18 September 2007

IBM's Symphony Bolsters the ODF Choir

Goodness knows why it has taken so long, but IBM finally seems to have woken up to the fact that throwing all its weight behind ODF is much better than vaguely supporting it:

I.B.M. plans to mount its most ambitious challenge in years to Microsoft’s dominance of personal computer software, by offering free programs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

The company is announcing the desktop software, called I.B.M. Lotus Symphony, at an event today in New York. The programs will be available as free downloads from the I.B.M. Web site.


Its offerings are versions of open-source software developed in a consortium called OpenOffice.org. The original code traces its origins to a German company, Star Division, which Sun Microsystems bought in 1999. Sun later made the desktop software, now called StarOffice, an open-source project, in which work and code are freely shared.

I.B.M.’s engineers have been working with OpenOffice technology for some time. But last week, I.B.M. declared that it was formally joining the open-source group, had dedicated 35 full-time programmers to the project and would contribute code to the initiative.

This won't lead to any sudden change in OpenOffice.org's fortunes, but it will add to the growing pressure on Microsoft's Office suite. And as Firefox has shown, constant dripping does indeed wear away the stone.


Anonymous said...

This is certainly welcome news. However, switching from IE to Firefox is one thing. Switching from MS Office to OpenOffice is another...because of a little thing called OOXML.

We've got quite a battle in front of us.

Glyn Moody said...

Nobody said it would be easy....

Sam said...

Yes, Peter. OOXML isn't the (important) reason it's difficult to switch.

There are a number of points of difficulty facing a CIO in getting out of the Microsoft lock-in that's based on the document format.

Principally, we've found that it is entirely necessary to go into the Microsoft house and unlock the lock.

That's why we have been developing *INTERNAL* plugins to MS Office which output a desired format, but most importantly it goes ALL THE WAY IN to get the data in its purest, highest-fidelity form.

OpenOffice conversion fidelity at about 85% is not enough to satisfactorily intercept the business processes to accomodate successful switch -- as Massachusetts discovered.

We have had to take an aggressive, complete line; the only way to make a migration away from the Microsoft document/application lock-in feasible for an enterprise-type organization.

Among the other difficulties in places like state gov't is the distributed structure of numerous autonomous agencies -- each with its own CIO and only partially overlapping redundancy of business processes (some being quite unique). It is too difficult to leave the Microsoft platform without central planning, implementation, help resources and support to help people work through productivity stoppages when files or applications behave unexpectedly.

OOXML doesn't even pale up against these orchestrated sticky points.

We're going to get everyone out, though -- and you won't begrudge us if it's not into ODF (because of ODF's governance problems and lack of a story on handheld device convergence).

Glyn Moody said...

You say: "it's not into ODF". So what exactly will it be? I'm intrigued.