Revisiting Open Document Format and Office Open XML: The Quiet Revolution Continues

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It has been several years since the lively and highly polarized market debate about the relative merits and standards significance of the Open Document Format (ODF) and Office Open XML (OOXML) file format standards. Although ODF and OOXML have since largely faded from the mainstream technology industry press and blogosphere radar, both standards have continued to evolve and gain market support, with significant benefits for all organizations seeking to optimize their use of information contained in documents created with productivity applications.
This document provides an overview of the status and significance of ODF and OOXML. It starts with a summary of the business value of open and XML-based document formats, along with a review of the ODF/OOXML historical debate, including a recap of a widely-discussed January 2008 Burton Group report which included what were, at that time, considered provocative conclusions and market projections.
The document continues with a summary of some of the most impactful ODF- and OOXML-related industry changes during recent years, including Microsoft’s (surprising, to many market observers) commitment to support and contribute to both ODF and OOXML, as well as Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems, and the acquisition’s ramifications for OpenOffice.org (which served as the starting point for ODF, in 2000).
The analysis concludes with some market projections about likely next steps, as both ODF and OOXML continue to evolve.

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Revisiting Open Document Format and Office Open XML: The Quiet Revolution Continues

  1. 1. Revisiting Open Document Format and Office Open XML: The Quiet Revolution Continues By Peter O’Kelly Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission.
  2. 2. Table of ContentsSynopsis ........................................................................................................................................................ 3ODF and OOXML Context-Setting ................................................................................................................. 4 The Business Value of Open and XML-based Document Formats............................................................ 4 The Significance of Standards ................................................................................................................... 5 A Brief History of ODF ............................................................................................................................... 6 A Brief History of OOXML.......................................................................................................................... 6 The 2008 OOXML ISO Controversy ........................................................................................................... 7 The 2008 Burton Group “What’s Up, .DOC?” Report ............................................................................... 8Recent ODF and OOXML Market Dynamics .................................................................................................. 9 Overall Productivity Application Market Dynamics .................................................................................. 9 The Shift to SaaS Productivity Applications .......................................................................................... 9 Mobile Device Access to Productivity Application Documents .......................................................... 10 Acquisitions and Affiliations................................................................................................................ 10 ODF Market Dynamics ............................................................................................................................ 10 ODF Standards Activities ..................................................................................................................... 10 An ODF Ecosystem Vitality Snapshot .................................................................................................. 11 OOXML Market Dynamics ....................................................................................................................... 13 OOXML Standards Activities ............................................................................................................... 13 An OOXML Ecosystem Vitality Snapshot ............................................................................................ 14ODF and OOXML Projections ...................................................................................................................... 14 “OOXML Will be Successful” ................................................................................................................... 14 “Microsoft Will Aggressively Compete but Also Play Well with Others on OOXML” ............................. 15 “ODF Will Continue, Albeit in a Relatively Minor Role” .......................................................................... 15 “The W3C Model Will Prevail in Many Domains” ................................................................................... 15 “PDF Will Continue to Dominate Non-revisable Document Contexts” .................................................. 16 “New Vendor Challenges and Opportunities” ........................................................................................ 16 Standards Activities Will Remain Useful, Despite Inevitable Time Lags ................................................. 17 There Will be Three, Indefinitely ............................................................................................................ 18Conclusion: The Quiet Revolution Continues ............................................................................................. 19Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 2
  3. 3. SynopsisIt has been several years since the lively and highly polarized market debate about the relative meritsand standards significance of the Open Document Format (ODF) and Office Open XML (OOXML) fileformat standards. Although ODF and OOXML have since largely faded from the mainstream technologyindustry press and blogosphere radar, both standards have continued to evolve and gain marketsupport, with significant benefits for all organizations seeking to optimize their use of informationcontained in documents created with productivity applications.This document provides an overview of the status and significance of ODF and OOXML. It starts with asummary of the business value of open and XML-based document formats, along with a review of theODF/OOXML historical debate, including a recap of a widely-discussed January 2008 Burton Groupireport which included what were, at that time, considered provocative conclusions and marketprojections.The document continues with a summary of some of the most impactful ODF- and OOXML-relatedindustry changes during recent years, including Microsoft’s (surprising, to many market observers)commitment to support and contribute to both ODF and OOXML, as well as Oracle’s acquisition of SunMicrosystems, and the acquisition’s ramifications for OpenOffice.org (which served as the starting pointfor ODF, in 2000).The analysis concludes with some market projections about likely next steps, as both ODF and OOXMLcontinue to evolve.Author Peter O’Kelly is well positioned to objectively analyze and project ODF and OOXML marketdynamics. As then the founding Research Director for Burton Group’s Collaboration and ContentStrategies service, he was the primary author of the 2008 Burton Group OOXML/ODF report, and he hasfocused on topics at the intersection of information management and collaboration for nearly thirtyyears. Having worked as an industry analyst for much of that time, and with extensive experience inproduct planning and competitive strategy roles for vendors including Groove Networks, IBM, LotusDevelopment Corp., Macromedia, and Microsoft, he is also an industry insider familiar with realities atthe intersection of vendor interests and standards initiatives.Note that Peter O’Kelly has no ongoing relationship with Microsoft, although this document was fundedin part by a Microsoft consulting engagement. As an independent industry analyst/consultant, O’Kellyhas been privileged to routinely work with multiple vendors, including several of his former employers.Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 3
  4. 4. ODF and OOXML Context-SettingTo establish context for reviewing ODF and OOXML, this section starts with a brief overview of the valueof open and XML-based document formats and standards. It next briefly summarizes the historicalevents leading to the creation and standardization of ODF and OOXML, including the controversial 2008OOXML standard debate.The Business Value of Open and XML-based Document FormatsWhile it may seem paradoxical to people who have not been working with productivity applications forseveral years, the document formats used by leading software vendors used to be closed (created andcontrolled by the vendors) and binary (stored using a low-level machine representation rather thanhuman-readable formats). This approach caused considerable complexity for anyone seeking to usetheir productivity application-created documents – typically word processing documents, presentations,and spreadsheets – with any application other than the ones originally used to create the documents,and also created competitive barriers to entry for software vendors.Since 2000, there has been an industry-wide shift to open and XML-based document formats. “Open” isa widely-applied adjective these days, but for the purposes of this document, it refers to formats thatare fully documented, unencumbered by intellectual property restrictions or license fees, and advancedthrough community-driven collaboration. The use of XML (instead of binary file formats) is pivotalbecause it produces well-structured and application-independent documents that can be processed by awide variety of tools and programming frameworks.The shift has facilitated significant business benefits includingii:  “Document assembly (also known as document generation): Rather than using monolithic files, document assembly means dynamically composing documents, often from disparate sources. For example, a sales report may be generated from a document template and interactive queries into sales tracking systems such as Salesforce.com.  Content reuse: Improving content reusability entails a shift to managing content components (also known as information items and microformats) rather than monolithic files. Examples include the need to consistently use corporate branding and legal boilerplate text in business proposal documents.  Content query: To make productivity application content a more productive resource in broader information management (e.g., to easily find all information pertaining to a specific customer or research project, regardless of content type or location), organizations need to go beyond simple content indexing and exploit metadata ranging from basic fields and tagging/categorization to custom schemas.  Document inspection and sanitization: Requirements in this context include ensuring authors havent inadvertently left reviewer comments or other remnants from work-in-process versions in productivity application files. Inspection and sanitization are also used to ensure that content complies with organizational policies (e.g., to automatically remove unacceptable or potentially offensive terms from documents before they are distributed).  Document archival: To integrate productivity application content with corporate systems of record for information management and record-keeping requirements.”Application independence is another important advantage of using open and XML-based documentformats, and it’s a benefit that is especially important in consideration of market dynamics such as theCopyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 4
  5. 5. growing use of software-as-a-service (SaaS, also known as cloud) productivity applications (e.g., GoogleDocs and Microsoft Office 365) and the use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets (e.g., theApple iPad). Without open and XML-based document formats, it would be much more difficult forpeople to use their documents via SaaS services or non-PC mobile devices, and the industry would stillbe mired in the tightly-coupled programs-have-files constraints of the past, unable to embrace newopportunities to make productivity application documents useful in simpler, more seamless, and oftenservice-oriented usage scenarios.Overall, the shift to open and XML-based document formats has been something of a quiet revolution inthe sense that, with the exception of some lively standards-related debates (especially in 2008, whichwe’ll review momentarily), the transition hasn’t been broadly covered by the technology press andanalyst communities.The Significance of StandardsThe industry standards domain is complex, dynamic, and often politically charged. Despite relatedchallenges, productivity application document standards are important because they define the modelsand rules by which software vendors can verify that documents produced with their offerings will beinteroperable with other offerings that support the same standards. Standards working groups alsoprovide important community settings in which vendors and other organizations can constructivelycollaborate to refine and extend standards, as new innovations and customer requirements emerge.Standards are not panaceas, however, and standards activities are perennially challenged by theinherent conflict of trying to facilitate community-driven collaboration and consensus-building on oftencomplex and rapidly-changing domains in which community participants are likely to have differentpriorities. Constructively contributing to standards activities is also an expensive commitment, entailingthe dedication of experts’ time and attention, along with administrative and other costs (e.g., travelexpenses) associated with regular meeting attendance.As a result, most standards are perpetual works in progress, and there are usually significant timedelays, both between the introduction and approval of new proposals to extend or refine standards, andbetween the time when a standard is approved and when it is broadly supported in software productsand services.There are some exceptions to these standards patterns, but in broad and complex domains such asproductivity application document formats (e.g., ODF and OOXML) and query languages (e.g., SQL andXQuery), international standards are, in practice, primarily valuable for establishing interoperabilitybaselines and creating opportunities for communities of experts to constructively work together.Another standards-related consideration is the extent to which it’s useful to accommodate resourcesthat existed prior to the creation of related standards. In the case of productivity application documentformats, for example, few organizations are likely to reformat documents they have been collecting,often for decades, simply to claim conformance to an international standard.In most domains, there is a distinction between de facto and formal standards, with the formergenerally determined by the most widely-used products in a given domain, and the latter established byCopyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 5
  6. 6. organizations such as Ecma International (originally known as the European Computer ManufacturersAssociation, but known simply as “Ecma” since 1994), the International Organization for Standardization(ISO), and Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).In terms of de facto productivity application document formats, in the productivity application domain,Microsoft Office has held commanding market share for many years. That has created challenges forMicrosoft competitors, and it has also resulted in the creation of a huge and global collection ofMicrosoft Office-formatted documents.A Brief History of ODFOpenDocument Format (ODF) was the first open, XML-based, and international standard forproductivity application document formats. It was created by a group of vendors, initially led by (andarguably controlled by) Sun Microsystems, which collectively sought to establish OpenOffice.org, acompetitive alternative to Microsoft Office, as a leading open source productivity application suite.Sun acquired StarDivision (the creators of StarOffice) in 1999 in order to promote a relatively low costand multi-platform productivity application suite that it and its customers could use instead of MicrosoftOffice. Sun open-sourced large portions of the StarOffice code base in 2000, creating OpenOffice.org.Sun also introduced new XML document formats for StarOffice that would serve as the starting point forODF (then known as “Open Office XML Format,” as referenced in related working group meeting notes).ODF standards-related activities within OASIS began in late 2002, and OASIS OpenDocument Format forOffice Applications was approved as a standard in May 2005. OASIS OpenDocument was subsequentlysubmitted to the ISO/IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) (considered by many people to be a more influential and global standards organization than OASIS),by which it was approved as ISO/IEC 26300 in May 2006.There is now some ambiguity with the term “ODF,” which may refer to the format as implemented inproductivity applications (such as OpenOffice.org), the related OASIS standard, or ISO/IEC 26300. Unlessotherwise noted, hereafter, in this document, “ODF” refers to the former (which may, in practice, differfrom the related formal standards).The community organizations that created ODF shared a goal of document format simplicity, and oneconsequence was an explicit non-goal to support interoperability with the then-dominant binaryMicrosoft Office file formats. This policy obviously resulted in a dilemma for ODF advocates, due to theneed to work with “legacy” Microsoft Office document formats, and it also created competitivechallenges for Microsoft, as organizations that mandated the use of OASIS or ISO OpenDocumentstandards could no longer, at that time, use Microsoft Office.A Brief History of OOXMLOpen XML reflects a long-term Microsoft commitment to XML support in Microsoft Office. The first useof XML in Office dates back to June 1999, when Office 2000 was released with the use of XML forfeatures within Office HTML formats. An XML markup option for Excel (spreadsheetML) was added inthe beta of Office XP in August 2000 (Office XP was released in March 2001), and an option for WordCopyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 6
  7. 7. (wordprocessingML) followed in Office 2003 (released in April 2003). In June 2005, Microsoftannounced that XML-based file formats for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, then collectively known asMicrosoft Office XML Open Formats, would be the default file format for Office 2007 (which wasreleased in November 2006). Microsoft also announced it would offer a free “patch” for use with Office2000, Office XP, and Office 2003, to make those products compatible with the new formats.The European Union asked Microsoft to submit its XML formats to a standards body in May 2004.Microsoft announced in November 2005 that it, along with co-sponsors including Apple, BarclaysCapital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel, NextPage, Statoil ASA, and Toshiba, was offering MicrosoftOffice Open XML to Ecma for consideration as an international standard. OOXML was approved as anEcma standard (ECMA-376/OOXML) in December 2006. Ecma submitted OOXML to ISO/IEC JTC 1 forconsideration during the same month.As was the case with ODF, one result of this activity was ambiguity about the term “OOXML,” which mayrefer to Microsoft’s XML file formats, ECMA-376/OOXML, or the ISO/IEC standard (ISO/IEC 29500).Unless otherwise noted, hereafter in this document, “OOXML” refers to the document formats asimplemented in Microsoft Office (which, as is the case with ODF product support, may differ from therelated standards).The 2008 OOXML ISO ControversyThe ODF community voiced several concerns about OOXML standardization, ranging from overall goals(e.g., the ODF community opinion that interoperability with “legacy” Microsoft Office document formatswas a non-goal) to concerns about complexity (often noting, for example, that the ISO/IEC 26300standard was approximately 700 pages long, while the draft ISO/IEC OOXML proposal was more than5,400 pages). Part of the document length difference was a function of the ODF community building onother standards (such as XForms), but it should also be noted that the ISO/IEC ODF standard wasarguably incomplete in several respects (initially lacking, for example, a spreadsheet formula languageand support for digital signatures).Some observers believed it was oxymoronic to even consider two ISO/IEC standards for what theyperceived to be the same domain (productivity applications), but that perspective reflected a cleardifference of opinion about the strategic value of “legacy” Office documents and the need toaccommodate capabilities present in Office 2007 that could not be directly expressed in the ISO/IEC ODFstandard.OOXML failed its initial JTC 1ballot resolution in September 2007, sending the Ecma OOXML workinggroup into a revision activity designed to address key issues that contributed to the ballot loss. Perhapsthe most significant change introduced during this period was a new distinction between “strict” and“transitional” classes of OOXML, with the latter used to describe “legacy” capabilities from earlierreleases of Office (such as the graphics markup language VML).Although there was considerable controversy about events during this period, ISO/IEC OOXML wasapproved as an ISO/IEC standard during March 2008, causing significant consternation among ODFadvocates. IBM, for example, issued a new standards policy in September 2008 that, according to anCopyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 7
  8. 8. InformationWeek article, was “… a move that could lead to the company withdrawing from groups thatfail to meet its new criteria for ‘quality and openness’ in reviewing specifications for software andcomputer system interoperability.”Figure 1 is a Google Trends snapshot of searches for “OOXML” (although it is not exhaustive, due to thenaming inconsistent usage of terms including “OOXML,” “Open XML,” and “Microsoft Office OpenXML”). As depicted by the graph, there was a peak of “OOXML” Internet search and news traffic duringearly 2008, and a dramatic drop in related searches thereafter, suggesting most of the industry hadmoved beyond the standards debate (and, as we’ll review momentarily, into an implementation phase). Figure 1: Google Trends Search for “OOXML” (captured 2011/07/27)The 2008 Burton Group “What’s Up, .DOC?” ReportI had first-hand experience with the level of market polarization involved in the ODF and OOXMLcontroversy during this period, when Burton Group published the previously-mentioned (see endnote i)“What’s Up, .DOC?” report. Although I continue to believe the report was thorough and objective, anddespite the fact that I had provided ample opportunities for the leading ODF vendors to constructivelyprovide detailed feedback on drafts of the report before the final version was published, I was attackedby several ODF advocates in the blogosphere, an unprecedented experience in my career as an industryanalyst.The “Study Touting OOXML Over ODF is Debunked” reference in Figure 1, for example, linked to an ArsTechnica post that asserted, among other things, that the Burton Group report was too generous toMicrosoft (in terms of its standards commitment and modus operandi) and too harsh on SunMicrosystems and its strategy for OpenOffice.org and ODF. Many ODF advocates, during the ISO/IECOOXML debate period, apparently assumed Microsoft would invariably renege on its OOXMLcommitment and seek to unilaterally seize control of OOXML (Microsoft was to be considered guiltyuntil proven innocent), and also assumed that Sun and other vendors in favor of ODF would, in contrast,Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 8
  9. 9. yield all control of OpenOffice.org and ODF, and follow the standards community’s leadership on ODF(the ODF advocates were to be considered innocent until/unless proven guilty).Overall, the ODF/OOXML debate had very significant implications for many leading vendors as well asthe open source community. I wasn’t surprised by the intensity of the debate, but I was disappointed bywhat I considered to be personal and unsubstantiated blogosphere accusations.We’ll revisit the 2008 Burton Group predictions later in this document.Recent ODF and OOXML Market DynamicsThis section provides an overview of ODF and OOXML market dynamics since the 2008 controversy. Thesection starts with a review of some high-level productivity market trends since 2008. For both ODF andOOXML, the section next briefly reviews standards activities since 2008 and provides a snapshot of therelated market ecosystems.Overall Productivity Application Market DynamicsThree high-level productivity application market dynamics have been particularly influential since 2008:the shift to SaaS productivity applications, rapid growth in the use of mobile devices to accessdocuments, and some vendor-related changes following major acquisitions.The Shift to SaaS Productivity ApplicationsThe advent of SaaS offerings such as Google Docs (which exited an extensive beta test period in July2009) and the Microsoft Office Web Apps (released in conjunction with Office 2010 during June 2010,and including service-centric options for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) have introduced majorchanges to the productivity application market landscape. While the earlier norm was to have locally-installed productivity applications, the shift to SaaS means it’s possible, when appropriate, to work withproductivity application documents using browser clients.Since SaaS productivity applications run as (intranet and/or Internet) Web services, there are fewerclient configuration challenges (such as the need to update versions of Microsoft Office prior to Office2007 in order to work with OOXML files). When Google added support for OOXML document formats inGoogle Docs, for example, all Google Docs users were immediately able to work with OOXMLdocuments.It’s important to note that the SaaS shift is in many cases complementary to traditional productivityapplications. Microsoft Office 2010 has been broadly successful as a traditional, client-installedproductivity application suite, for example, with Microsoft announcing, a year after the Office 2010release, that it had become the fastest-selling version of Microsoft Office. In other words, the shift tohybrid traditional/SaaS productivity application deployments has not significantly altered the marketshare picture for the traditional productivity application market.Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 9
  10. 10. Mobile Device Access to Productivity Application DocumentsThe worldwide use of smartphones has grown explosively since 2008, and the use of tablets such as theApple iPad is also growing rapidly. As people become accustomed to using their mobile devices for awide range of communication and computing tasks, the use of open and XML-based document formatsmeans they can work with resources created with productivity applications as they’re on the move, evenif they don’t have mobile versions of the related productivity applications installed.Especially when combined with SaaS offerings such as Google Docs and Office Web Apps, the mobilescenarios are not limited to read-only use of productivity application documents. The documents can beedited and annotated, for example, directly from a wide range of mobile device types and platforms.This sort of flexibility was much more complex and expensive to deliver, before the shift to open andXML-based document formats.Acquisitions and AffiliationsAnother important productivity application market dynamic that has had significant ramifications for theODF and OOXML ecosystems is a series of vendor acquisitions. Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems(announced in April 2009 and completed in January 2010) was by far the most impactful for the ODFecosystem. Oracle initially indicated it would continue to support OpenOffice.org (and renamed itscommercial version from Sun StarOffice to Oracle Open Office), and also suggested it would eventuallyrelease a SaaS offering, called Oracle Cloud Office, that would build on OpenOffice.org and ODF. In April2011 Oracle changed its strategy and announced that it was donating OpenOffice.org to Apache, andwould not be releasing any more commercial products based on OpenOffice.org (Oracle’s revised planfor Oracle Cloud Office was not clear as of August 2011).Attachmate’s acquisition of Novell (announced in November 2010 and completed in April 2011) wasanother significant acquisition for the ODF ecosystem. Novell had, as an independent company, madesignificant contributions to OpenOffice.org, and was a strong supporter of both OOXML and ODF, but it’slikely that Attachmate will reduce or spin-off its productivity application standards-related investments,much as it did with the Novell Mono project.ODF Market DynamicsThis section provides an update on ODF market dynamics since 2008.ODF Standards ActivitiesThere has been considerable ODF standards-related activity since 2008, in part reflecting the fact thatthe initial ODF standard was arguably incomplete in several important respects. OASIS OpenDocument1.1 was approved in early 2007, when work on ODF 1.2 (adding, e.g., a spreadsheet formula languageand support for digital signatures) was already underway. The 2007 OASIS ODF 1.1 was submitted toJTC 1 but has not yet been approved, and OASIS continues to work on ODF 1.2, reportedly with the goalof having it submitted to and approved by ISO/IEC by the end of 2012.In other words, there has not been an update to the ISO/IEC OpenDocument standard since the originalversion was approved in 2006, and there is unlikely to be a revision with significant changes until theend of 2012 (at the earliest).Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 10
  11. 11. This situation has created a dilemma for vendors supporting ODF. Many have gone ahead andimplemented support for draft aspects of ODF 1.2, and there have been several ODF community“plugfest” events, at which developers have been able to collaborate and work to foster interoperabilityamong their implementations, but there is clear ODF market fragmentation, with a de facto ODFstandard (as included in OpenOffice.org, for example) evolving more rapidly than the OASIS ODFstandard, which is in turn evolving more rapidly than the ISO/IEC ODF standard.An ODF Ecosystem Vitality SnapshotFor a snapshot of applications and services that currently support ODF, see the Wikipedia article“OpenDocument software.” The list includes several OpenOffice.org derivatives, some support fromGoogle (for word processing documents and spreadsheets but not presentations in Google Docs, forexample), and limited support from Apple (with ODF support in the Quick Look document preview toolin Mac OS X, but no iOS applications from Apple support ODF).Perhaps the biggest surprise, in terms of ODF-related product developments since early 2008, is the factthat Microsoft announced in May 2008 that it would support ODF in Office 2007 (as of Office 2007Service Pack 2), and would also collaborate with the open source community to create a translatorproject to facilitate ODF support in earlier releases of Office (Office XP and Office 2003). Microsoft alsojoined the OASIS technical committee working on ODF maintenance, along with an ISO/IEC workinggroup then being formed with the charter of improving interoperability between OOXML and otherformats. (For additional details, see the May 2008 announcement.) Since 2008, Microsoft has hostedseveral Document Interoperability Initiative (DII) events, and also included ODF support in Office 2010and other Microsoft editing tools such as the WordPad editor available for the Windows 7 operatingsystem.Microsoft’s ODF support reflects a pragmatic business decision, following the OASIS and ISO/IEC ODFstandards, because Microsoft could have been excluded from some customer opportunities if it did notsupport ODF. Some people in the ODF community assumed Microsoft’s commitment to support ODFtacitly signaled capitulation on OOXML, but that obviously was not the case, as Microsoft’s commitmentto and investment in OOXML remains strong.The work-in-progress nature of ODF standardization since 2006 has created a controversial challenge forMicrosoft. When faced with a choice of implementing the work-in-progress de facto ODF standard asimplemented by leading OpenOffice.org vendors or an official ODF standard, Microsoft elected toimplement ODF in accordance with the ISO/IEC standard. That means, for example, that MicrosoftOffice 2010 does not currently (as of August 2011) support the OpenFormula formula languageproposed for ISO ODF 1.2.The versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Office 2007 and 2010 include extensive help system-based guidance to explain Office application features that are not supported in Microsoft’simplementation of ODF. Figure 2 is an excerpt from the Word 2010 help system explanation of ODF-related considerations.Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 11
  12. 12. Figure 2: ODF-Related Word 2010 Help System ContentThere is similar Office ODF support help system documentation in Excel and PowerPoint.To exhaustively document its ODF 1.1 implementation, Microsoft has maintained implementer notes forOffice 2007 and Office 2010. The documents are very extensive; the June 2011 version of the Office2010 ODF 1.1 implementation information document, for example, is a 1,236-page PDF document.Another important ODF ecosystem change since 2008 was the introduction, in September 2010, of TheDocument Foundation (TDF), an “independent self-governing meritocratic Foundation” (quoting fromthe Foundation Web site) dedicated to continuing the work of the OpenOffice.org community. Due tointellectual property and copyright constraints (e.g., the fact that Oracle owned the OpenOffice.orgCopyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 12
  13. 13. copyright), TDF also introduced LibreOffice, representing a split in the OpenOffice.org ecosystem. Asnoted in the LibreOffice Wikipedia article, TDF created LibreOffice “over concerns that OracleCorporation would either discontinue OpenOffice.org, or place restrictions on it as an open-sourceproject, as it had on OpenSolaris.”As previously noted, Oracle, after the creation of TDF and LibreOffice, donated OpenOffice.org toApache in April 2011. There has been speculation that Oracle (and perhaps other long-term enterprise-focused OpenOffice.org supports such as IBM) preferred the Apache open source licensing model to theone used by TDF, as the former doesn’t require organizations that modify or extend the OpenOffice.orgcode base to donate their contributions back to the community or provide source code for thosechanges to their customers. IBM announced, in July 2011, that it was donating the standalone versionof IBM Lotus Symphony, its OpenOffice.org-based productivity application suite, to the Apacheincubation project created after Oracle’s OpenOffice.org donation.As a result, although LibreOffice is likely to continue to be included in several open source distributions,IBM and Microsoft are now the strongest enterprise-focused ODF vendors.Overall, to recap, the state of the ODF ecosystem is in transition at this point. While there is uncertaintyabout potential alignment between TDF and the Apache OpenOffice.org-related activity, and ongoingdebate about Microsoft’s ODF implementation strategy, a timely ODF ecosystem reality check can befound in a January 2011 blog post by industry veteran and open source advocate Simon Phipps, whonoted: “[…] I remain surprised that neither Apple nor Google are taking ODF support seriously. Apple still don’t support ODF in their applications (despite it being available in their TextEdit gadget on Mac OS X) or the iPhone or iPad, and the ODF support in Google Docs is so weak that documents I try to upload from LibreOffice are routinely rejected in ODF and yet accepted if I save the identical document in .doc format. It’s ironic that the best proprietary ODF support right now is from Microsoft.”OOXML Market DynamicsThis section provides an update on OOXML market dynamics since 2008.OOXML Standards ActivitiesAs with ODF, OOXML standards activities have been relatively slow-moving. In contrast to ODF,however, since OOXML started out as a relatively long and complete set of document formatspecifications, much of the related standards work since 2008 has been focused on correcting errors andambiguities in the initial standard documentation. Because OOXML includes provisions for extensions, itwas possible for Microsoft to add new capabilities in Office 2010 (such as the sparklines feature in Excel2010) without deviating from the OOXML standard.Microsoft has published detailed implementer notes for its Ecma and ISO/IEC standardimplementations. It also routinely hosts Document Interoperability Initiative events to fostercollaboration and knowledge-sharing among OOXML (and ODF) community participants.Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 13
  14. 14. There is ongoing debate about the distinction between strict and transitional OOXML. A recentForrester Research report (“Market Update: Office Productivity Alternatives,” May 6, 2011, p. 13)included a footnote, for example, noting “Although [IBM Lotus] Symphony reads the Office Open XMLformat, it refuses to implement saving to the Microsoft format since it deviates from the strict ISOstandard. Microsoft has stated that the next release of Microsoft Office (version 15) will support bothread and write of ISO/IEC 29500 Strict.” This is an example of different norms, compared to the ODFecosystem (in which vendors -- including Microsoft -- are expected to implement capabilities well inadvance of OASIS and/or ISO standardization).An OOXML Ecosystem Vitality SnapshotFor a snapshot of applications and services that currently support OOXML, see the Wikipedia article “Listof software that supports Office Open XML.” The list includes offerings from vendors including Apple,Google, and IBM, although several of the offerings have view- or import-only support for OOXML.Overall, since 2008, the OOXML ecosystem has experienced far less turmoil and transition than the ODFecosystem. OOXML has undergone relatively less change since 2008, and Microsoft has thoroughlydocumented its implementations of the Ecma and ISO/IEC standards, so most of the OOXML ecosystemfocus is primarily centered on implementations and activities such as DII events, at which implementerscan compare notes and test interoperability. You can get a sense of the OOXML community focus byreviewing related resources such as the Open XML Developer blog, which provides extensiveimplementer-oriented references.ODF and OOXML ProjectionsThis section includes several market projections about what’s likely to happen next for ODF, OOXML,and related market dynamics. The first six revisit projections from the then-controversial 2008 BurtonGroup report.“OOXML Will be Successful”There is no question that OOXML has been successful since its introduction with Office 2007. OOXML issupported by Microsoft and a long list of other vendors, including, significantly, SaaS and mobile devicemarket leaders such as Google and Apple. The extension mechanisms included with OOXML also ensurethat Microsoft and other vendors are able to add new capabilities to their productivity applicationswhile continuing to support interoperable OOXML-based documents.I believe OOXML standards initiatives have also been broadly successful, in terms of building consensuson related goals, improving OOXML, and fostering an open and transparent process. We should not,however, expect to see products or services exclusively support ISO/IEC OOXML (especially the strictversion) as a document format, no more than we should anticipate database management systems thatexclusively support the latest SQL standard.Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 14
  15. 15. “Microsoft Will Aggressively Compete but Also Play Well with Others onOOXML”Microsoft’s OOXML activities have been thoroughly scrutinized over the years, and, although there wassignificant debate about the 2008 ISO OOXML vote, Microsoft’s OOXML track record, in terms ofmeeting commitments and effectively collaborating with other vendors, is laudable. Microsoftcontinues to aggressively compete with Office 2010, Office 365, and other product or service offerings,but it has also continued to play well with others on OOXML.These commitments and activities reflect significant ongoing investments on Microsoft’s part, including,as previously noted, very extensive documentation on its implementations of both ODF and OOXML,and DII activities that benefit both the ODF and OOXML communities. It is unlikely that any other singlevendor is investing (in ODF and/or OOXML) at comparable levels, especially since Oracle terminated itsOpenOffice.org and ODF investments.“ODF Will Continue, Albeit in a Relatively Minor Role”While it’s clear that ODF has sustainable momentum overall, and has been embraced by several worldgovernments and other organizations, ODF does not have the same level of broad market support asOOXML, especially in enterprise computing contexts in which full document format interoperability withMicrosoft Office documents is required.The splintering of the OpenOffice.org community is a discouraging trend for ODF advocates, becauseThe Document Foundation and the Apache OpenOffice.org communities may follow different prioritiesin the future. Ironically, on a more positive note, ODF is likely to help to facilitate ongoinginteroperability among the different communities (including Microsoft Office, with its ODF support).Google’s limited support for ODF and Apple’s decision to not support ODF in its iOS platform andapplications are additional indications of how limited, from a customer-driven perspective, the role ofODF is today, in enterprise computing domains.“The W3C Model Will Prevail in Many Domains”One projection in the 2008 Burton Group report that did not play out as I anticipated involved WorldWide Web Consortium (W3C) activities in domains such as XForms and XQuery. I anticipated severalWeb-focused standards would combine to create an alternative to OOXML and ODF for somedocument-oriented domains, and that XForms, in particular, might play a significant role. However,XForms has not been broadly successful, and the W3C XHTML2 Working Group, which, among otherthings, sought to eventually replace HTML forms with XForms, was terminated at the end of 2009.It’s possible that the combination of HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS will create a widely-deployed Web-centric and browser-based runtime environment that will surpass the vision embodied in XHTML2, butdetails and timing have yet to be determined. This type of interactive, dynamic, and compounddocument-based client environment would also likely be more complementary with than competitive toODF and OOXML, e.g., with SaaS services used to dynamically render ODF and OOXML documents.Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 15
  16. 16. “PDF Will Continue to Dominate Non-revisable Document Contexts”The Portable Document Format (PDF), originally created by Adobe, is another important documentformat standard (see, e.g., ISO 32000). PDF has dominated print-oriented document domains for manyyears, and it is also used by several document workflow systems (i.e., PDF is not exclusively focused onprint-centric scenarios).With the broad market shift to SaaS and increasing important of non-PC mobile devices, however, andwith a growing appreciation for the ability to take action in context with productivity applicationdocuments and other types of information, I expect PDF will be relegated to a gradually reduced roleover time, especially as more products and services support the use of digital signatures with OOXMLand ODF documents.“New Vendor Challenges and Opportunities”The market shift to open and XML-based document formats has created new challenges andopportunities for a wide variety of vendor categories.The related challenges include juggling multiple standards initiatives and variable support in differentproducts and services. Microsoft’s ODF policy, adhering to the official ODF standard rather thanimplementing work-in-progress ODF extensions, reflects one such challenge.New market opportunities in this context far outnumber the challenges, however, with business valuebenefits such as the list in an earlier section of this document (The Business Value of Open and XML-Based Document Formats), such as document assembly, content reuse, and content query.Altova, a leading supplier of XML developer tools, has been able to provide customer value by usingOOXML for scenarios including:  Using OOXML to transform XML content into word processing documents, in Altova StyleVision  Mapping content between XML and OOXML, e.g., between spreadsheet documents and XBRL (the eXtensible Business Reporting Language used, e.g., in the United States for financial reporting) documentsBy using OOXML, Altova helps its customers dramatically reduce the amount of custom programmingthat would otherwise be required.MarkLogic, a leading XML database management system vendor, provides a second example. MarkLogicprovides toolkits for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that use OOXML in conjunction with its MarkLogicServer for granular search, dynamic assembly, transformation, and delivery.Neither Altova nor MarkLogic had, as of August 2011, seen sufficient customer demand for ODF supportto warrant the creation of ODF-specific capabilities or toolkits.A Research Director, Inc. (RDI) case study published by Microsoft provides another compelling exampleof the benefits of open and XML-based document formats. RDI’s service provider PSC Group usedOOXML in conjunction with Microsoft PowerPoint to significantly simplify and streamline RDI’s customerCopyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 16
  17. 17. analytics. RDI’s case study is an example of an application scenario that would have required anincredible amount of custom application design and development, if the company had not been able tobuild on OOXML and PowerPoint.I interviewed RDI Partner Marc Greenspan to learn more about his OOXML experience, and he sharedthe following perspective: “Since 1991, Research Director, Inc. has been providing radio broadcasters with tools to help them understand their audiences and help them sell the value of those listeners to their advertisers. Over that 20+ year period, the tools we’ve used to meet the needs of our clients have evolved tremendously. Our clients were demanding that we deliver output to them in a format that they could use in PowerPoint and Word, because those were the tools they used to conduct their daily business. When we began designing and contracting for development of this latest generation of our system in early 2007, Open XML was just starting to become a reality. Looking around, we couldn’t find anyone that had even begun to successfully implement that technology on the scale we were looking at. So it was a quite leap of faith for us to head in that direction. We faced numerous challenges during the initial development process. On our first project, PSC (our developer) had to invent many of the tools they used to generate the XML scripts. They needed to work closely with Microsoft to clarify the settings that controlled certain parts of our output. It was time consuming and we were making compromises with the output because it wasn’t clear how to get it exactly the way we wanted it to look. Fortunately, that product was first released to our clients in early 2009 to rave reviews. As we started on phase 2 of this project, the tools and technology were evolving to a point where we could make more rapid progress and generate the output to look just as we wanted it. In hindsight the decision to migrate to Open XML was absolutely the correct one for our company. Now our clients are using their preferred software -- in most cases PowerPoint but in some they are using other technology on tablet platforms. Our content generation technology should continue to work with future versions of PowerPoint and other Open XML compatible programs. And most importantly, we are providing a useful tool that better meets the needs of our clients.”Standards Activities Will Remain Useful, Despite Inevitable Time Lags(This and the next projection are not based on the 2008 Burton Group report.)Some people may question whether the entire ODF and OOXML standardization history was productive,since it’s clear that the official standards will continue to struggle to keep up with productivityapplication market dynamics. Even with the dilemma of having to focus on de facto and/or officialstandards, however, there is no question about the overall value of the standards process, in terms ofCopyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 17
  18. 18. establishing a context in which global communities of organizations and individuals can constructivelycollaborate to foster interoperability.However, the challenges inherent in advancing standards in domains as deep and broad as productivityapplication document formats also suggest there will not be many opportunities for ODF or OOXMLscope expansion in the foreseeable future (e.g., to address other application domains such as thoserepresented by Microsoft Visio or InfoPath). Fortunately, the general market expectation at this point isthat software and service vendors will use open and XML-based document formats by default, with orwithout related standards.There Will be Three, IndefinitelyIn an ideal world, it would be possible to have all productivity application product and service vendorsconverge on a single document format standard. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen at any pointin the foreseeable future, primarily because of the huge and global collection of files created with legacyMicrosoft Office document formats, and because ODF’s designers did not seek to facilitateinteroperability with the legacy Microsoft Office formats.Considering the scope and depth differences between ODF and OOXML, and the fact that theirrespective standards activities do not move quickly, it’s also unlikely there will ever be successfulODF/OOXML format unification. Again, because the goals guiding the designs of ODF and OOXML vary,that’s not a surprise.Overall, as such, it’s likely there will continue to be, indefinitely, three productivity application documentformats, one a de facto standard (the legacy/binary Microsoft Office formats) and two formal andinternational standards (ODF and OOXML). Fortunately, this situation does not create major problems,because:  The Microsoft Office legacy formats, even though they aren’t defined in XML, are now open, as part of Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise.  There are toolkits and other resources available for multiple programming languages and frameworks, so very few developers need to be concerned with the low-level details involved in the use of any of the document formats.  The shift to SaaS productivity applications further simplifies the need to support multiple formats, as SaaS eliminates the need to, for example, install format adapters on client devices.Many organizations will also continue to support other and more specialized document formatsindefinitely, such as PDF for print-centric needs, but, as previously noted, the role for PDF is likely to bereduced over time.Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 18
  19. 19. Conclusion: The Quiet Revolution ContinuesIt was not so long ago, relative to the overall history of information technology, when productivityapplication document formats were closed and binary, creating significant challenges forinteroperability, and essentially locking organizations into tightly-coupled applications and documents.The broad market shift to open and XML-based document formats has ushered in a quiet revolution(albeit not always quiet, e.g., during the ISO/IEC OOXML debate period), and has served as something ofa document liberation act, making it possible for organizations to have much more flexibility in their useof documents created with productivity applications and services.The organizations and individuals who helped to facilitate the transition, by creating or contributing tostandards such as ODF and OOXML, have made a profound difference to the overall utility ofproductivity applications. Although it is unlikely there will ever be market convergence toward a singleproductivity application document format, the market embrace of open, XML-based, and (de facto orformal) standards-based document formats has given customers more control of their documents, andhas also enabled new productivity application options such as the shift to SaaS and the ability to work incontext with productivity application documents when using mobile devices such as smartphones andtablets.The productivity application market is now poised for sustained and substantive innovation and thequiet revolution made possible by advances including ODF and OOXML has had a central role inadvancing the state-of-the-art.i Burton Group was acquired by Gartner in January 2010ii As an example of content reuse, the bullet list in this section is excerpted from a Burton Group report I co-authored in January 2008, “What’s Up, .DOC? ODF, OOXML, and the Revolutionary Implications of XML inProductivity Applications” (p. 12). The latest version of the report can be accessed by Gartner subscribers.Copyright © 2011 by Peter O’Kelly. Reprinted with permission. 19

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