CyberTech Rambler

June 4, 2008

Oops…What is a “standard war”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:41 pm

A big thank you to Rob Weir for reminding me that I got the meaning of “Standard War” wrong in a comment to my previous post. When I heard the term “standard war”, I read it as confrontation between two parties to get a standard approved/accepted. He says we should use the meaning economists give to the phrase, i.e., competition between two standards in the same market place. When I read his comment, I first note that it make sense. With this in mind I reread Durusau blog post applying this definition to “Standard War”. It change completely my understanding of the blog post. The more I thought about it, the more I believe that Weir’s definition is the definition Durusau is using. The most important change here is of course Durusau no longer give you the impression that he is out of touch with reality. (Sorry Durusau!) Rather, he is expressing a different viewpoint. That viewpoint of course depends on how much you define the overlapping area between ODF and OOXML.

I put my hands up for this misunderstanding. I do not wish offer any defense. All I will do is to chronicle what happened and my thought process. I stubble upon that Durusau’s post via PJ’s Groklaw website. I know PJ’s has extremely polarized view GPL vs Open Source vs Proprietary Source in general and on ODF vs OOXML in particular. Therefore, with exception of anything legal related, I do not take what PJ says at face value but form my opinion about anything PJ comment on. However, I might be subconsciously coloured by PJ’s opinion when I read Durusau’s post. It’s possible and only served to shows that I should be more careful next time. My definition of “Standard War” was then reinforced by a few postings on OpenMalaysiaBlog which appears to backup my definition. I am not trying to pass the blame on, but to highlight that I have to be more careful.

So, with the new definition, is there a “Standard War”? I agree with Weir that it is a three way war : Legacy Microsoft Binary format vs ODF vs OOXML. I agree with him that without ODF, Microsoft will still have a hot potato on its hand trying to convince people to move on to OOXML. Where I disagree with him is that he believe Microsoft might not win. Without ODF, it is a matter of time. Back in 1996-ish we have incompatibility between the new Word version and an old Word version. It was so serious that the University Computing Service warns users about it and tell us how to deal with it. However, as time passed, this become less of a problem as more documents are created in the new Word format, and document in older word format either get superseded or decrease in importance. In about 3 years time, it was a non-issue as everyone moved to the new version. The same thing will happen with OOXML if ODF were not there. May be longer, but we will get there.

What happened of course is the presence of ODF give everyone a chance to ditch OOXML. One is going to have to struggle with the transition from Legacy Microsoft Binary format to OOXML anyway. Why not take the opportunity to evaluate and perhaps adopt another format, i.e. ODF? One big attraction is of course the saving in licensing fee for the most of us who do not need fancy offfice automation. The fact that Microsoft adopt a radically new UI does not help.

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