Multiple Formats Discussion Continued…

I just have itchy fingers tonight, and can't help but blog a bit more. Peter Galli over at eWeek posted a piece in which I was quoted along with extensive input from Gary Edwards (late of the OpenDocument Foundation).

In the piece, Mr. Edwards talks at length about all the work he is doing to win business away from Microsoft. (That was the part I didn't like as much.) But, there were some fascinating other parts to what he said. (I think the incredibly good parts of the article were my quotes.<grin>)

First, he noted that ODF and Open XML could be converted to CDF. That couldn't be a better endorsement to one of my oft-returned-to themes...translation. The whole point of greater openness in document formats is that it is easier to translate between them.

Second, Galli reported on what Mr. Edwards hear in a discussion with IBM abouttheir Lotus Symphony product.

During that discussion, Heintzman outlined IBM's strategy of Web-centric cloud computing, where Lotus Symphony desktop documents are converted on the fly to an appropriate CDF profile, and then zoomed into the IBM cloud of Web platform applications and services, he said.

What Edwards and his colleagues took away from that discussion was the importance of the W3C CDF technologies to the IBM Cloud—Lotus Symphony desktop strategy as, once ODF desktop documents were converted to a CDF profile, many of the current ODF interoperability problems disappeared at that higher level

Once again, it is not about the document formats - it is about the applications and the business models behind them. IBM is SOOOOOO attached to ODF as the one-and-only document format, that they are going to translate it into <gasp> another format so that it can fit into "the IBM cloud" - in other words, into the rest of their business model.

At the end of the article, IBM is quick to try to distance themselves from Edwards and what is said in the article. It could be, because the points made in the article would seem to completely contradict the arguments they are making in favor of ODF.

I promise, my next few blogs will be about something other than IBM. I'm falling into a myopic pattern.

Comments (6)
  1. Gary Edwards says:

    Multiple Formats Discussion Continued…

    Good catch Jason.  My guess is that IBM really wanted us to shut down the Foundation before the peasants with pitchforks, drunk with ODF blood lust and euphoria, turned on CDF+, savaging a great work out of ignorance and fever pitched anger.  All of which IBM is responsible for.

    You can’t begin to imagine how i have wracked my memories of our relationship with IBM’s Doug Heintzman, which goes back to the heady days of the summer of 2006, trying to save ODF in Massachusetts, to figure out why they would recant and deny their vision of a CDF+ cloud based on the fluid and easy conversion of ODF to CDF+?

    I’ve come to this conclusion.  IBM is pissed because they are competing in the cloud against both Microsoft and Google!  What they didn’t want disclosed to Google is their reliance on W3C CDF +, and the fluid, application specific Lotus Symphony conversion possible between ODF and CDF+.  

    So they had to thread this needle; discrediting the Foundation through a slanderous and corporate defamatory process that started with their goon squad skating out onto the ice wearing the deceptive pink tights of a Hamlet wannabe spouting renaissance intellectual type platitudes.  Sure when some guy in pink tights skates out onto the ice, you don’t stop to think he’s a hard core goon wielding an iron club,<a href+””>wanting to take your head off</a>.  It’s impossible to take such a joke seriously.  And then bang, the guy in pink tights who thinks he’s a modern day Hamlet, a clown in the guise of an anti disposition, whacks you upside the head with lies and slander, and takes you out.  Very clever.  Too bad the disguise didn’t work so well for Shakespeare’s Hamlet!

    Heintzman had to stop the mob before they turned on CDF.  No doubt.  So he appealed to our better instincts and the history of our trusted relationship.  Singing kumbaya and the celebration that we’re all on the same page, fighting the same enemy – it’s all very intoxicating and seductively alluring.  Except that he did this without the mere thought of apologizing for the goon squad he sent out to bury us.  

    Anyway, we did agree on this;  the combination of ODF <> CDF+ is able to counter the multi platform usefulness and reach of MS-OOXML.    For the common good, Sam and i agreed to shut down the Foundation right then and there.  Which we did.  The next day, the Fellowship and Updegrove hit pieces ran, totally discrediting the common ground we thought we had agreed on with Heintzman.  Make of it what you will.  Apparently someone didn’t get the memo.

    Here’s something strange and puzzling.  Heintzman somehow managed to name Google as one of the primary targets of the IBM Cloud.  Imagine what happens if Google takes a look at the IBM desktop to cloud strategy, and figures out this really is about a fluid conversion between ODF and CDF+?  How difficult is it for Google to go back to Sun and ask for a version of StarOffice able to perfect that same conversion of ODF <> CDF+?  

    Not very.  And therein lies the problem for IBM.    They need to discredit the Foundation, protect CDF + from the peasants with pitchforks, and keep this all secret from Google.

    Threading the needle was never so difficult.  It would however go a long way if they got rid of that goon skating around in pink tights, whacking people upside the head for daring to question the interop problems of ODF.  


  2. Wu MingShi says:

    Dear Jason,

    Sorry to burst your bubble, and I assume you make this mistake because you are more a manager man rather than hands-on technical like Brian Jones. BJ was surprisingly silent if CDF is a potential candidate in this discussion. If he shared your view, it will be great if you ask him to share it with us too, coz I for one will have a good laugh at his (and Microsoft’s expense).

    I am more a technical hands-on and preliminary overview of CDF shows that it, at present form, cannot even hope to be an editing document format. In fact, it is more a "threat" to PDF than ODF/OOXML as the "editing" part is quite simply, not there.

    You don’t have to believe me? That’s fair enough. But here the comments from Jim King (, Chris Lilley viewpoint as reported by Updegrove (

    You want someone neutral? Try David Berlind then (


  3. And for this juicy news about IBM’s plans, you rely on Gary Edwards, who abandoned ODF because he has a product planned for… you guessed it, CDF?  Not a chance that this is complete self serving mumbo jumbo, is there.  No, it fits a message you want to get out, so you repeat it and then critique IBM’s veracity due to it.

    Please, go along with you instinct in the last paragraph.  You have many valuable insights to share, so don’t get stuck in the anti-IBM partisanship.

  4. jasonmatusow says:

    Thanks for the long comment Gary. I don’t know if I have much to comment back.

    Wu MingShi – You are correct that Brian is at least 9 orders of magnituded more technical (and probably smarter) than me. But, my guess is that he would completely agree with my points which have absolutely nothing to do with the tech side of CDF. The whole point is not whether or not CDF is a good format, or ODF is, or Open XML is, or whatever – it is that the arguments in favor of a single document format are bogus. I’ll ask Brian to look at these comments and see if he has the time to drop in a comment. If he disagrees with me – he should say so.

    Ben – It is not that I am relying on Gary Edwards for IBMs plans. I’m relying on one of the top reporters in the software industry who has an (at times quite annoying <grin>) habit of seeing through the spin to find the news.

    The thing about my discussions around IBM is that they are not based on a dislike of that company. In fact, I have tremendous respect for how smart those guys are. The thing is – I look at the business model as the driver of decisions rather than technical or societal good will. I have absolutely no problem with their wanting to have an IBM cloud wiht the intent of putting Microsft, Google, and anyone else out of business. That’s the whole point about competition yes? But, I will call out what I see and how I interpret it. That said – I do need to look around at some other issues. (although I thought I wrote a really good piece on accessibilty that seems not to have driven nearly as much traffic.)

    Thanks all – good stuff!

  5. Dave S. says:

    "I have absolutely no problem with their (ed. IBM) wanting to have an IBM cloud wiht the intent of putting Microsft, Google, and anyone else out of business. That’s the whole point about competition yes?"

    If there are no competitors, there’s no competition; no competition = market stangation and monopoly.

    The question is, where should the competition be?

    You might say business model.

    Turns out the most "competitive" business model (almost 4 billion people) is a totalitarian regime, often brutal. A business model that operates independent of the previous one is corruption (also going on 4 billion people.) It has no tech focus and no societal cares. It is also stangant where it cannot co-opt ideas from others.

    If you were thinking the best business model is democracy, or for the US, a republic, because it’s working OK for you and me, note that it only has around 1 billion participants.

    If you’re not thinking of societal good will, you may be aligned with the 4 billion. If you make good tech decisions, you can end up in Google’s current position (cap $223B) without having a prior monopoly (foolishly) hand you a pre-built large market (cap $323B)

  6. Wesley Parish says:

    So ODF is desktop-focused, CDF is server-focused; MS OOXML is both?  That’s the implications I’m picking up from this blog posting.

    Would that be a bonus or a millstone-around-one’s-neck?

    What I’m also wondering is, part of XML’s basic definition is as a format for structured files – semantically structured, if you can manage it.  But MS OOXML is an XMLization of the basic binary data stream emitted by the components of MS Office, and judging from comments I’ve seen by supporters and opponents, it’s not that well structured.

    XHTML is the future of the Web; it’s an XMLization of HTML.  Which means it’s an attempt to structure HTML along the lines of XML.

    It’s at this point I see Microsoft becoming very seriously unstuck.  I can’t help but think of badly-formed web pages being served up and exploited via their inconsistencies – because their base data format was not regularized sufficiently.

    Never mind the bollocks – this could be the next big monopoly malware trap.

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