File formats - Microsoft wins the battle but ...

[Updated] The ISO Standardisation of OOXML in 17 Easy Steps seems to be a good "non-Microsoft" view of the proceedings. Matthew (alongside others) also left an excellent counter argument to my views in the comments of this posting

-----------
As I have stated previously, file storage standards are becoming a quaint footnote in electronic history. Despite Microsoft seemingly winning the protracted OOXML vs ODF standards war (a report) they have definitely lost the war ... and probably quite some time ago.

Quiz - In regards to "storage format" - what does YouTube use, what does Yahoo! Mail use, what does Zoho Docs use, what does the Wii use, what does your local satellite provider use?

I know, not your typical office applications as we sit here today but really, who believes it's all gonna be stored on each and everyones PC desktop (or, laughingly, on the company's network) in distinct, separate and silo'ed forms like this in, ooooh say 5 years?

The storage of (portable) data in the cloud is far more relevant to the next 5 years than some petty discussion about how I might store my CV on Ubuntu (sorry, should I have said Windows XP/Vista?).

Petty because I just don't use it and I believe neither will you, despite Microsoft's PC powerplay. Of course Microsft may be making it a little harder to move from your PC desktop to a truly open/interoperable cloud and 'streaming' you and your company into a "Microsoft space on the Internet" ... that is the really worrying part.

But, if you (YOU) make the choice yourself and do move away from the "file format" world view to the "stored in the cloud (accessed and used via any browser)" view you, in a very short time, Just. Won't. Care.

Comments

  1. Yeah, I've heard that argument before (perhaps at Foocamp?) and I think that's a separate issue.

    With web office providers the file format still matters because,

    1) 95% of existing office apps are on the desktop, so they'll need a documentation (either through reverse-engineering or standards) in order to be able to migrate peoples content online.

    2) If you ever want to switch between providers in the future then the providers will need to agree on some kind of format (Eg. standards). If they don't then you may be putting your content in one company's proprietary format, with all the same issues that we have now (interoperability, portability, competition through standards like we have in web browsers).

    3) There's a lot of live collaboration office suites coming out now (Google Office, AbiCollab, etc.). Little snippets of file formats are being sent as data ... effectively making an Office protocol. If you ever want to be able to script against a web office (like we do with RSS -- we might want to be able to mash up content with 3rd party services) then they'll need documentation.

    In all these cases each provider can come up with their own way of doing it, but I'm reminded of what Tim Bray (co-­creator of XML) said: "The world does not need two ways to say: This paragraph is in 12­ point Arial with
    1.2em leading and ragged­-right justification".

    So it's not about removing innovation, or anything like that -- it's about removing pointless differences, and that's where standards matter and where the ISO failed.

    (of course I'm a Wellingtonian too -- if you ever wanna talk about this stuff let me know dude :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. As far as my limited understanding goes the big deal is that:

    (a) MS Office based solutions can no longer be excluded from govt projects on the grounds that they are not "standards compliant" (not that most governments care, but more of them are beginning to)
    (b) By getting a bad standard through the process they discredit the standards bodies, and muddy the water of what it means to be "standards compliant" which supposedly works in their favor.
    (c) As businesses start to add "standards compliancy" to the list of things they want in a solution, companies delivering MS Office based solutions will be able to tick that box in the RFP.

    You are correct in that Microsoft really wants people to stay within the Microsoft ecosystem, and use *their* cloud based solutions, eg Sharepoint, and that winning this battle will help them achieve that.

    However the need for companies to interop with others who are MS refuseniks will mean that MS will have to compete primarily on feature set rather than on

    However I don't share your confidence about most people having migrated their data out of local silos within 5 years. Privacy and security concerns will likely prevent that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Whoops, didn't finish that sentence. "Feature set rather than data-formats". But of course those two things only make up a small part of the competitive matrix.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment