« eTufte's iPhone Critique | Main | IBM's | Sutor's Dissonance »



I don't think we are ready to figure out a common format for office productivity documents, and there are problems we have not stumbled on yet, let alone resolved. At the same time, I share your concern and interest in the harmonization activity. It is the only way we will learn the dimensions of the problem and the pitfalls of underspecified formats. (I just had an experience that suggests even the Zip format may be eroding and fragmenting. Drat.)

Concerning e-mail formats, I think there is oversimplification. There is indeed more than one e-mail format, even though there is often a single carrier. That is, plaintext is co-opted to carry in-band wrappers for a different format. "HTML-formatted" e-mail is quite different than RTF-formatted e-mail and these differ from plaintext e-mail and plaintext e-mails differ from each other, etc.

I'm thinking that the degree of success in having there appear to be a single format in everyone's favorite mail reader/browser is an example of harmonization, not convergence on a single format.

(There are still awkward cases of abstraction sheer, as when list servers mess up the embedded format, especially for digests, or when digital signatures force unexpected format constraints.)

In many ways, e-mail provides a nice case study on interoperability, harmonization, and ways incoherence remains, especially when clueless intermediaries put their fingers all over the mail. (E.g., I just learned my hosting service is protecting me from viruses in ways I didn't know about and that kept me from receiving some important mail.)


The first time I read it, I dismissed your remark about needing to harmonize application (programs) too quickly.

I think that is actually a big deal. It is what people deal with. The formats are below everyone's direct attention and, while standardization and assurance of interchange is essential, it is insufficient, I think, with regard what works for people who use products that use the formats.

I think we will run into that at some point. I'm not at all sure what the next step would be. Harmonizing browsers may be child's play compared to office document software, and look at how we struggle with that.



You point out in your first comment that e-mail is really multiple formats.

I believe there's one and the others are *contained*.

This is precisely what CDF does.

With the pain of having to harmonize both formats and both applications in this present mess, we think it is easier to leap ahead to the Web around CDF. It will save 3 years in which Microsoft Office would be reconsolidating its dominance ... AGAIN.

So simple, no one thought of it.


Where did you get the idea ODF has " it has been executed badly and now is being shaped to carve out a small share of the office suite market"

"Although Microsoft Office retains 95% of the general market as measured by revenue,[50] OpenOffice.org and StarOffice have secured 14% of the large enterprise market as of 2004[51] and 19% of the small to midsize business market in 2005."

How about 1 in 6 home users use OO?

"With OpenOffice.org closing in on 15% of Open Internet users..."

The days of MS's 100% margins are coming to an end. When 1 in 6 use a free alternative, it gets harder and harder to justify the $449.

The above is MS's worst nightmare.



It's very easy to say ODF should have been open to office in the first place, that would have killed office... How do you make an open format interoperable with a bulky proprietary binary (crappy ie not fully interoperable with office tools)... Micro$oft would have killed all interoperability at the first occasion by releasing a new binary format...

Sam Hiser


To an extent that is always a risk. But Microsoft will necessarily blow up its installed base and document application interfaces -- i.e., it's developer relationships -- if it tries to dodge an interop scheme that is cleverly implemented.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sam Hiser




This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from swhiser. Make your own badge here.

Locations of visitors to this page

Search PlexNex


View Sam Hiser's profile on LinkedIn

Powered by TypePad