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What MS' Alan Yates Said About Convergence of ODF & Open XML
Thursday, December 22 2005 @ 04:47 PM EST

In the previous article, I suggested that since Microsoft's Alan Yates testified at the Massachusetts hearing that someday ODF and Microsoft's OpenXML will likely merge, that we set a date for that convergence. I thought it would be worth the time to record exactly what Mr. Yates said.

A reporter from The Boston Globe asked Mr. Yates a question, at approximately 1:46:55 in Dan Bricklin's audio tape of the event:

The ODF standard already exists and it's ready to go basically. How long is it going to be before MS's Open XML standard is productized, ready to go so we can go out and use it?

And Mr. Yates' answer:

Good questions. So, ODF originated from Sun's Star Office product, OpenOffice product, and started with a certain set of requirements. Microsoft's Open XML formats also started with a certain set of requirements, that were all based around making our millions of customers happy, basically, with the versions of Office they now have as well as with versions of Office in the future. So, very, very different design points.

I would say, in the future, some time, you know, at some point, there will be convergence. Convergence does happen over a period of time. Or there will be incorporation, there will be subsetting, supersetting. You know, the wireless standard, the A version merged into the B version, merged into the G version over a period of time to give better performance and functionality over a period of time.

Right now, Microsoft utterly must focus on delivering the goods for millions of customers and billions of documents to make that transition, this ugly, you know, messy transition right now that we're talking about from black box documents to Open XML centered documents. We think that the really great news is that ODF is open. Open XML is open. Both of us have a huge commitment to the developer community. Both of us are going to be working very hard on converters, on filters, on applications, on other software applications. Both of them are completely open to being replaced by the same technology, to having competitors displace the early competitor, if you will. So, good news, I think, on that front is that this problem will be solved in time. It is not an easy, sort of snap-your-fingers sort of problem.

I'd question his statement that OpenXML is open, given the Ecma process, and the Microsoft terms, including extensions, but if convergence is the goal, and obviously it should be, instead of the Microsoft vision of one player killing off the other, as Mr. Yates and his Freudian slips hint at, would it not be more sensible, and to the Commonwealth's advantage, to just work together from the start and set a time frame for convergence? If the Commonwealth sets that as a goal, it could happen.


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