Bay State Turns Its

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2005-12-02 Print this article Print

Back on MS"> Massachusetts decision to standardize on the OpenDocument Format, and, by extension, away from Microsoft Office, posed a real threat to Microsoft, and not just because it could mean fewer license dollars from the Bay State and from other organizations.

Frankly, Microsoft isn't going to be able to avoid at least some reduction in market share, particularly since, moving forward, the file format playing field will grow much more level.

The bigger danger that Microsoft faces regarding Massachusetts and ODF is the chance that our Redmond Officemasters might be ejected from the office file formats leadership position that they've battled so ruthlessly to attain.

Microsoft can still lead, but because of the world's growing appreciation for free and open standards, Microsoft has to lead in a different way.

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The firm needs to look no further than Adobe and PDF to see that offering up a format with full specs and assurances that anyone can build products to read and write the format doesn't equal surrender. Enabling and convincing others to embrace your format isn't a loss, it's a win.

I've seen a lot of commenters ask, "Why doesn't Microsoft just support ODF?" The answer is obvious-embracing ODF would mean embracing a format that was designed without Microsoft's products in mind.

Sure, Microsoft was invited to participate in ODF, but why do that when it could design a format focused on its own needs, without meddling from rivals?

OpenXML was designed around preserving the data and formatting expressed in Microsoft's baroque binary formats. This is definitely an important design goal, and certainly the most important goal for Microsoft to achieve, because so many documents out there already exist in these formats.

Does this mean curtains for ODF, and that OpenXML will reign supreme? Probably not. OpenXML will have the advantage of shipping along with the market leader, but ODF enjoys broader support, and what appears to be a cleaner and more forward-looking design.

I really have no idea which format will end up on top, if either will, or if we'll end up with some merged standard set of formats. Frankly, as long as the apps I use can read and open either format well, I don't really care.

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Sure, Office 12 isn't going to support ODF, but Office 12 won't run on my computer, anyway.

It would've been great to see Microsoft go all out and open up its binary formats as well, but I'll take what I can get., and all of Office's other rivals, have long been chasing Microsoft's formats. It appears that Microsoft's move to XML, coupled with appropriately open licensing, will yield more innovation and interoperability for all. For that, I'm cautiously thankful.

Way to go, Massachusetts.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at


As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at

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