ODF vs OOXML war heats up… and it is getting personal.
It seems to had started after ECMA submits OOXML to ISO for fast-track process. Personally, and without scientific basis, I did notice that Rob Weir’s blog (my main source of pro-ODF information) seems to have increased in activity. Apparently, Brian Jones of Microsoft (my main source of pro-OOXML information) noticed this, and since Dec 07, seems to be very upset that IBM voted against OOXML in ECMA and IBM staff had been putting out information against OOXML on their blogs. Normally Jones does not directly mention IBM in his blog post. However, recently, this three letter word appears more and more frequently on his blog.
Is Microsoft right in complaining about IBM’s propaganda war? Yes and No, of course. Yes, because the gentleman way of dealing with something one has an alternative to and don’t like is not to undermine it, but simply ignore it. That is why I was surprised that IBM voted No at ECMA. IBM’s reason, that nobody except Microsoft can fully implement OOXML, is a very strong point and to me, is a good enough reason to vote No. Still, may be IBM should had abstained. How about the propaganda war? Given that a lot of anti-ODF literatures (news/opinions) and actions when Massachusetts reject OOXML were extremely likely been funded by Microsoft in the background, I will say it is fair game. At least IBM came out and say I don’t like this because of this and this and that, not like Microsoft employing puppets to do its dirty laundry.
Jone’s latest post says that “IBM has a lot of money in the game banking on ODF, and my guess is that there is a lot of fear on their side that if there are alternatives to ODF they will lose.” This attracted reply from Rob and Wal Hucks. Jones obviously believe that IBM has a lot riding on ODF, and Hucks believes Microsoft has more to lose if OOXML did not succeed.
The truth is, none of them had bet their company on ODF or OOXML. If OOXML succeeds at the expense of ODF, IBM can easily rewrite their applications to make OOXML the default file format. I cannot see IBM being so stubborn that they wrote their applications to use nothing but ODF. Nor are they big enough, or stupid enough, to employ Microsoft’s trick of mingling code in such a way that ODF cannot be separated from the application. In fact, I expect IBM to have their OOXML->ODF->OOXML converters whether or not ISO accredit OOXML. IBM will be at a slight disadvantage when it comes to selling document manipulating software compared to Microsoft’s Share Point/Project servers, but not much. IBM has the business expertise that MS would love to have.
If ODF succeeds at the expense of OOXML, Microsoft will see its monopoly rent on Office Application decline. It will not disappear overnight but will be eroded over a few years until Microsoft will, eventually, not be able to collect monopoly rent anymore. Note that this does not mean Microsoft Office will not make a profit, just not as much as it would. Microsoft Windows market will be affected, but not as bad as most analysts predicts because Windows is in a separate market, and using Windows has advantages that other operating system don’t. Yes, Microsoft will no longer call the shots but that is just brused ego, nothing more. Other money losing Microsoft’s divisions will have lost their sugardaddy and have to start pulling their weight. The decline in monopoly rent can be relatively fast, say over a 6 years period, but it leave sufficient time for Microsoft to transform itself and Microsoft will be transformed, but it will still be prosperous, not limping along. Will Microsoft then support ODF natively in MS Office? It will not have a choice. In fact, it can save face by declaring that there is sufficient demand to implement ODF in MS Office. Will it be a big problem for Office to support ODF? I don’t know, but I will say it will not be a big problem as Microsoft is trying to imply now.
Who has more to lose? We just don’t know. Rolling a dice would be as good as any prediction. Companies can transform themselves according to business needs. IBM is transforming, so is Microsoft.