at the file format specification level that would make ODF a legitimate universal document format. I'll leave you to speculate what connection the Sun-Microsoft pact of 2004 may be having here.
If the Foundation were on record, we are more into Microsoft being drummed out of town -- or beaten 500 million to nil in a boisterous market referrendum. Meanwhile -- while we wait for the Obama Administration to create the necessary political will to drop the RICO statutes on Microsoft -- we'll just have to go and Embrace & Extend the Microsoft installed base by going and getting those files and piping them into trustworthy open standards (standards with process & governance integrity) with unimpeachibly open business processes surrounding them.
We are a single-format shop. Our interests have shifted to the W3C's Compound Document Format. Our ideology, if you must, is for a universal document format about which any and all applications can work with equal rights. Jason Matusow says our actions tell that we are for multiple formats. Jason's full of shit.
We will of course support ODF whole-heartedly if the specification improves in the necessary ways, ways about which we have been clear and will be happy to be clearer in future if we have lacked a certain, shall we say, puissance of message. I am not sanguine, though: I don't expect ODF or ODF's governance environment to improve in the time-span necessary to stop Microsoft from cementing Exchange|Sharepoint and Sharepoint|Exchange Live Whatever across most of what's left of the Lotus Notes installed base.
No, I'm not encouraged that IBM has taken over OpenOffice.org's development. This merely means that Sun has just sold IBM a condo in Corral Gables with a 180 view of the parking lot of the Kingdom Hall Bowling Lanes, Barbecue & Pet Salon and Sun Microsystems is moving on to bigger business (business that actually has money) as a thinly disguised Microsoft subsidiary selling Windows-primed servers and killing Linux with "Solar-Ian" (Ian Murdock's Super Duper Linux Application Layer Embedded in openSolaris) Which-Interoperates-By-Design-With-Microsoft.
Accordingly, IBM better get busy acquiring Novell before Novell becomes a thinly disguised Microsoft subsidiary dedicated to implanting .Net and patent-encumbered dependencies -- or the idea of patent-encumbered dependencies -- in Free Software -- I say this much as IBM detests the GPL.
If helping half-a-billion souls get away from Microsoft is helping Microsoft, then I'll be darned.
CDF c'est moi!