There’s an open letter to the community on the Microsoft interop site today that acknowledges some of the tactics that have been used to try to limit choice in document formats lately. As the letter says:
When ODF was under consideration, Microsoft made no effort to slow down the process because we recognized customers’ interest in the standardization of document formats. In sharp contrast, during the initial one-month period for consideration of Open XML in ISO/IEC JTC1, IBM led a global campaign urging national bodies to demand that ISO/IEC JTC1 not even consider Open XML, because ODF had made it through ISO/IEC JTC1 first – in other words, that Open XML should not even be considered on its technical merits because a competing standard had already been adopted.
This campaign to stop even the consideration of Open XML in ISO/IEC JTC1 is a blatant attempt to use the standards process to limit choice in the marketplace for ulterior commercial motives – and without regard for the negative impact on consumer choice and technological innovation. It is not a coincidence that IBM’s Lotus Notes product, which IBM is actively promoting in the marketplace, fails to support the Open XML international standard. If successful, the campaign to block consideration of Open XML could create a dynamic where the first technology to the standards body, regardless of technical merit, gets to preclude other related ones from being considered. The IBM driven effort to force ODF on users through public procurement mandates is a further attempt to restrict choice. In XML-based file formats, which can easily interoperate through translators and be implemented side by side in productivity software, this exclusivity makes no sense – except to those who lack confidence in their ability to compete in the marketplace on the technical merits of their alternative standard.
I’m glad to see us publicly acknowledging this situation. While everyone at Microsoft has consistently been saying that document formats are not a zero-sum game, IBM has been trying to sell a “battle” between different approaches, based on the assumption that if you’re a fan of one format you must be an enemy of other formats. I’ve even heard of an IBM employee saying to a Microsoft employee “detente is not an option, this is war!” Good grief. How Presidential.
It seems that people are starting to grow weary of the tone and tactics being used to oppose Open XML, though. For example, I received an unsolicited email from a stranger recently which included these comments:
We have been working with the Open XML spec throughout its existence in readiness for our new major release of our product … our product has over 400,000 users worldwide … we can vouch for the fact that you do not have to implement the whole spec when creating a product that can read and write OpenXML spreadsheets … I am getting sick and tired of this religious spec warfare, especially the argument that if you don’t implement the whole spec, it’s not worth doing.