“Notes” from the Open XML Battlefront: IBM vs. IBM, part 2

Stephen McGibbon pointed me toward an interesting development for the IBM products announced at Lotusphere:

"But IBM will support Open XML, which is the current document format in Office 2007, in its Lotus collaboration and portal products. IBM already supports older versions of Office."

So claims an article posted today on News.com. We've seen a few attempts to "position" this support, where Rob Weir welcomes Open XML "to the exclusive company of "Every Document Format Known to Man" . I'm glad that you are so excited…" This illustrates an apparent contrast between what happens in reality vs. what happens in Rob Weir's blog post titled "The Piemen of Erie."

"That is the distortion you get if you look at a standards war through the narrow blinders of commercial interest. But if you look at the full market impact, the simple economics of it, it becomes a lot clearer. What brings greater efficiency, greater fidelity, greater innovation and lower costs? Having two incompatible document format standards? Or having a single harmonized document format standard? Fighting against economics is like fighting against gravity or the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. You are going to lose in the end. The piemen of Erie, and their modern counterparts, are on the wrong side of economics, and history,"

This seems strange coming from the guy who "designed and wrote" the product that supports "every document format known to man." I guess I'm still not sure how to interpret the difference between the action and the words. I guess IBM has signed up in the "fight against economics" too.

I'm willing to take a wager that the decision makers electing to provide Open XML support in their software really aren't trying to out-duel gravity, I'm going to hazard a guess that their support of Open XML is related to fulfilling a market need. Seems like a pretty rational approach to me.

If we direct our attention to the other stream of anti-Open XML rhetoric coming from the IBM guy (I'm not sure which one of these you'd refer to as the "Sidekick" here), a great example is this Bob Sutor entry from March of 2007:

"This is how I think it will play out: PDF will continue to see widespread use, ODF uptake will increase at the expense of the Microsoft binary formats, and OOXML will be odd man out."


"For non-editable documents, use PDF. To use the modern XML format that is being adopted globally by individuals and organizations, use ODF. If you must use a Microsoft format, stick to the old binary formats so others can read them. I think OOXML is just too much trouble and I think the market will agree."


There is one statement in an earlier post (taken shamelessly out of context, I admit) with which I agree wholeheartedly. This is quite consistent with our position on document formats, and a primary motivation for our investments in ODF, UOF, PDF and other document format translation efforts.

"There have been many lessons learned in the last few months. Let's use that knowledge to improve how we make standards. Let's innovate. Let's write some great new code. Let's give our users a superb choice of applications that can all share the same information, no matter who writes the software."

We couldn't agree more, Bob. We've been investing in this idea, full
ahead; we went "Beyond Office" a long, long time ago. For all the file-format related discussion, much of the interop-related discussion for Office has been bubbling quietly under the surface, but gaining very strong traction in real-world adoption. The Office Business Applications effort (blog is here) really underscores the effectiveness of the Office platform, and illustrates why the scope of interoperability in Office extends far beyond document formats.

It seems that, at least on this point, we are in agreement with IBM that the "market is choosing" what they really want: freedom and choice. It would also seem that IBM is running to the front of the parade on supporting multiple formats and providing choice within their products.

Indeed, IBM, "Stop Talking. Start Doing."

Comments (5)

  1. Anonymous says:

    A few interesting and entertaining links to end the week: IBM’s Stance Against OpenXML Is Increasingly

  2. Anonymous says:

    Here’s an interesting development (anyone for pun-free Fridays?) Intergen , a New Zealand based company

  3. Anonymous says:

    I saw Bob Sutor’s post last week titled " There is humor is the OOXML morass ." This is where he calls

  4. Anonymous says:

    A few interesting and entertaining links to end the week: IBM's Stance Against OpenXML Is Increasingly

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